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. 



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 stayed. I now work on airplanes. I enjoy life, I’m just letting it take me where it will.


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-


I have read a lot of lists like these and always thought of them to be the most useless things, but after reading yours, I found it be so helpful to my current situation. I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to make this.



I thought the same things. I have made my decision-making process very messy and take some unnecessary actions out of emotions and I think all of this because anxiety has got me.

Every time I made decision and the process got delayed, I hesitated, had a second-thought and was looking for more option to confuse me even more.

Now every thing is more calm and for the first time I can see the facts, pro and cons in every options. Even this decision will cost me a bit of money, I think I just need to settle it and I can always change it later on.


I am so happy to have found this post. I made a really bad decision two years ago out of stress/exaggerated emotions which I feel has ruined my future and am currently trying to get back my life back on track and make sure something like that never happens again. Do you have any advice on getting over wrong decisions which nothing more can be done about and moving forward?

Karen Young

Look for the lessons and the growth. No experience is wasted if there is something you can take from it that will make you stronger, braver, wiser and more ready for the experiences ahead of you.


I’d like to add 2 things; 1. show compassion to yourself – just as you would a friend (you are not alone, we all make mistakes) and 2. Fully accept the decisions and actions you made and search for ways to make them lead to a better you that would have never happened without those mistakes.. so you will make real lemonade from lemons.


I’ve been a brilliant student through out. But back in 10th grade I had my first encounter with anxiety. With therapy I felt better but anxiety never let go of me for good. I have performance anxiety and it’s making me think about quitting med school. I’ve one more year to go. I can’t really decide what to do.

Karen Young

Fariha – don’t quit! Your anxious mind is also a strong one and you have everything in you to manage your anxiety and finish your course. Try mindfulness, exercise and here is another article that talks about using your strong, healthy mind in ways that can support you through your anxiety Anxiety can feel confusing and awful, but it can be managed. You will be so grateful in a year that you trusted your capacity to cope and let the brave, strong, part of you get you through.


Karen, it’s really hard to cope with these feelings. My exams start tomorrow. And I’ve not even tried going close to my books during my prep leave. I don’t think I want to sit in these exams.


Hi there – found your article when I googled a bunch of things about intuition vs. anxiety.

My boyfriend recently said he wants to go camping again this year, and wants me to go with him (he wanted that last time too, but I said no. For no particular reason.)

Now I’m in the same situation – my body just says no. I’m sure if I look deeper I’ll be able to identify my thoughts, of all the little things that could go wrong – but as he stated, if anything goes wrong, we can just come home.

Of course, the worst thing that can happen is that someone dies – which could just as easily happen anywhere!

So really, the main thing is this FEELING. This block inside my body or mind that won’t let me even think hypothetically about going or trying to organise it (you know, act first and let the feelings follow).

Since it’s so much effort trying to work out whether to go (because I can’t trust whether I WANT to go or not – my anxiety overrides anything I might want to do) it’s very easy for me to become upset and tired and decide not to do something, because it’s easier and seems to be the right choice.

Anyway, sorry for rambling, I just needed a bit of encouragement to say yes – I don’t want to say no again, especially for no reason. I’m just having a very tough time saying yes.

Especially also since I’ll have to tell my mum I’ll be going off camping (I live with her) and whenever she expresses any doubt (which is always, because she has anxiety too) it totally changes my mind.

So, saying no just because I feel like I don’t want to do it, is not an action I would like to take. I know the consequences it will have for my boyfriend and myself. I know in the past that I have done things despite not feeling like it, and ended up enjoying it and wondering what my problem ever was in the first place!

I’m sure the excited feeling about camping for the first time with my boyfriend will come, probably on the day we leave. The fact that I don’t feel that way now just makes it hard to say yes, especially when I’ve been taught to base my decisions on how I feel.

PS Don’t worry, I am seeing a therapist for my issues! 🙂


Very helpful and insightful article.

I would definitely blame anxiety as the main culprit in me making a highly irrational decision 2 weeks ago re a career move that I turned down.

