How Anxiety Interferes With Decision-Making – And How to Stop it Intruding

How Anxiety Interferes With Decision Making - And How to Stop it Intruding

Anxiety has many ways of injecting itself into life and causing trouble. One of ways anxiety interferes is by leading decision-making astray. 

When it’s there, anxiety tends to direct behaviour towards the safest option. Sometimes moving cautiously is definitely the best way to go. Sometimes it’s not. Given too much say-so, anxiety can stand in the way of a lot of life.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have discovered what happens when anxiety rules a heavy hand over decision-making and persuades decisions that aren’t the best ones.

Research published in The Journal of Neuroscience explains how anxiety works to disengage the part of the brain that is essential for making good decisions. The area is the pre-frontal cortex (PFC), at the front of the brain, and it is the area that brings flexibility into decision-making.

The PFC is the part of the brain that gets involved in weighing up consequences, planning, and processing thoughts in a logical, rational way. It helps to take the emotional steam out of a decision by calming the amygdala, the part of the brain that runs on instinct, impulse and raw emotion (such as fear).

The research. What they did.

Researchers looked at the activity of brain cells in the PFC of anxious rats while those rats were encouraged to make a decision about which behaviour would get them a sweet reward. Rats share many physiological and biological similarities to humans which is why they are often used in these sort of studies. The researchers compared the behaviour and brain activity of two groups of rats – one that received a placebo and one that received a low dose of a drug that induced anxiety. Both groups of rats were able to make sound decisions, but the anxious rats made a lot more mistakes when there were more distractions in their way. 

How Anxiety Interferes. What the research means.

Anxiety rolls good decision-making by reducing the brain’s capacity to screen out distractions. Distractions can be physical, as in things in the environment, or they can take the form of thoughts and worries. Anxiety interrupts the brain’s capacity to ignore these distractions by numbing a group of neurons in the pre-frontal cortex that are specifically involved in making choices.

‘We have had a simplistic approach to studying and treating anxiety. We have equated it with fear and have mostly assumed that it over-engages entire brain circuits. But this study shows that anxiety disengages brain cells in a highly specialized manner.’ Bita Moghaddam, lead author and professor in the Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh.

This new finding challenges the conventional theories that anxiety intrudes on life by overstimulating circuits within the brain. It seems that when it comes to making decisions at least, anxiety selectively shuts down certain connections, making it more difficult for the brain to screen out irrelevant information and make better decisions.

How to Stop Anxiety Intruding on Decisions 

  1. Strengthen your brain against anxiety.

    Be mindful. Mindfulness strengthens the pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that can be sent offline by anxiety. Without the full capacity of the pre-frontal cortex to weigh in on decision-making, decisions are more likely to become fixed and rigid and driven by intrusive emotions that don’t deserve the influence. Mindfulness strengthens the brain’s capacity to filter out distractions to make more grounded, relevant decisions. It limits the influence of the things that don’t matter, so you can focus on the things that do. (Here you go – this articles explains it in more detail.)

  2. Understand where the anxiety is really coming from. 

    Work stress or day-to-day life stress (such as having an argument or being stuck in bad traffic) can trigger enough emotion and intrusive thoughts to influence important, unrelated decisions. Anxiety can also stem from past incidents. The emotion may have been justified then, but now it might be just getting in the way. Unwarranted anxiety can lead to overly safe decision making. By looking for where the anxiety has come from, its influence on behavior can be reduced.

  3. Slow it down.

    Slowing down sounds like it should be easy, but nope – life is rarely that simple. Slowing down involves a deliberate shift away from automatic thoughts and feelings and towards what is actually happening, what you are actually feeling, and what might be behind it. So much of the way we feel and our response to a situation happens automatically, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The greater awareness we have around what we are doing or feeling, the more power we have to change it.

