How To Make A Decision Easier and Reduce Stress – A Comprehensive Guide
By Celine Healy
Check out Essential Factors to Understand – Letting Go and Moving On
How to make a decision is the key to a transformative life. For personal growth.
That decision could be one step away from a new job. Greater abundance. Increased heath and wellbeing. A different life.
How to make decisions easier, is the hard part.
People generally know that decision making is key. However, they struggle with overwhelm. They stress out about making that commitment. They feel inadequate when then know they have failed to stick to a decision so many times in the past.
One more failure on their track record, could lead to a life-time of inaction. And. We don’t want that for you.
The aim of this guide is to inform and educate those desiring to make decisions easier, and also on what has been holding you back. And. Why this is the only approach you can take: reducing the stress around the process of decision making. Because, believe me, there is untold stress around this process.
Why do I say that?
Because stress is so pervasive within our society, that quite often, people do not realise the hidden implications of this insidious dis-ease.
Also too people are not aware that there are strategies for stress reduction, specific and natural, stress reduction techniques which, if understood and acted upon, could help people live a stress-free life. Making decisions easier. And. Then being able to activate those decisions into achieving their goals in life.
It is not about taking the first step in the decision-making process.
It is not about using more willpower.
It is not about trying to change the very essence of who you are.
This is about understanding what keeps holding you back from determinising why decision making is important. And. Why you are having such problems making decisions in the first place. Being committed to them once you have made them it, and sticking with that decision. Then, finally, how to overcome these issues so that you can make decisions easier.
If that is what you want then…
Let’s get into this.
Click here for your PDF copy of The Ultimate Guide To How To Make A Decision Easier
1. Definitions of decision making, the process of decision making, and stress reduction.
Decision making is about using the logical, rational reasoning part of the brain to weigh up different alternatives so that you are able to choose between options, more easily.
When you try to weigh up the options you need to be able to recognise the pros and cons of each option, as well as the impact and effectiveness that choice would have on your life, or in that particular situation. It is a thought process about choosing the best option.
Effective decision making means being able to consider all of the options available. And. Sometimes people might need help with this process, because they may be clouded in their judgment and not be open to seeing different perspectives. If you tend to see things as either, or. Or, black and white, you may not be aware of some lovely shades of grey that might be more suitable, as choices.
When making decisions people can tend to catastrophise. This is where the extremes creep in. (There are other perspectives that we will look at later which are impinging on your decision making ability.)
Trewatha & Newport define decision making as follows:
“Decision-making involves the selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a given problem”.
The decision making process follows these kinds of steps:
Defining the problem – your goal
Gathering information and collecting data
Developing and weighing up the options – consider the consequences
Make your decision – choosing best possible option
Plan and execute – strategise and implement
Evaluate-take follow up action/change strategy as necessary
So, the process you go through can help you make more deliberate and thoughtful decisions, because you will have gone through the sifting and sorting procedures that decision making necessarily involves.
Stress and stress reduction
What is stress?
The effects of stress in people’s lives is the perception of a reality that an individual holds. Yes. We can all recognise and give examples of possible stressful events and stressor triggers such as: car accidents, loss of health, loss of a job, divorce, separation, a child’s illness and so on.
What we cannot imagine effectively is the impact that that particular event or trigger will have on a person’s wellbeing and mental state.
Physiologically, people respond to a stressor trigger or event the same way. However, what we do not understand is the impact on mental and emotional states. We can only surmise.
So, in this context, stress reduction is about changing how you respond to stress, physiologically.
Yes. We can actually change that habit. We will discuss this in-depth later.
So, what happens when people are making decisions (which can be stressful), they can make “cognitive distortions”, which are based around their beliefs and life experiences. These distortions tend to exacerbate the stress around decision making and the possible effects those decisions might have on a person’s welfare. (We will discuss this in Section 4.)
Because of the way people view the world which is based on their perception lens.
Understanding the meaning of stress can be vital to being able to do something about it. I have found that most people are not fully cognisant of the pervasive impact that stress has on their lives. Nor, in fact, of the impact that stress has on their ability to make decisions.
From observation and experience I came up with this definition.
My definition of stress is:
If you are struggling to achieve anything
If you are straining against something
You are coming from a position of lack
If you stuck are in a rut, or
If you are in pain, or have tension anywhere in your body/mind
… you are stressed.
In effect, as soon as you go out of a positive emotion and into a negative emotion or feeling, you are going into stress.
Struggling against a job you dislike. Straining against a deeply held principle which is in conflict with someone else’s opinion. Stuck in a rut means – continuing to repeat habits and not liking the outcome. Pain can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual such as not being in alignment with your true identity. Tension is muscular which can then be transferred across to mental and emotional states. Coming from a position of lack – lack of money, lack of skills etc.
All of these situations create stress in people’s lives.
Why is stress so pervasive within our daily lives?
Briefly, it is because we have trained our body/mind in habitual stress responses to all manner of events or stressor triggers, whether “real” or “imagined”.
These repetitive responses (going into a fear pattern or feeling a negative emotion) around these types of triggers, then affect decision making in general. We transpose our bad feelings onto other events, in this case decision making.