It’s stunning. I knew at the time that anxiety was clouding my judgment and that I should ignore it as it was largely unfounded. I also knew that the decision I was making was wrong and that I would regret it, but I couldn’t help but be guided by irrational anxiety. And now I’m kicking myself for being so stupid.

It’s like anxiety got hold of my body and my mind lost all ability to control. I have to say I never believed such emotion could be so potent.

I am hoping next time I am sufficiently mentally cognizant and resistant to be able to ignore it.


Karen Young

You’re very welcome Rick. Every experience gives new wisdom and new courage that wasn’t there before. You’ll be ready next time around. No regrets, just experiences that make you clearer, braver and more able to move in the direction that is right for you.


omg. irrational decisions. that sums up my life. family and friends thought I was crazy. I irrationally chose to escape change. my pfc was so locked down, I was operating in blind chaos. as I felt safer and safer, my pfc relaxed and I now can see choices exist. I dont seem crazy anymore. I was a poster child for ACEs.


I have been stuck forever (over 10 years) on deciding whether to move house or make-over the one I have. Life has been stressful during this time. my mum was diagnosed with dementia about 10 years ago and more recently my Dad with cancer. I am now struggling with other decisions where to go on holiday how to celebrate a big birthday this year whether to go or not to go to events…the anxiety is getting a stronger grip. No 6 and 7 resonated with me. Maybe there is no right decision over moving home and maybe focusing on all the things that might go wrong will always lead to staying put or as in my case doing nothing at all (soon my current house will fall down around me from lack of action!) Also if you want something enough you need to take a leap of faith. I do believe the more you play it safe the more afraid you will become so you cant keep giving into fear. Thanks for such a useful article.


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

This is excellent advice to remember. I have lost count of the number of times I have been offered great opportunities, when people had faith in me, and I turned them down because of what I wanted to avoid.


Yes that was my WOW moment!
Thank You

And I have been over thinking my
entire life it’s a difficult thing to change but I’m trying. I think my wow moment will help.


Such a great article that has really got me thinking about my struggle with anxiety. However my issue is the way it controls my decision making on the most simplest of choices. Things like what should I wear? Should I buy an outfit? Over worrying about spending money? Too many ‘What if’s’ that stop me from making quick decisions.

I feel frustrated with myself as I never used to be this indecisive and my husband is becoming very frustrated with me (even though he is very supportive).

I need to be able to mak a decision, and not wonder if it was the right one straight after. How do I stop my brain from considering future events and ‘what if’s’ before they have even happened?
It is controlling my life and making my stomach feel knotted and my heart beat fast all day every day as I can’t stop over thinking things.


Thanx for this. Today I was feeling very anxious. I used to have panic disorder but got great help with the MAPS program. It’s been 20 years since I had it & am trying to figure out what has set it off again. I think I need a tune up. Thanx


It seems as if you are saying that when anxiety impedes decision making…say yes to the choice that will make your life larger, even if it’s harder.

I like that.

What about when you fall in love with an idea that gives you great pleasure and opens your world, but your gut is all twisted up the closer you get…with the fear that it won’t be worth it, or it’ll turn sour and painful?

Karen - Hey Sigmund

It’s important to make sure that whatever you decide, it’s for the right reasons. Sometimes fear is a stop sign, and sometimes it isn’t. Use your head and your heart when making a decision – they both contain important wisdom. What’s important is that fear doesn’t get in the way and hold you back for the wrong reasons.


I don’t understand that logic. My anxiety and depression has been crippling and disruptive in my home. Are you saying fear is a trigger that tells us to stop… like a warning not to move forward in that decision? My fear drives me and holds me back, we desire to make some major improvements to the house like bathroom remodels, garage addition and pool. we have the resource for those things, but fear and worry hold me back. I over analyze ever little situation as a sign in not to proceed.

Karen Young

Fear can make us fight (think of it like attacking in defence), flee (this can mean ‘fleeing’ (avoiding) a decision) or freeze (staying stuck).