  4. Don’t buy into the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviour are a package deal. They’re not.

    Just because you feel a certain way or think a certain thought, doesn’t mean you have to act a certain way. This involves being more deliberate about behaviour and pushing against the automatic, habitual response. Thoughts, feelings and behaviour are interrelated. They influence each other, often without us even realising it. Change one and the other two will eventually catch up. You don’t have to believe this – just try it and watch it happen.

  5. Act as if. (Yes, really. Just try it.)

    When there is an important decision to be made, it’s really normal to feel panicked or anxious, but you don’t have to rush your decision. Anxiety is there to protect you from danger but just because it’s raising the alarm, it doesn’t mean there is any danger about. Try challenging the presence and influence of anxiety by ‘acting as if’ there is nothing to be worried about. This might feel difficult, but the more you do it, the easier it will come. Stay with the moment. Right now, you’re okay, and you’ll keep being okay. Even if it doesn’t feel true for you, act as if it is. The point is reducing anxiety enough so that it doesn’t force itself into decisions where it isn’t needed.

  6. Just because there are choices, doesn’t mean there is a wrong one.

    What decision would you make if you knew there wasn’t a wrong one? Often, the way anxiety makes decision-making all the harder is by tricking us into believing that there will be a right choice and a wrong one, a good one and a bad one. If you are feeling really stuck between two decisions, it’s very likely that neither decision will be the wrong one. Once you have made the decision – whichever one that might be – you’ll start organising the environment around you, including your own behaviour and responses, to make sure things work out. Your resilience, creativity and resourcefulness will rise up to support you and propel you forward.

  7. Be guided by what you want, rather than by what you want to avoid.

    Try shifting your focus. Anxiety tends to rule decisions by presenting us with all of the possible outcomes, particularly the bad ones. Decisions are then made around avoiding what we don’t want, rather than chasing what we do want. What would your decisions look like if they were driven by what you want to happen, rather than by what you don’t want to happen.

And finally …

It is the way of anxiety to prod you from behind then hide in the shadows. By strengthening the brain to filter out distractions and by being aware of the feelings that are driving behaviour or decisions the way is open for wisdom, relevance and clarity – and decisions that will be more enriching ones for you. 

95 Comments

A.

Oh anxiety!
I moved to LV about two years ago from MA to start a relationship. Half way through CoronaVirus my mom passed in MA. I thankfully was able to take care of her. After just having some treatment for ptsd (childhood / young adult related popped up), anxiety and depression, I return home to my boyfriend who now wants to break up and be alone. He said he is more productive alone and learned that by what has occurred during the pandemic.
I’m 34, I lost my savings during CoronaVirus, zero income, I have an associates degree, I have no family or friends around for support, and my therapist is straight out from college.
I have no idea what to do. I feel paralyzed and overly emotional.
Do I stay and take over the apartment, with the Hope’s to get a good roommate? Do I reach out to others I know in MA with my tail between my legs and ask for help getting back there? … for what.. I do not know. Do I sell everything I own and hopefully afford an RV to live in? (I have no car, and my credit is crap). I’m looking down the barrel of homelessness.
No decision feels good. I don’t like this apartment, but at the same time I feel like it’s the only thing I might be able to handle. I just can’t see me being able to get out of this HOLE!
I meditate, I try not to overthink, I try not to think too far ahead or ugh live in the past. But some choices are life changing, and the last one I made moving to LV didn’t pan out to be good or great. Life just got worse by the minute.
I’m totally stuck, cornered, and my fear is crippling me.
I don’t know what to do that is healthy and in my best interest!

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james

i am the worst at taking decisions, ussually the one that i take bring along a lot of stress

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Blake

You should be called ‘Carein’ instead of ‘Karen’ bc you seem to really care for others mental well-being. Thank you very much for this article 🙂

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Rylee

Im 15 and my sister is 21. she’s a senior at berkely. We just got a puppy a couple days ago and everything was amazing. But then.. today… My sister burst into tears. she was explaining that she couldn’t take it all, and that she’s returning the puppy tonight. I know its the wrong decision, but i dont know how to tell her. she wont listen to her little sister! Help! She has a brother and we have him to. I cant let her go! Any advice! ASAP!!

