Anxious people are over thinkers. We worry about outcomes, no matter how small the decision is we are trying to make. From how to work a text to a friend, family member or co-worker to what the outcomes of our parenting choices may be, we examine pros and cons AD NAUSEAM, and when action is finally taken, we worry if we’ve made the right choice. IT. IS. EXHAUSTING.
So why do we do this? Most of the time it stems from some very old internalized beliefs that we must make sure we only make the “right” decisions in order to avoid feelings of regret, guilt, shame and doubt. An “imperfect” decisions means we don’t really care, thoughtless, stupid, not as good as other people who “get it right”.
Taking this quality and making it a strength instead of a debilitating experience is possible. Understanding that not EVERY decision will potentially lead to a nuclear fall-out is key.
Overthinking every choice leads us to losing sight of the bigger picture. It becomes a habit of thinking and solidifies that faulty belief that overthinking is the only way to make smart choices.
So how can we start re-training our brain to think differently and less anxiously? It’s not about telling yourself that outcomes don’t matter and that things won’t go wrong. Life is a series of choices, and I’ve yet to meet the person who has made every RIGHT choice in their lives.
It’s about telling ourselves that when our decisions don’t turn out the way we wanted or expected that we can cope with that decision and the next steps.
Here are some ‘how to’s’ to get started:
1. Start making quicker decisions on the ‘small stuff’. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you make less important decisions more quickly, the more you can experience confidence that you can tolerate disappointments and setbacks. They happen! You’ve survived a million of them at this point, I’m sure, and your worry about the experience is not as powerful as the experience itself. It’s like a vaccine, in a way. Small doses of setbacks build your immunity TO setbacks. Again, the reality is they happen. To EVERYONE.
2. That said, keep in mind that you have a LOT of wins in your day to day and in longer reaching arcs. What things surround you in your immediate environment that you worried about forever before deciding on buying/ acquiring? What things were acquired without thought? Is there really that much difference between these things now that they are a part of your life? Do they hold different weight now that they are a part of your day to day? Most likely, not. You’ve sweat a lot of things and you’ve been quick to decide on other’s. And the world is still turning.
3. Pay attention to your instinct to avoid risk. Does it come from a fear of rejection? Disappointment? What’s that about? Probably something old and deeply rooted, but not something that exists in the here and now. The fact of the matter is, action is better than inaction. What do you really have to lose by making a choice or taking action? Most likely you’ve convinced yourself it will be intolerable if you experience an adverse response. But the more you take action, the more tolerable you will experience various outcomes.
4. Prioritize the decisions you have to make. Do the things that are weighing heavy on your mind first, not last. Focus on big picture items first so that you don’t get caught in the cycle of attending to minutia in order to avoid the stuff that is occupying most of your mental bandwidth. Not
to sound trite, but… don’t sweat the small stuff.
You can make rules/ guidelines for yourself that work for you, of course. But practice them! Trust yourself that you are doing something to help you move forward out of an anxious mindset that you don’t like and want to change. The more you practice DOING SOMETHING, the more you will learn that you can cope with mild regrets and move on with your life.