Tuesday 12 September 2023

How to Make Difficult Decisions at Work

Throughout life we must regularly make difficult decisions which can make us feel uncomfortable and, in some instances, cause us anxiety and stress. When those decisions relate to our place of work, the distress can feel even more heightened for fear of upsetting work colleagues or managers, or even losing our job.

What you must remember is that although the decisions can be painful and you might be experiencing feelings of guilt, they can shape your future and your mental wellbeing. If we are hesitant for too long and it begins to affect our mental health, it can make it even more difficult to make a decision.

Types of difficult choices

You’ve probably experienced at least one of the following:

  • Accepting extra work when you’re already under a lot of pressure
  • Asking your manager or colleagues for help
  • How to best manage the company’s budget
  • Applying for a promotion

It’s often easier to avoid making these types of choices but this can prolong the negative effects on our mental health, causing even more anxiety, stress and sometimes depression.

Ways to make difficult choices easier

  1. First, before you make any choices, you need to take time to consider your situation and the possible outcomes. This will help you to gain clarity and be prepared for any changes that will occur. Don’t rush into anything but also don’t take too long or you might never make the choice. 
  2. Gather as much information as you can so that you can make an informed decision. If you don’t have all the information you need, ask the relevant person the questions you’d like answering.
  3. Consider all the options. Not all choices are black and white and there might be different routes you can take that you hadn’t thought about. You could even ask a close friend or family member for their thoughts as it can be good to get a different perspective. 
  4. Don’t put it off for too long because the longer you leave it, the greater the fear becomes and that can leave you feeling emotionally and mentally paralysed.
  5. If you have got to a point where you really are struggling to make an informed decision, simply trust your instinct. More often than not, if something feels wrong, then it usually is. 
  6. Don’t make your decision based on fear as this can turn out worse in the long run. When you make choices out of fear, you have lost control of the situation, and this can later result in feelings of regret, resentment or anger.
  7. Be kind to yourself. When faced with difficult decisions that are affecting your mental wellbeing, take time out to take care of yourself. This could be going for a long walk in the countryside to clear your mind, spending time with friends or playing a sport that you love. A study by Walden University found that “when anxiety is not managed, the body shifts to a negative stress—or toxic stress—state, which has the opposite effect. There is a decrease in blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which promotes lower cognitive functioning and sends the brain into a chaotic state. In this state, the brain is unable to access the information it needs to make logical decisions.”

When we are faced with difficult choices that are challenging, overwhelming or stressful, after careful consideration, try to make your decisions based on what feels right to you.

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