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Ashifa

This is really helpful!! Just by reading it i can feel my anxiety has already reduced!!

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Teen

I’m almost 15 and I can’t ever make a decision that’ll greatly affect me in some way. I want to quit high school basketball but everyone’s telling me not to. I always worry about choosing the wrong decision that’s going to make everyone else unhappy. I’m also worried about disappointing my coaches and my parents because they all tell me what that’s its my decision but in reality it’s not cause cause they’re all trying to get me to keep playing. I need help.

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Wendy B

Anxiety is real and it’s crippling. My dad is terminally ill and my mom has dementia. I followed my dream of wanting to be in a warm climate after driving to work everyday in one of the snowiest climates in the United States. I moved across country by myself from NY to Arizona almost 5 years ago. Although I was homesick the first 2 years, I got laid off and came back home. Couldn’t find the right kind of job so since I left my belongings in storage, I went back to AZ and got a very corporate job that allowed me to travel. My dad had a heart attack and I have been able to stay here in New York through it all and keep my job.
Now my lease is up and I’m contemplating moving to the northeast so I can keep a closer eye on my mom and be able to drive back in a half a day. My only struggle and it’s a big one, is going back to an undesirable climate and start all over somewhere new. I’ve only been to Ma 2 times but don’t want to live near the office so I selected an apt 40 min away. I still have to go into the office 4 days a week and I’d still be 4 hours drive from home. It just feels so far being in AZ and the last minute flights are expensive although I’d be spending alot to move and cost of living would be higher. This decision has to be made soon as I already gave my 60 day notice and applied for a nice apt. My fear and indecision are killing me all while my dad is dying. I’m driving myself crazy with this. What should I do? I feel like quitting my job but I’m 56 years old and finding a good job is hard. My mom will need me as her dementia worsens and my dad passes but will I be close enough? I’ve even been applying to jobs in my hometown but I’m not sure I would be happy. I feel stuck and overloaded. Please help.

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Helen

Think of yourself.
I know that sounds counter intuitive.
Not knowing you…its the first thought.

The reason: I have the anxiety also.
I constantly worry about my family and theyre well being. I remind myself…nothing stops time…time moves forward with or without us.

Ask yourself…why am i…making myself miserable…trying to choose between what is best for me and what i feel obligated to do.

Sounds like you feel guilty for choosing what is best for you.

To the world you are an adult. Your age represents your generation. To your patents you will always be the kid.

Even though you want to stop time for them…no one is stopping time for you. You want to enjoy your life. But feel bad because they need you. But youll never get that time back…Live in present and cherish the memories.

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Holly

Although I think I’ve made the decision I have my doubts about if it’s the right one. I want to go to a University in Boone North Carolina vs Universities near my home in Michigan. It hasn’t always been a dream to live in North Carolina but I adore the mountains, outdoor life, small town feel, country, and a small campus. As far as the program I’m going into I’ve done a ton of research on it and I love how hands on it seems but at this point I truly don’t know if it’s the right program until I’m in it. The things I do know that I love have to do with mostly the location, even though the school seems great. But this school is 11 hours away from home so the biggest downfall is not being able to go home on weekends whenever. I guess what I’m confused on is how much should I care about the location of a place I’ll be living in when the reason I’m there is for school? Sometimes I think I’m crazy and living in lust over a place if that’s the right word.

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Alyssa C

This has been the first and only article for me to understand that I have been battling anxiety for almost all my life. I never knew I suffered from it until now. This has helped me in so many ways.

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Gina B.

Hello !

