Break the Decision-Making Spiral

decision-making single mother by choice

Decision-making is stressful—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? As a Single Mom, when your child comes along, you are forced to make all parenting decisions alone, such as who to use as your doctor, which school your child will attend, where to go on vacation, and what boundaries enforce.

I know that, as a former attorney, I can be very diligent doing tons of research to make a decision. As a child and young adult, I was taught that the logical mind, the one that can generate tons of pros and cons, is the supreme decision maker. Yet, when I do this, I end up swirling around a lot of information in my head, 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. Sound familiar?  You are definitely not alone.

But usually, when we notice we are spinning in our heads, getting nowhere except more and more anxious, it can be incredibly powerful to pause, get embodied, and listen to your heart and gut for a minute.

Here are some simple ways you can do that:

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!

Slow down. When you are in get-it-done mode, agonizing about the past, or future pacing–worrying about the future, it’s hard to contact your wisdom and intuition. Stop and get into your body. Become present to what’s happening for you. What sensations are present? Where do you feel movement in the body and where are you able to sense vs. which areas are void from your awareness.  Even just a few moments of paying attention will snap you into the present moment and stop the incessant chattering mind. If you have more time, 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?

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 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 or things you were unwilling to admit to yourself.

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?

If you need some guidance to get started, take the quiz below to find out how ready you are to have a baby alone.

Try any or all of these methods to help you with your next big decision. If you do, feel free to email me to tell me how it went. Or share other techniques you use to help you make decisions big and small.

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