Decision and Anxiety

Holiday Stress
November 23, 2022
What Went Well
December 7, 2022

Decision and Anxiety

Decision making increases over the holidays – decorating and gifts, how much to spend, who to invite and what to attend. “Are we sending cards this year? What about this person?” Add in COVID considerations and, Whew! It’ll tire a person out just thinking about it. Sometimes it is more than tiring – anxiety spikes, which makes decision making even harder. Then even small decisions seem like a big deal. 

Anxiety Impacts Decision Making

The more anxious you feel:

  • The more you will focus on possible negative outcomes. 
  • The more you interpret neutral or ambiguous things as negative 

What You Can Do

Your brain is trying to keep you safe by focusing on the “danger” even when there is no danger. For overall ideas on how to shrink anxiety you can download our free workbook. Meanwhile, there are decisions to be made! Here are some ideas to help you make those choices: 

  • Ask: how important is this decision, really?  Will it matter in 5 days, 5 months or 5 years? Is there a safety issue? If it is not a major decision, you are free to decide pretty quickly. 
  • Ask: how many good options are there? Sometimes we get stuck on finding the perfect thing when in reality there are a lot of good options. Any one of those 30 dog sweaters are fine for Tutu-Fluff, and there are 1438 recipes online that would be tasty. Quit searching for the perfect one. Pick a reasonable one and go for it. 
  • Add in the ridiculous. Imagine getting everyone the same exact gift – Hello Kitty socks and denture cream. Of course not. The ridiculous helps by reminding you that you do have judgement. And it makes you smile – which causes stress hormones to drop. Do something fun for a little bit and keep those stress hormones in full retreat. 
  • Give yourself perspective. Trick your brain by pretending this decision is for someone else’s life. “If I were a famous dog fashion designer – would I dress Tutu-Fluff in pink or zebra print?” 
  • Notice your negative bias and flip it. Ask yourself, “what could go right?” Take some time to imagine a positive outcome or imagine that the unreadable look on someone’s face is amazement at how cool the gift is. 
  • Try this mind trick: If it comes down to A or B, flip a coin. If the coin toss lands on A and you think, “NOOOOOOO I really want B” you know your decision. If you think, “Yes!” then you also know your decision.  
  • Only worry about what is in your control (which is very little). You can make the perfect meal, invite the correct number of people and still have something go sideways. That is not your fault. When your plans don’t work out pivot, and ask for support from the people around you. 

May your holiday decision making go well. May things turn out way better than your anxious voice expects. Remember you can only control your part of the process.  Make the best decision you can with the information you have, and let it go. Tutu-Fluff may not like the sweater you choose – that is out of your control. Or she may like it so much that she wants to wear it for the next 5 years until you get tired of looking at that ratty old pink and purple striped sweater. Only time will tell. 


Laura A. Gaines

Join us December 8 at noon for our final Resilience Check In of the year! We will be talking about dealing with holiday stress. The zoom link will be sent to our email list. If you are not already receiving these blogs in your email you can sign up here.