I found this article helpful because I have this nasty, vicious cycle that I need to break. I am 34 and have been wanting to go to college for as long as I can remember. I just keep talking myself out of it. I am so afraid of failing ( mommy issues ! haha ) I have a daughter and another one due in May 2019. One part of me is saying that it’s crazy to even think about starting school at this point in life. Then I feel so disappointed for not having acted sooner. I don’t want to have any regrets. I am tired of being scared to fail. My husband pushes me in a good way, to make a decision but sometimes he can be too pushy and I get scared. I know that for many of you this sounds ridiculous but I just felt the need to put it out there and see if anyone else has experienced something like this ?
Either way, thanks for listening !!

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Nichole

I know this is a year old, but as a mom and a college teacher, and a thirty-something, if you want to go, go. You will be fine academically (I know, I have taught kids who had legitimate academic challenges, and they made it). You already write better than many of them. You can do this.

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Hope

I’m not sure you’ll see this, but I love that you’re still interested and excited to go to college! I think if you’re still thinking about continuing your formal education, that’s a great sign. School is not for everyone, but I hope you can take steps to continue in school if you’re still as motivated as you sound to go back! Having the additional experience of being in school right alongside your children might also inspire them and their academic journeys. Although the cost of attendance can be high, if you find that school isn’t right for you, you can choose to stop attending at any point and stop payments. I’m not sure if that’s a factor, but I hope you consider education an investment in yourself, and therefore an investment in all those you care about (since your success is their success in healthy relationships). I hope you and your lovely family are well! All the best.

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Elizabeth S

Yes I have. Left school didn’t want to go into further or higher education but underneath the reality was I saw failure before I had even started.I settled down married had a daughter and still a yearning for education coupled with fear of failure and of course fitting it in. Then I sort of gave up on it. At one part if my life everything that could go wrong did my personal life and working life. My marriage was going to the wall and my business partner ran off with all our assets and emptied the bank account. This is the moment my head woke up and realised I had nothing to loose and if I failed so what I wouldn’t die. I went back to college gained enough passes and went to University as a mature student it was hard work and stressful and I absolutely loved it. I came out with a good degree and completely changed my life. I think you will know when you are ready there will be a point were you think not just I can do this but so what if I can’t at least I tried. There is no such thing as failure there is just finding what is good for you and to do that you have to try so many things that aren’t. You will go, something inside is driving you and you will know the moment. Best wishes for your future the door is there when you are ready to push it.

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Shelia

Great article. I struggle daily with anxiety but I do believe it’s mostly fear based. I grew up in a family where we never set boundaries and we never knew how to settle disputes or conflict resolution. I believe next year I’m going to seek professional help and get my anxiety under control.

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David

This was an extremely helpful article. I have wanted/needed to move to a new town for about 20 years, but anxiety cripples me. I’ve gotten great jobs multiple times in the towns/cities I’ve dreamed of living in and then turned them down at the last minute due to crippling anxiety. I’ve worked with realtors in several of these places and found great homes that I can well afford, but backed out of deals due to this crippling anxiety. I retired two years ago and have done well financially and saved. Only the crippling anxiety keeps me from moving. I am well able to rent places in other cities for a month or two, but have been unable to move. My home and areas has turned very bad and I just can’t leave. Your article is vey insightful and it is comforting to know that I am not alone in this kind of challenge. I’ll try to use it in trying to conquer this crippling challenge. Thank you.

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Annette B

Yes , anxiety is crippling and unfortunately many years of cognitive therapy has not given me the tools to change it. I too find this article informative. I am doing a 8 week course on zoom from San Diego on mindfulness. I have seen the benefits after one session. I recommend being taught it ,not just doing mindful meditation from app,though that can be helpful. I also medicated the anxiety which did not help to find ways to modify the anxiety it made it more progressive. I feel your pain I do see a way out because for the first timeveven though I have been diagnosed with generalized anxiety for years I now understand how it has effected all my decisions and behaviors with self, relationships and making choices I have felt like a victim to the anxiety rather than a creator of my life. It has been debilitating I feel empowered it no longer has to rule my life. Thank You and good luck. This is generational.

