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Navigating New Year Decisions


The start of a new year is an opportunity for a fresh start. After reflecting on the past year, many of us set goals and resolutions for the coming year. However, this process can also be stressful and anxiety-inducing. How can we make decisions that lead to positive change without creating too much pressure on ourselves? I asked myself this, and I found the answer in some of the essential concepts in counselling:


The Fight-or-Flight Response


When we make big decisions, our bodies may enter fight-or-flight mode—the same response that occurs when we are in danger. Our heart rate increases, our muscles tense up, and cortisol flood our systems. This primitive response is designed to help us survive dangerous situations; however, it can also be triggered by any perceived threat or perceived lack of control. It’s important to recognise when your body is entering this state so you can take steps to calm it down. Remind yourself that the feeling will pass, and that the decision isn’t life or death. You have time to think through your options before making a decision.




The Window of Tolerance


It’s essential to recognise how much pressure you can handle before making a decision—this is known as the ‘window of tolerance’. Everyone has an individual threshold for how much stress they can manage before their prefrontal cortex (the part of our brain responsible for reasoning) shuts down, and they go into fight-or-flight mode. Once you know this threshold, you can decide how much risk you will take when deciding and adjust accordingly. For example, if you find yourself overwhelmed with too many options at once, narrow your choices until only two remain so that you don’t get bogged down in details.




Goals vs Expectations


Having goals and expectations for ourselves is natural—it helps us stay motivated and focused on our purpose in life. However, it’s essential to differentiate between goals and expectations because too high expectations can lead to disappointment if they aren’t met quickly enough. Goals should be realistic and achievable within a specific timeline; expectations are often unrealistic due to outside influences such as peer pressure or societal norms. Setting manageable goals instead of unachievable expectations allows us to progress slowly but surely towards meaningful change without overwhelming ourselves with too much pressure at once, which could lead to paralysis rather than transformation!

Making decisions at the start of a new year doesn't have to cause anxiety or fear – instead, it should be embraced as an opportunity for growth! Keep in mind the fight-or-flight response by recognising when your body is entering that state so that you can take steps back from making any immediate decisions; consider your window of tolerance so that decisions don't become too overwhelming; and lastly, differentiate between goals versus expectation so that progress toward meaningful change is possible without creating too much pressure on yourself! With thoughtful considerations such as these, navigating new year decisions doesn't have to be daunting but rather exciting!


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