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Mental Health

How Anxiety Affects Decision-Making and How to Prevent it from Doing So

There are numerous ways that anxiety can interfere with life and cause problems. One way anxiety can get in the way is through decision-making. 

When anxiety is present, behavior often tends towards the most secure course. Moving slowly is undoubtedly the most beneficial course of action in some situations. Occasionally, it’s not. When given too much control, anxiety can obstruct many aspects of life.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh have found what occurs when anxiety has a strong influence over decision-making and leads people to make poor choices.

The Journal of Neuroscience study describes how anxiety disconnects the area of the brain that is necessary for wise decision-making. The pre-frontal cortex (PFC), located near the front of the brain, is the region that gives decision-making ability.

The PFC is the area of the brain that plays a role in planning, calculating consequences, and logically and rationally processing concepts. By relaxing the amygdala, the area of the brain that operates on instinct, impulse, and genuine feelings (such as fear), it improves in de-emotionalizing a decision.

The research. What they did.

Researchers examined the behavior of brain cells in the PFC of nervous rats while they received instructions to choose which behavior would earn them an enjoyable reward. Rats and humans share numerous physiological and biochemical resemblances which explains why they are frequently utilized in these types of investigations. The researchers evaluated the actions and neural activity of a pair of rats: one given a placebo and one given a low dose of an anxiety-inducing medication. Both sets of rats were capable of making solid decisions, but the stressed rats made far more errors when there were greater interruptions in their path. 

What Effects Anxiety Has. meaning of the research.

Because anxiety makes it harder for the brain to block out distractions, it interferes with making wise decisions. Distractions might be real, like objects in the immediate environment, or they can be mental, like thoughts and concerns. Anxiety impairs the brain’s ability to disregard these distractions by freezing a section of pre-frontal cortex neurons that are specifically tasked with decision-making.

“We have studied and treated anxiety in a basic manner.” We’ve associated it with dread and, for the most part, considered that it over-activates certain brain circuits. However, our study demonstrates anxiety specifically disconnects brain cells.”

The general belief that anxiety interferes with life by overloading brain circuits is called into question by this new discovery. It appears that anxiety selectively blocks some connections, at least when it comes to decision-making, making it more challenging for the brain to filter out unnecessary knowledge and generate better decisions.

How to Prevent Anxiety from Influencing Decisions 

  1. Boost your brain’s sensitivity to anxiety.

Be careful. The pre-frontal cortex, a region of the brain that anxiety may knock offline, is strengthened by mindfulness. Decisions are more prone to become fixed and hard and are led by invasive emotions that don’t merit the impact if the pre-frontal cortex isn’t working to its fullest capacity. The ability of the brain to block out distractions and make more sensible, appropriate decisions is strengthened by mindfulness. It reduces the impact of the unimportant things so you may concentrate on the important things. 

  1. Discover the true source of your anxiety. 

Stress at work or in daily life (such as a fight or being stuck in traffic) can cause strong enough feelings and distracting ideas to affect essential, unrelated decisions. Past events might also be the cause of anxiety. The feeling might have been appropriate at the time, but it might now only be getting in the way. Unjustified anxiety can cause people to make too cautious decisions. Finding the source of the anxiety will help to lessen its impact on behavior.

  1. Slow it down.

Slowing down seems simple, but in reality, is rarely that straightforward. Slowing down entails consciously shifting away from natural thoughts and sensations and towards what actually takes place, what you are experiencing, and what may be causing it. So much of how we feel and react to circumstances is automatic, but it doesn’t have always been this way. The more conscious we are of what we are performing or experiencing, the greater ability we have to alter it.

  1. Contrary to popular belief, ideas, feelings, and behavior are not all bundled together. They aren’t.

You don’t have to behave a specific way simply because you’re feeling a particular way or imagining a certain thought. To do this, one must be more selective in their actions and resist spontaneous, habitual responses. Behavior, feelings, and thoughts are all linked. They interact with one another, frequently without our knowledge. The other two will gradually catch up if you change one. You don’t even need to have faith in it, just give it a shot and see what happens.

  1. Pose as if. (Yes, really. Try it out.)

It’s natural to feel worried or anxious when making an important decision, but you shouldn’t rush your decision. Anxiety exists for the purpose of safeguarding you from danger, but the fact that it sounds like the alarm does not indicate that there’s a threat around. Try ‘acting as if’ there is nothing to be concerned about to challenge the reality and impact of anxiety. This may seem challenging at first, but the longer you do it, the simpler it will get. Maintain your focus on the now. You’re fine right now, and you’ll stay fine. Even if it doesn’t feel correct, behave as if it is. The goal is to reduce anxiety sufficiently so that it doesn’t compel itself into decisions where it is not required.

  1. The fact that there are options does not imply that one is better.

What choice would you select if you were certain there was no wrong answer? Anxiety frequently confuses us into thinking that there will be an appropriate decision and a wrong choice, a good choice and the worst choice, which makes making decisions much more difficult. It’s highly possible that neither choice will be the incorrect one if you are really divided between two options. Once you’ve chosen your choice—whatever it may be—you’ll begin arranging your surroundings, as well as your own actions and reactions, to ensure that everything goes as planned. You will be supported and moved ahead by your resiliency, creative thinking, and intelligence.

  1. Instead of focusing on what you want to avoid, focus on what you want to achieve.

Attempt to alter your focus. Anxiety tends to control decisions by showing us all of the feasible consequences, especially the negative ones. Decisions are thus made in order to avoid what we aren’t interested in rather than pursue what we really want. What would the choices you make look like if they were motivated by what you want rather than what you would rather not happen?

And finally…

Anxiety likes to escape you from behind and then hide in the shadows. It is possible to make selections that will be more fulfilling for you if you train your brain to better block out distractions and become conscious of the emotions that are influencing your behavior or decisions.