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Chris

Hello, well I am 29 and stuck in a hard place. Right now I’m in PA which is where I have grown up but due to relationship issues and the fact that I have always put everyone else ahead of myself has put me in my current situation. I have a son that is 11 but he stays with his mother mostly. She and I do not get along and tho we have tried, just didn’t work. Now almost 9 yrs after we split ways she still hates me and everything I do or who I’m with. Either way, right now I’m stuck with a decision to either stay here in pa and try again, only focusing on myself…. this is crazy cuz even while writing this I can not make a decision on how or what I am trying to say.. Umm, ok so I have family and a son here in pa but I also have a great chance to start new and fix myself down in AL. My parents moved there last year and I love it down there but I don’t want my son to think that I am leaving him behind because the mother won’t respond to me and I can’t talk to my son. Besides going directly to her house, I have tried all others. My decision making has gotten so bad to the point I can not tell someone if I want a drink or not, like I have to think bout every option if I am gonna finish it or is anyone else getting anything. I try not to show all of it but this not being able to make a simple freaking decision is driving me crazy. I used to be very strong minded and very ambitious. Now only thing I can yes to right away to is when someone asks to hiking or alil walk adventure thing. I love outdoors and my son and i wish me and his mother were on better terms but woth all the wrong that has happened in my life, sometimes you do wonder, IS IT JUST ME? Everyone tells me that most of the crap wasnt my fault and that they warned me of things but i was to good hearted.. Now I’m unsure

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Holly W

I am and have been in a similar situation. I have been separated for many years, we don’t get along to the point of me getting a restraining order. I have custody, dad lives in TX, I’m in PA. I used to live in TX. Lost my career, house, cars, everything! Step kids that I raised won’t speak to me. My mom passed after 2 years of extensive medical issues. I want to go back to TX. It’s taken me 6 years to come this close to follow through. I have severe anxiety, taken Effexor forever. Doesn’t seem to help much. I finally put a deposit on movers and started packing. I can’t sleep because I worry about money, finding a place to live, my son’s happiness, and everything that can go wrong. I make lists every day for finances and what needs to be done. I feel like a nut! I think the only comfort I have is my few friends reassuring me that I’ve got this. I try to tell myself that change is good when you have no real happiness. It took that distance between my ex and I to get to a place where I am ok with him being in my son’s life. You’re not alone and it sounds like a big change, like AL, might be what you need…..I wish u lots of luck and God bless.

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Kirsty

I’m in the middle of making a life changing decision for me. I’m thinking of moving with my boyfriend but would mean I’ll need to get regular trains to get to work. Public transport scares me causes panic attacks etc and I’ve only started getting on certain trains do I push myself to desensitize myself or do I wait until I conquor more?! I don’t want public transport to rule my life but it’s the only thing holding me back from going for it.ive tried pros and cons list and just can’t come to a final answer because I’m afraid!

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Bunny

What kind of meds do they give for you in this situation? My husband had several strokes. I took care of him for 2 years then he passed away. He passed away in our home. That is what we wanted, we did not want him to pass away in hospital. Now I’m stuck. I CANNOT make any decisions about anything. I hate being in my own home. I need help. I’ve got a 6 year old and a 18 year old at home. They have lost both parents. I have to start living if not for me, for them. Can someone tell me is there meds that can really help. I have always been a strong person. Never needed drugs to keep my mind straight. I have started every day saying today I will start a new day. It never works. I feel scared to death !!!

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Karen Young

Bunny I would really encourage you to get support from a therapist. A doctor will be able to speak with you about meds, but if you do decide to go on medication, it’s important that while you are doing that, you are also strengthening your brain in other ways – mindfulness and exercise and 2 things that have been proven by a lot of research to strengthen the brain against anxiety. It sounds as though you are dealing with a lot at the moment. You can manage this, and you can feel strong again, but support from a therapist will help you get there.

