Sometimes simple, everyday decisions can be enough to throw our brain into meltdown.
It’s usually the sheer amount of choice that can feel incredibly overwhelming – whether it’s choosing what to wear, what to eat on a menu or even what to have for dinner.
This choice paralysis is a very real thing, that can strike unexpectedly, and can leave people feeling incredibly anxious and stressed.
So why is it such simple decisions can feel so overwhelming in everyday situations?
Marios Georgiou, a counsellor at Private Therapy Clinic, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Choice paralysis is a phenomenon where if an increased number of choices are given, contrary to what you might think, you are actually less able to make a decision.
‘The reason this happens is that the more items you add, the more complexity you introduce with regards to your choices. So that means that you are trying to consider too many factors.
‘This becomes overwhelming because it pulls you in all sorts of directions at one time, leaving you feeling paralysed.’
Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, stresses that while this can happen when we have multiple options, it can also come down to personalities – particularly, with those who tend to get more anxious.
She says: ‘It can also be caused by a combination of highly anxious feelings and ruminative processes in the mind that paralyse someone from making a decision.
‘As a result, ordinary decisions can end up being very anxiety-provoking.
‘There are certain personality traits that make someone more vulnerable to being indecisive. People who have a tendency to be obsessive and who pay attention to small details, for example.
‘Likewise, those who were heavily criticised growing up may struggle with uncertainty and the idea of potentially making the wrong decision.’
So how do you cope with choice paralysis? Experts have shared some things to keep in mind.
Remind yourself there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect decision’
Dr Elena says the first thing to try and remember when feeling stressed about a small decision, is that there’s no perfect decision.
So, if you wear sandals on a day that it rains, you simply might end up with wet feet.
Being confident in a choice and not getting it perfect is fine, in fact everyone does it – and this is likely to be less anxiety-fuelled than worrying about the decision in the first place.
Differentiate between small decisions and big decisions
Dr Elena says to think about whether this decision will impact you a year from now.
‘If not, then there’s no need to overthink it. Make a decision and commit to letting go,’ she adds.
Make a pros and cons list
Sometimes weighing up the advantages and disadvantages can be helpful for making a decision – no matter how big or small.
It can also make you feel more in control of a situation when the options feel overwhelming.
Marios adds that you can also rank the choices based on the outcome you want.
‘The solution is to reduce your options by creating an important aspect of the outcome you want,’ he explains.
If, for example, you’re looking at a menu – but you decide you want a healthier option – that gives you a starting point to rank the options.
He adds: ‘What this priority list will do is immediately weed out options that do not meet your criteria of importance, which will make it a lot easier even if they have other minute elements about them that make them a little bit appealing.
‘It allows you to eliminate the weakest contenders and focus on the most important available options.’
Remember any decision is better than none
Therapist Caroline Plumer adds: ‘Depending on the situation, it can also be useful to remind ourselves that sometimes any decision is better than no decision – taking some control, rather than letting life happen to us, can be empowering.’
She explains that part of the issue with choice paralysis is that we start doubting our own ability to make a good decision.
Caroline adds: ‘If this is the path you are going down, then it helps to rationalise. Does the decision have a potentially disastrous outcome or are you catastrophising? If it does end up being the wrong decision – can it be changed/undone?
‘Even if it is a huge decision, with big consequences, it is likely you have made big decisions before – how did they turn out?
‘If the answer is pretty well, there’s no reason this one should be any different.’
Know when to seek professional help
When you think your anxiety might be an issue and is impacting every day life, it could be time to chat to your GP or a therapist.
Dr Elena stresses that a therapist will be able to formulate the root of your indecisiveness and teach you healthier coping mechanisms for tolerating uncertainty
‘The same goes if you find you are making risky or bad decisions regularly,’ adds Caroline.
‘You may need to unpick this with a professional and look at how to make healthier choices going forward.’
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