How do I deal with anxiety about major life decisions? I’m currently changing what I thought was going to be my career path because I’ve decided to pursue a dream of mine–an unrealistic one. I say unrealistic in the sense that many people fail. However, I’ve been making an effort to put in my best and really studying what other people in that field do to be successful. And from other people have told me, I could be really successful. That I’ve got a good foundation, I just have to grow a bit. I’m not sure though, I’m really excited to pursue my passion, but i’m terrified that my family is going to think I’m crazy. I’m worried I’m gonna be broke with nothing to show for it. I feel like I’m happy yet an elephant is sitting on my chest at the same time. I don’t know how to get rid of that anxious feeling, but it’s really bothering me.

Karen - Hey Sigmund

With big, life-changing decisions it’s really understandable that there will be anxiety that comes with that. It means you’re about to do something really brave. Courage and anxiety tend to exist together. If the decision was an easy one that didn’t require courage, there wouldn’t be anxiety. What’s important is what you think. Listen to the people who love you, but ultimately you’re the one who has to live with your decision. No experience is ever wasted. You will learn and grow regardless. And the big question – how will you feel for the rest of your life if you don’t? Big dreams breathe life into life.


I am having difficulty making decisions. As I am writing this I am in a state of paralysis.
There is a man who loves me and wants to marry me. I love him yet can’t seem to make a commitment. There are opportunities to create things together yet I just get stuck in paralysis. I leave thinking I can make it else where, then come back because I miss him and invision how I can be better, try harder….
Around him I act like a little child…or feel that way…creates a feeling of overwhelming shame and guilt.
So now I have a decision to make to stay or go. There is opportunity where I am going….but fear turns everything into a state of panic and instead of packing and such…I am weighing my choice and projecting into the futures of both options…
I fear that there is something imbalances with in me…I have trained myself to create these dramas and are looping for 3 years now. Finding myself in different places pacing around and feeling crazy, after a bit coming out of it and disredisregard it as okness. Today starting on 5mg of celexa* medication to ease anxiet and depression. I do implementing tools that I know…meditation…yoga…mindfullnes… However
Its really hard because as I start projecting into the decision making…even if I feel I have made the decision…I start doubting and mind starts floating into imagery.

So this is where I am today.

Goudappa B

I made a wrong decision 8 months back due to stress anxiety and depression. Now I am regretting a lot about the decision I made. The mind always fluctuates every second. Is there any treatment for anxiety and depression


This is an amazing article, thank you for sharing! I just have one question. I’ve been putting off with this decision for a while now, and it’s not even a big one, or one that will dramatically affect my life. It’s just a simple event I’ve been invited to, but I’m introverted and hate loud, crowded situations. My thing is, my brain likes to tell me that I’m going to regret my decision later on in life, no matter what I do. Like, I won’t have that extra story to tell, or if I don’t go, I’ll regret it when I’m doing what I wanted to do and suck the fun out of everything in that present moment. Or that I didn’t take the chance to give it a try, while I know in my head that I would be miserable going. Is there any way to combat this?

I don’t know if you read these any more because this article is from so long ago, but it’s worth a shot. I was supposed to make my decision yesterday, but haven’t yet because of what I stated above, so I thought I’d try reaching out for advice because that looks like what everyone else is doing. 🙂 Thanks in advance!

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Your anxiety around this is a feeling, not a prediction. Be brave and say yes. Perhaps it will be wonderful, and perhaps it won’t be. Either way, you will have stretched your edges. If it turns out to be an awful experience, you can always leave. The more you avoid things, the more your brain will think that avoidance is the only way to stay safe, which it isn’t. Remind yourself, you don’t need to ge through the entire night, just the next ten minutes. Take a chance on yourself.


Thank you! I really appreciate how you take the time to respond to each and every comment, it means a lot! I’ll try to step outside of my comfort zone. After all, it is just for a few hours or so, it’s just difficult making that initial decision.
Not to bombard you with a bunch of questions but, what do you think is a good way to cope with anxiety instead of letting it run your life? Are there ways to calm yourself down or combat it? Again, thank you for the advice and sorry for lots of questions, I just don’t really have anyone else to ask.