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Serena

I agree with you that between two tough but good decisions, there is no right or wrong answer. I know this in my core, but how do you ever truly let go of the other option, especially when things get hard?

I am currently in rough shape, having been accepted into two very different grad programs which lead to two very different lives. One is environmental studies and the other is physical therapy. Environmental work is my passion and I’ve loved the jobs that I’ve had – but the higher you get the more desky your work gets and with ADHD and GAD, I struggle with focus on a computer. There are some jobs that pay well and have a field component, but they are few and far between – you likely have to move to the job and funding is often a struggle. PT is easily employable and hands-on, but despite having shadowed 150 hours, I’ve never truly done it so I don’t know if I’d like it long term. I like people and I like service but who knows whether it would be worth the risks. I am nervous about the pressure for high productivity, amount of charting and that I’d be forever pigeon holed. But also…too much freedom and too many options is dangerous for me so the idea of being on track for a known profession and ability to choose location is comforting. With the price tag and expiration of my undergrad prerequisites, it’s now or never…especially for PT.

I needed to decide yesterday, but after flipping coins and reviewing my pro/con lists and reading testimonials, I finally went to bed at 4am…with no decision. The decision is making me sick and I know that there isn’t a right answer but the results are so different and I have to live with my choice. I have to live with the debt and the unemployment and the job dissatisfaction and the anxiety. I know once I make a decision I ‘just’ need to let go and move forward but HOW?! How do I get my constantly doubting mind to cooperate and not sew what ifs into every thought and action.

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Sam Dog

I had the same problem with fear of water and swimming… my decision was like this… just take a few steps – which is a physical movement and then just jump in…. and if you move your arms and legs you should be able to swim … same way everyone else does it… so I did exactly that… and discovered how to swim and love the water ever since…. Life is like that too… jump in the pool of decision making and do the same as other people do and you might love swimming…and after a bit realize that you are really quite good at it…

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Donna

I too am in a similar situation. Except over furniture of all things. We bought a new lounge and I immediately got panic when it was delivered. I had this overweaknung desire to get rid of it and go back to the old one. My husband didn’t want that. But I was able to convince him to sell it to my family. So we did that reluctantly even though he was sad about it. But then the old couch just wasn’t the same anymore. It’s like I resented it because I know how much my husband likes the new lounge. My anxiety over this has been horrible. I’m now seeing a counsellor and a psychiatrist and am on daily medication as well as an “as needed” tablet for panic attacks.
We’ve been able to get the couch back from my family; crazy I know. But they’re doing it because they understand how this is all affecting me. It’s not here yet, but I’m already anxious about it all. I was ok at first but then during the night it all hit me. The new couch makes the loungeroom darker cause it’s taller. How am I going to study in the lounge room with terrible light, there’s really nowhere else I can put my desk in our small house. Do I really want my good old sofa in the back dining room. Yes and no on that. All this indecision is eating away at me terribly. I took my first ever panic tablet during the night which calmed me down and help me sleep a little better. How do we cope with decisions when everything makes us so anxious. Something’s it’s so bad I start to scratch myself a lot and feel like I need serious help or don’t want to be here anymore. I’d never do anything drastic, but in the moment hurting myself seems like a good way out. I’ve even thought I may need hospital treatment oh my goodness. My anxiety is ruling my life right now. I’m missing work. I could lose my job. I’m worried about me and how it’s effecting my husband too. If either of us miss work then we lose pay. I just want to be ok again.

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Sally

I just wondered if you took the PT route for study and did the environmental work in a voluntary capacity? You are still very young, one does not have to preclude the other, at least with PT you can possibly work p/t to release you for interesting environmental projects?

You will probably train and retrain during your lifetime, think about portfolio working rather than it having to be all or nothing. PT could be the breadwinner which allows you to fund your passion? Just a thought.

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Onno

Hi Serena. I wonder what you ended up choosing, and how you feel about it now? Our thoughts and situation feel pretty mutual.

