The Two Things to Do When a Stressful Decision Looms

Upcoming decisions can darken our days and keep us up at night. And we rarely emphasize the “upcoming” part as we should. We treat every big life choice as if the answer were due in 30 minutes or less.

Instead of putting off the worry until we actually have to make a decision, we might stress for weeks. That anxiety doesn’t do anything to help us choose the best solution.

Road covered over by sand.

This storm in our brains can cloud our judgment and block our paths. We might mishandle other decisions that are more urgent.

We could neglect relationships while we fret over something we can’t control.

I try to remember a couple of things when I’m tossing and turning over an upcoming decision. These two concepts have helped me slow down the dread machine in my head and lock that decision in a cabinet marked “future concerns.”

Keep a Thankful Attitude

The first way to release the building pressure over a decision is to show some gratitude. Not for the decision you face, but for the built-in cushion you’ve been given. If your decision isn’t due right now, take a literal sigh of relief. You’ve got time to get this right.

We crank up the anxiety on most decisions the first moment we spot them on the horizon. But in most cases, we can’t make even an inch of progress toward resolution in the present. Any worry we do is wholly preemptive and useless.

We’ll build nightmare scenarios based on half-truths and pitfalls that don’t actually materialize.

So, take a breath, and be thankful there’s no decision to be made in the present. You would only make a rash decision, based on little information, and a mistake may be the result. Breathe a sigh of relief.

Showing appreciation for any additional time we have is a good way to remind our brains that these decisions are down the road. It’s a way to release that imagined pressure to reach the perfect conclusion.

Trust Your Future Self With This Decision

The other thing I force myself to remember is that I won’t be making this decision. At least not the current version of me. I can kick it down the road, for my future self to worry about. It sounds like an irresponsible act, but guess who will be more qualified to choose the best option for you? Your future self.

Man with futuristic sunglasses and cutting edge mock turtleneck.
What I believe we’ll look like in the future.

In the future, you will have access to better information. You’ll know much more than you do now about the options. Your future self may even discover that your choice wasn’t the one you thought it was. Things change. The decision you thought was looming can end up as a mirage.

There was never a choice, and yet, how many hours did you spend agonizing over the imaginary fork in the road. Give yourself some credit. When it comes time to make that fateful choice, you’ll have all the data you’ve gathered and a better view of the true options.

Trust that the future version of you will have a much better handle on it and will make the right decision for you.

Release During The Deciding Moments of Our Lives

You have to force yourself to do these things because anxiety isn’t going to let you off the hook. Remember, anxiety only feeds itself. It actively works to keep you from stopping the “worry train.” It’s a disease that doesn’t want you to find a cure.

Stop and offer a prayer of thanks. Pause and remember that you may not be qualified for the decision now, but your upgraded self in a week or a month will be ready for it.

Look your reflection in the mirror and tell your future self that “You got this.” It’s not kicking a problem down the road, it’s farming it out to someone more qualified to handle it.

You are simply trusting that when it’s actually time to pull the lever on a big decision, you’ll have studied the options and compiled the data you need to make an informed selection. You’ll have explored your own emotions about what’s put in front of you.

Don’t punish yourself for not knowing what to do right now. Then breathe deeply and focus on your challenges that are really due now.

I wrote about forks in the road and the paths to our destinies here. It’s an entry about appreciating a glimpse of the route ahead instead of expecting a fully detailed road map of our futures.

Published by scottsentell20

Lifelong writer and coffee shop journaling champion. Content creator. Deep-Thought Diver. Hikes with dogs to learn their secrets to life. Likes the silence found on mountaintops and the peace that collects along the banks of small streams. I read old sci-fi novels to understand current events. Scott has roots in Alaska, Spokane, and North Carolina.

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