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. 



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


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 🙂


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!!


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


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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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 !!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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!


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 !!!

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.


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.

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…


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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!!!


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 ?


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 🙂


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

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….


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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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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