How we respond to stress is via the Stress Response Mechanism. This is inbuilt into the autonomic nervous system.
It is part of our survival programs and was originally designed to warn us of pending danger when a dangerous animal was nearby, and was threatening to kill us.
We would sense the danger, and then have to make a very quick decision about what to do:
would we stay and fight, or
would we run and flee, or
would be so overcome with fear that we froze and did nothing.
What happens physiologically is that via the senses we have a thought. The thought then goes to the heart and the heart attaches an emotion to that thought – e.g. fear. The thought and emotion then goes down to the gut area and adds more information e.g.” I am not very strong and so I feel we should get out of here immediately.” This information then goes back up through the heart and back to the brain and the brain mobilises and then sends electrical messages throughout the body/mind to activate readiness for whatever decision we make e.g. ‘let’s flee.” Molecules are emitted and you will feel the fear or the anger or whatever emotion you first identified.
The problem with this automatic response scenario is that in today’s environment, we are no longer exposed to many threatening wild beasts. However, as a carry-over, we have not been able to shut down these habitual patterns of response. We tend to treat MOST information coming into our realm, as being threatening in some way.
Because we have these patterns of response ingrained into our physiology. Once ingrained we tend to choose that response pattern as our go-to method of responding, not only to stressful events or triggers, but to ALL triggers and events.
We have, by extrapolation, extended this “fearful” response pattern to all manner of decision making. Then, all decision making becomes a stressful event.
In today’s world we do not have many “real” threats impinging on our lives. Generally, the threats or stresses we have, are “perceived” or “imagined”.
They are not real. They are imagined. The problem is that your body/mind, your subconscious, cannot tell the difference between an event which is “real”, or an event which is “perceived”. So, what this means today is that most of our stress triggers are imagined or not real.
We tend to treat “ANY information” as “ALL information”. We tend to catastrophise and generalise.
This means that we have been training ourselves how to respond to those “perceived” threats and have developed an habitual response to those “perceived” stress triggers.
Most of our responses are “fear based”, e.g. if your boss carries out a performance review, we quite often fear the worst. If our partner says: “we must talk” we fear the worst for our relationship. If someone says something about us that puts us down, we quite often feel that they are attacking us and we go into “fear mode”.
So, if you are in a constant state of stress, and are on alert most of the time, being able to make decisions of any kind, will be difficult.
Why reducing stress is important?
We have seen above, that people respond to stress in habitual patterns. The behaviour is governed by our inbuilt stress response mechanism, which is an automatic function of the subconscious mind. When we continue to repeat these patterns of responses over and over, create synapses, or grooves. These grooves become our go-to patterns of how to respond.
So, if the decision making process is encoded with these patterns of response, you can see how it might be necessary to reduce the stress around how we respond to a trigger, so that our decision making process can become more rational, more logical, and hence, under more conscious control.
2. What is the link between better decision making and stress reduction?
Decision making is an on-going process in that every day we are placed in positions whereby we have to make decisions, or we think we are making decisions, e.g. What are we going to wear? What are we going to eat? Will I sit at my desk throughout lunch time or will I go out? Do I have enough money this week to pay all of the bills? What is my boss thinking of me? Will I pass the performance evaluation? My child is not well if I do not go into work today how will that affect my position? How will this affect my promotion ability? And so on…
Many of these so-called opportunities to make decisions never actually eventuate. We procrastinate. We disregard them or we don’t bother making them.
The interesting fact is that many of our day-to-day decisions are not really decisions any longer. They have been relegated to our automatic response patterns, and hence have become habits.
Eminent biologist, Dr Bruce Lipton states that 95% of all choices we think we are making every day are in fact, habitual responses. Habits, rather than actual decisions. So, this means that only 5% of the time are we placed in a situation whereby we actually are making a conscious choice, an actual decision.
So, what we consider decision making is in effect, an automatic response.
So, just as decision making, of those things your conscious mind has decided are not important enough to be bothered about, has been relegated to the subconscious mind, so too is the situation with our responses to stress.
Our responses to stress are also automatic and have been relegated to the subconscious mind. This leaves us free to be able to call up the conscious mind when we need to make proper decisions about events or situations that require the use of our planning, strategising our creative minds.
This means decision making, and responses to stressor triggers or events, both lie within that part of the brain function, the subconscious. If this is the case then in order to be able to make more effective decision making and to be able to “respond” rather than “react” to stressful situations, we need to deal with the subconscious mind, to alter both of these things.
In fact, we will see that decision making has become a stressful event for most people and therefore that is why they avoid it, or at best, leave those crucial decisions until the last resort.
What this means is, that we need to resolve the stressful situations we find ourselves in, and the stress around the decision making process, at the same time.
How do we do that?
We do that by changing how we respond to stressor triggers or stressful events. We have to change or retrain our Stress response Mechanism.
3.Stress factors impacting the decision making process
There are many reasons for this dilemma. Initially we associate decision making with being stressed about the outcome and therefore choosing one thing over another automatically limits what we will have, be, or do.
We also fear missing out if we choose one thing over another. Choice reduces other available options.
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