I currently feel similair. I have to choose between continueing with my current Biology programme, or starting at a Design art school I got accepted in.

I have always liked being creative, and drawing and painting have been my hobbies since I was a kid. I would love being in an environment/school where I would have a have to explore my creative side and learn. For some people it would be a clearcut choice “Just do arts if you want to do arts!”. But in my mind it is not so simple unfortunately. I realize that lots from art can be learned through self-study. And I’m also doubting whether the Design art school would be a good fit, since classical drawing and paintng fundamentals aren’t taught there as much, and I would really like to develop that. Maybe an art school specialized in Classical art would be better in that case…

I started Biology a year ago. The subjects dicsussed are certainly fascinating, and I enjoy studying to some extent. But I have no job in mind that I would be passionate about in the field, and have had my doubts on whether ‘Im on the right path or not. Due to this insecurity, I applied to many other uni programmes and majors during my first year. I slowly eliminated those other options. And I ended up with these two options.

I needed to make the decision a month ago. My initial plan was to finish my Biology bachelors at least, which would take about 2-3 years before going to an art school. So I unenrolled from the art school before the year started. But somehow, that didn’t feel right. I had anxiety that same night, and re-enrolled for the Art school.

I’ve been having trouble making decisions that (I feel like) will have a big impact on my life for a few years now, due to my anxiety. It freezes me. I look at all the pros and cons, flip a coin even, but I’m still not happy after I made the decsion, and feel uncomroftable about it, and a strong urge to change it.

I am currently doing both Biology and Art, but I am behind on both. It is all caused by my indecision. I’ve been feeling sick about the decision.

As important practicals are dstarting in 2 days, I really need to choose. And I’m terrified.

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Geo

Well I’m from the nj/ny area amd have been thinking for years bout moving to the southwest but I’m in a good paying job and am close to my family but have this drawing to go to the southwest where I visited 3x so far and love it the only thing is I’m having a hard time making this decisons i have diff fears amd also ill be leaving family and being alone for the first time. I think well if I get this job with this company I been talking to and I don’t do good and they let go of me well now I lost my job here up north and down there and am back to square one at 40 yrs old. I don’t think positive bout it but all the negative things that can happen . There r some days I say yea I’m gonna do it then there r days I’m like I can’t leave my family, my friends everything I kno but I’m not happy here anymore the prices of houses rent and taxes went up and it’s so discouraging also the women here r not family oriented and career driven. I wanna try it but I’m nervous that I’ll lose everything I worked hard for savings etc amd I’ll be at square 1. I kust wanna get over this and make the right decision I think bout it everyday and even wake up in yhr middle of the night hoping some switch will go on and I can make the deciding amd be at peace with it but I can’t and it’s draining. Thank u

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Josh

Hey, I feel ya! I’m in the same boat but instead of wanting to move to the southwest I live in the Midwest and want to live in California again. I’ve lived in California for about 15 years of my life off and on but always moved to live somewhere cheaper. Now that I have a house and some equity built up I’m thinking about selling and buying a mobile home or even an RV to live out of to make my stay in California cheaper. Problem for me though is I am almost done with school but don’t really want to work in the that field so I am debating on getting my CDL license to drive a truck, with that license I can live and work anywhere. So, everyday I play the same scenarios over and over in my head debating back and forth what is the right decision, should I stay and finish school, live here and work this job, pay off my house, or should I get my cdl, stack some money , sell my house and start over in California? I know, I know, 1st world problems one would say but after living in the Midwest for going on 8 years, I am sick to death of it. I enjoyed every day I lived in the Central Coast of California, beautiful place, cool people and awesome weather. Here in Missouri its a 180* difference, most of my stay here has been horrible, only moved because it was cheap. Sometimes its worth it to shell out more money for a better product. Most everyone here is so close minded and decades behind. Good luck in your decision.

