Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Dr. Justin Puder B.A, M.A, Ph.D
What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do
Published Aug 18th, 2021 & updated on Aug 17th, 2021
Are you at a crossroad? And, maybe that road doesn’t just have 2 or 3 turn-offs but, like, a whole lot more? And you have no idea which path to take? There are just so many things to consider before you make your decision! How are you supposed to know what to do when you don’t know what to do?! (Insert Rachel and Phoebe: “They don’t know that we know they know we know!)
Sometimes having too many choices can feel more overwhelming than having zero choices. It’s totally natural. And if you’re having problems trying to figure out what to do, you are totally not alone. Think of the show Say Yes To The Dress… Some brides try on close to 100 dresses and just end up making themselves more and more confused because there are now too many options to choose from.
Maybe you’re like one of these brides with just TOO much to consider. Or, maybe you’re lucky (unlucky?) enough to have your options simplified — there’s just option A or option B. However many options you’re facing right now, you’re probs stressed to the max because you don’t want to make the “wrong” decision. First of all…we feel inclined to say something along the lines of “there’s no such thing as a wrong decision. Whatever happens, you’ll learn from it.” BUT, you know and we know it’s just not that simple.
So, whether you’re trying to make a decision on your outfit or a much bigger life plan, we’re here to help you with some tips to ease the decision-making process.
How Uncertainty Affects Mental Health
First of all, we HAVE to touch on this. Uncertainty is more than just annoying and frustrating. It can actually be hard on your mental health.
If you’re on the fence about taking a job offer, or moving out of your current home, or planning a trip…or anything in between, you may be thinking, “I don’t know what to do” or “I don’t know what I want.” These are totally valid feelings! Making a decision can be suuuper tough because it can make your anxiety go haywire. Worries about your decision negatively impacting others might be seeping into your brain and you might’ve been procrastinating making a decision for a while now. You probably just wish someone would come in and make the choice for you.
Well, unfortunately, it’s not that easy. But we’re gonna try to make the process more bearable for you!
What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do
If you’re currently struggling and don’t know how to make a decision, try these tips. They will help you trust your gut and take charge of that voice in your head that’s saying “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
1. Leave It Up To Chance
Whether you flip a coin or play “eeny, meeny, miny, moe,” your gut feeling will ultimately give you the answer that you’re looking for! Maybe you choose to flip the coin and it lands on heads, but your stomach sinks a little bit. That’s a good sign that you should go with whatever option you had riding on tails! Your gut feeling and intuition are much smarter than you might give yourself credit for, so don’t be afraid to listen to them whenever you’re making a decision.
2. Sleep On It
When you take time to relax and take a break from the thing causing you stress (in this case it’s decision making), you actually calm down your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS responsible for your body’s fight or flight response. It elevates your heart rate, slows your breathing and triggers the release of adrenaline. So, this decision might seem like a life-or-death decision if you’re so stressed and anxious that the SNS is in full gear. Taking a beat to relax will give the SNS time to deactivate, allowing your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to take back control so that you can think with a clear, rational mind.
Katie Miles, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, recommends trying these 4 habits to rewire your brain for stress relief:
- Use moderate activity regularly to regulate your nervous system response (fight/flight/freeze).
- Practice mindfulness meditation to improve your brain’s resiliency.
- Journal to release worries, replace unhelpful narratives, and gain realistic perspectives.
- Engage in regular joyful, energy-producing activities to create a stress ‘buffer.’
It sounds super cheesy, but sometimes the right decision literally does come to you in a dream! So, take a night to sleep on it, giving yourself the opportunity to just sit with your feelings and reflect on the choice you truly want. Things should be clearer once you’ve relaxed and let the anxiety settle a bit! Plus, it doesn’t count as procrastination because sleeping on it will help you make that decision faster.
3. Think About The Future
Ask yourself, “Will this decision matter in 10 years?” For the little decisions, like whether or not to cut your hair a certain way, the answer is probably not. And that just means that the decision doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time and energy. The bigger decisions, like taking a new job or moving to a new city, probably will matter in the long run! So, those deserve a bit more of your time and energy — but not to the point that it makes you incredibly anxious to think about.
4. Talk It Out With Someone You Trust
Sometimes it just feels really good to get a second opinion from a friend or a family member. They’ll be able to give a different perspective and help you see the pros and cons of your options more clearly (especially for those really BIG decisions). You might even notice yourself subconsciously make a decision before the other person even says a thing. How cool is that?!
If you don’t want advice or opinions and just need to say everything you’re thinking about out loud, you can totally ask them to just sit with you while you work it out on your own. Sometimes all it takes is the sound of your own voice laying out your options for the right decision to finally click.
Of course, you can talk with your partner(s) as well, but if it’s something huge that will affect them too (like taking a job in another city) then they may not be able to offer the impartial ear that you need right now.
If what you’re looking for is someone truly impartial, reach out to someone outside of your close circle and chat about the decision you have to make! Look for someone who has no direct involvement in your life or has no stake in the decision you’ll be making to bounce pros and cons off of.
5. Talk It Out With A Therapist
If your anxiety about making a decision is STILL at an all-time high and you simply can’t bring yourself to make a decision, don’t worry. This is literally what mental health professionals are here for! They can help you talk through alllll the factors that are making your decision difficult, and give you an impartial perspective. Sometimes they’ll just help you think about your options in a different way and that can make the world of a difference!
We hope these tips have helped you to figure out what you want to do. Wondering what to do when you don’t know what to do already is HARD af. It’s a double-edged sword that just repeats itself over and over until you’ve either made a decision or given up completely.
We want you to feel comfy trusting your gut because it can usually sense things waaaay before your conscious self. So, give these steps an honest try and remember this article the next time your decision-making gets tough. Figure out what to do when you don’t know what to do and free yourself from that rut you’ve been pacing into the floor!
You’ve got this!