Break the Decision-Making Spiral
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Practice “tuning in” to lessen decision-making stress
Decision making can stress anyone out—from the small, seemingly insignificant decisions to the big ones, such as Do I want to have a baby alone? or Am I ready to use an egg donor or adopt? Then, as a Solo Mom, when your child comes along, you are forced to make all parenting decisions alone, such as which preschool or school your child will attend, where to go on vacation, and what style of discipline to enforce.
I know that, as a former attorney, I can be very diligent and get in my head doing tons of research to make a decision. Usually when I do this, I end up swirling around a lot of information, unable to feel or hear which option is the best one for me. I constantly flip from one choice to the other like a ship in the ocean that’s lost its rudder.
It’s not an uncommon experience. Many of us have been taught in some way or another that the logical mind, the one that can generate endless pros and cons, is the supreme decision maker.
But usually, that’s when I notice I’m spinning in my head, getting nowhere except more anxious. I’ve learned to take a moment to get in touch with myself to help me make the decision.
Here are some simple ways you can do the same:
Take a break. Do the research and then put it down. Walk away. Do something you love that will take your mind off the details of what you learned during your research. It’s been proven that the logical mind can process only a small number of variables. Beyond that, the unconscious mind is much better at processing and making sense of the variables. But you need to give yourself a chance for the unconscious mind to work. So, step away from your computer, and get out into nature. Go for a walk, head to the gym, go out dancing—whatever will absorb you in something else!
Journal. Pull out your journal and start writing. Don’t stop—just write as fast as you can to get everything that is swirling around in your head down on paper. Ideally, do this a few times over several days. You’ll start to surprise yourself with what comes out on the paper when you just write, completely uncensored. Again, it’s a way to access the deeper parts of your brain, allowing you to contact emotions and thoughts that may not have made it to your conscious awareness.
Slow down. When you are in reaction or get-it-done mode, it’s hard to contact your wisdom and intuition. Stop and get into your body. Become present to what’s happening for you. There are many ways to do this, but the simplest is probably to lay down and start scanning from your feet to your head, noticing sensations and movement in each area you place your attention.
It can also be powerful to simply stop a few times a day and take a few breaths. With each breath, feel yourself sinking into the ground. Notice how you feel after slowing down for only a few moments. Does it help you move from reactive mode into observing and proactive mode? Can you hear more clearly what it is that feels correct?
Check in with your head, heart, and gut. When was the last time you actually asked your heart and gut what they wanted? Most of us are very familiar with asking our mind but rarely venture into the territory of the heart and gut—both of which we now know have powerful influences on our mental and emotional states.
Research from organizations such as the HeartMath Institute has shown that the heart is much more than a pump for the body. It is its own complex information-processing center that is continually exchanging information with and influencing the cranial brain, nervous system, and hormonal system. This information influences brain and organ function, and plays an enormous role in our mental and emotional experiences.
Similarly, the gut, often referred to as the “second brain,” is a mass of neural tissue that measures about 27 feet end to end and contains some 100 million neurons, more than in either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system. The little brain in our guts, filled with important neurotransmitters, is in constant communication with the brain in our skulls and plays a key role in our state of mind.
So, sit down, get quiet, and purposefully ask each center—the head, heart, and gut—what it wants. It helps to place your hand on the heart or gut while checking in.
If you get stuck when you are chatting with the heart, ask it to tell you about the mix of emotions churning around. Allow all the seemingly conflicting emotions to have a voice.
Similarly, if checking in with the gut seems mysterious, ask yourself what you would decide if someone forced you to make a decision on the spot. Then tune in to the visceral sensations of your body. What are they telling you?
Try any or all of these methods to help you with your next big decision. If you do, feel free to drop a note in Sister Chat to tell us how it went, or share other techniques you use to help you make decisions big and small.
Sarah Kowalski, ESME’s Solo Mom by Choice Resource Guide, is an attorney, somatic coach, Feldenkrais practitioner, and qigong teacher, specializing in the mind/body connection. As the founder of Motherhood Reimagined, she coaches women through their emotions and fears so that solo motherhood, egg donation, adoption, or other means can become an option to consider. She helps women redefine what it means to be a mother so they can cultivate the love, courage, and tenacity it takes to conceive and raise a child by unconventional means. Join her private Facebook group for juicy discussions and support, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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