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Satya

I’m in CA and have done the leaving because of finances and other dramas. This isn’t an easy state to live in ‘normally’ full-time if you didn’t have early roots here but when it’s in your blood, nowhere else can feel as home. I wish you luck on your return home!

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Marion

I worry about travel I plan. It is all a long way from NewZealand. I get excited then have bad nights about all those busy airports – instead of the adventures and sights. Then I feel gratitude for my lovely environment here and too anxious to complete plans- I travel alone as don’t have older people like me wanting to do these things.

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Kristina

So happy I found this article. I want to change my life, my location and almost did it a few months ago…house on the market, new rental in the next state, etc. I had a panic attack one night at 1:00 a.m. and pulled the plug on everything. This article was an aha moment for me. I do struggle with depression and anxiety but have been on medication for years and just started therapy. I see where fear has pulled and prodded me along for years. I am ready to start practicing mindfulness. Thank you thank you!!!

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HW17

This was very helpful. I’m currently trying to make a big decision (choosing between two countries to settle in, my country of birth or my husband’s…along with our 3 children who have spent time in both countries!). I’m terrified of making the ‘wrong’ choice…and anticipating lifelong regret! I like the idea of making the decision right no matter which way we go…
But its still paralyzing ?

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Sarah

Hi, I just want to say I am in a similar situation to yours (I don’t have children however) and I totally know the agony of what you’re going through. I hope it works out for you 🙂

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Xx

I am also in the same situation, choosing between going back home or staying in a foreign country to get married to my boyfriend of 5 years. This is causing me anxiety as Im making a choice for the next 50 years or so

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Sam Dog

There is no wrong decision there…. figure out what is best and most practical here and now to do and then deal with whatever comes up after … if it ever happens…. that’s how life works… flip a coin if you have to … and then make plans to also include the other place by visiting … after a period of time it will become obvious which is the better place to be…. then decide to change….

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Ann

Hi, Transplanting our own lives is tough, deciding if it’s the best for the children make it more difficult- I recently suggested to my daughter in law, moving is not a final decision, you can always relocate-death is an absolute, everything else usually can be changed-

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We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting
When children are struggling to physically control their bodies, we support them in ways that strengthen. If they’re struggling to write, for example, we don’t punish or shame them. We guide them and show them by doing ‘with’. We also lift them up, ‘I know you can do this. Keep going. You’re getting better and better.’ We also don’t wait for perfection. ‘You wrote a number 4! Nice work you!’ We sit with and do with, over and over. We also give them a break when they get frustrated or upset.

It’s the same for behaviour. Big behaviour comes from big feelings or attempts to meet valid needs. (And all needs are valid.) It is this way for all of us. When we’re upset or angry, the last thing we need is for someone to tell us we can’t be, or to lecture or shame us. Kids are the same.

With kids and teens though, there can be a sense that we need to ‘do’ something in response to big behaviour, so we lay down punishments or consequences with a view to teaching a lesson.

But - unless the consequences make sense (punishments never do), they risk teaching lessons we don’t want them to learn:
- that the environment is fragile and won’t tolerate mistakes. 
- that secrecy and lies are a safer option than coming to us. 
- shut down. They put a lid on expressing big feelings. The feelings will still be there, but they aren’t getting the vital guidance from us on how to calm them (through co-regulation). The risk is that they will eventually call on unhealthy ways to calm the fierce stress neurobiology that comes with big feelings.

Consequences have to make sense. Maybe it’s to repair or reconnect. Discipline has to teach. It’s not about what we do to them but about what we nurture within them. Is that trust and the capacity to learn and grow? Or is it fear or shame.

Often the only response that’s needed is a loving conversation with us. ‘What happened?’ ‘What were you hoping would happen?’ ‘What did you need that you didn’t get?’ What can you do differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right?’ Because if discipline is about learning, the most powerful consequence is the strong, loving conversation with us that lights their way and speaks softly to the safety of us.♥️

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