I’m currently married to a man who is a narcissist . I’m in the process of trying to leave him and have made steps so I can have freedom. My main problem though is my anxiety. I keep thinking I’m making a bad decision because of past experiences with leaving him. I’ve left him before bit I always get lured back in. In my mind I’m being tossed between, should I stay or should I go? The more I think about it the more anxiety I have. To be very honest, I’m scared. I know I can’t stay with him because he makes me nervous and I’ve lost 60 pounds due to the stress. Any advice?

Karen - Hey Sigmund

Katrina I know you feel confused, but you sound very clear to me. Get yourself an anchor – a thought, a memory or an incident that can really propel you out of there and remind you of the reasons you need to leave. This time you leave him will be a new time. It’s easy to look at new experiences with old eyes, but the thing to remember is that you are different – more aware, stronger, braver – so this time you leave won’t be like the other times. Write down the things that pulled you back in last time, so that you can be ready for them this time. Everything you need to do this is in you. First though, you need to trust yourself – trust that you know what you want, that you have what it takes, and that you deserve it.


Hi Kristina,

I knew it is many years back but I just came across your post. I have experience narcissist first time in my life and if he wasn’t break up with me, I might not be able to do that.
He cheated on me twice and I still want to keep him how dumb I was.

Almost 2 years now and I found myself back again, everything is almost forgotten.
Life is a lot easier when you don’t have to deal with unnecessary.


I really appreciate this list! I have a long history of decision-making paralysis, even with unimportant, everyday things like how to use my free time. If it involves other people, I worry about whether other people will be happy. If it’s for myself, I have the false pretense that there is one perfect choice.

I’m going to try and start implementing these!


This is ground breaking for me today. I can’t count the amount of bad decisions i have made, things i have regretted in a snap decision and yet i have been severely anxious all my life and have never truly believed it was that causing it.
Thank you
I have been very tough on myself,thinking i was such a bad person at times but i see now anxiety was in the driver seat.
knowledge is power.
I just have to learn mindfullness now!
Thank you

Heather Holt

Thanks for this wisdom. There is a typo in the heading of point 7. (which is the sentence which resonated the most with me!)


I’m such a mess from stress
Just bad choices
I took prescription medication it made it so much worse
Now I’m in a total mess because my mind was badly affected by the medication and I just turned in on myself not communicating with anyone except on the phone which made or worse again because no human eye contact
Warning to anyone don’t take medication
I’m in such s way I don’t know where to turn to now
I went to stay at my mothers which was even worse because I don’t get owing with her
I believed God was telling me what to do it was my conscience gut feeling I neede to leave her place I needed to wash my hair but I did neither because of the medication side effects making me so clammed up
I’m sort if ok today because i didn’t take those pills last night
I kept thinkingy life was hell because of the medication and that everything was going to ruin
Now I don’t know what to do
Medication is all wrong it was serequal please don’t anyone ever take it it destroys your mind

Hey Sigmund

Nina thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry that you have had this experience with your medication. Keep working on strengthening your brain back to healthy. Brains change – we know that for sure. Even though this is an article about depression (and I’m NOT suggesting you have depression) it describes the things that will strengthen the brain that we should probably all be doing for strong mental health, not just people with depression. It might have something in it that will help And here is another one about the things that support brain health Wishing you love and healing.


Thanks Karen, very enlightening.

Can you suggest anxiety suppressing medication and/or treatment which could help?

Hey Sigmund

You’re very welcome Tim. In terms of medication, a doctor would be the person to ask but there are also other things you can try that research has found to be really effective for many people. If you do go down the medication route, just make sure you incorporate the lifestyle tweaks as well. It will make it easier to come off the medication when you’re ready. The articles that talk about other options (that can be used in conjunction with medication) are on this link Hopefully something in here will give you some comfort.


I see these techniques work on a daily basis with my clients. Thank you for articulating it so well. I wonder are you specifically talking about the left PFC?


Really interesting, especially about the switching off of certain neurons when anxious, lessening our ability to engage with our PFC. This makes a lot of sense and explains why when I’m feeling anxious the choices I appear to have seem either very few or even black and white. An expression I have heard repeatedly from clients.
I have also learnt from experience not to rush important decisions and was always given the advice “sleep on it, it may feel different tomorrow”, which uncannily it does in most cases.


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Thanks so much @maggiedentauthor♥️…
“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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