Using Choice Overload To Reduce Anxiety:

Ever noticed how when you struggle with anxiety, every possible option you can think of seems to be the worst case scenario. Whether you run movies in your head or find your inner dialogue is filled with doubt, dread and worry, it's like a sort of tunnel vision that invariably leads to things going wrong or ending badly for you in some way.

And as you'll know, the more you have those anxious thoughts, the worse you feel; and the worse you feel, the more your head fills with those anxious thoughts.

I remember sitting in a restaurant a few months back with my girls. We were nearly finished when a new family arrived on the next table. A quick read of the menu and three of the four had made their decision and were ready to order. One of them was not at all ready. She sent the waitress away so she could have more time. Then when the waitress came back she sent her away again. Even from our table you could sense the tension rising in her as she tried to choose what to have, a task not aided by the rest of the family who kept upping the pressure on her. Finally she chose. Only to then call back the waitress a couple of moments later as she'd changed her mind. At that point her frustration poured out and her family received a rather loud verbal lashing that I'm sure didn't do too much to improve the mood during the rest of their meal.

Now there may have been other factors at play yet certainly from where I was sitting it looked like a classic case of choice overload - when there are too many choices we can become well and truly mentally stuck in a fog of indecision.

And I was reminded of the restaurant story after reading an abstract of some new research that looked into which parts of the brain were active during choice overload. 

One technique I sometimes talk to clients about is how they can use choice overload to diminish the run-away train of anxious thoughts.

generalized anxiety disorder hypnotherapy ely newmarket

Reducing Anxiety Through Choice Overload

Now maybe you've had that experience of choice overwhelm when trying to choose what to eat from a menu (or even trying to decide which restaurant to go to!).

Or maybe you've had that experience where you want to buy a new laptop and you go to the nearest electrical store. You discover there are row after row of laptops, each with a different spec and different capabilities and different prices. Unless you really know what you want you can soon become overwhelmed with choice, desperately trying to find some way to narrow it down to just a couple so you can make some sort of decision.

Or maybe you went to get a television instead of a laptop and you were faced with rows of shelves of different TVs, all playing different programmes, or different parts of the same programme or showing the fuzzy screen thing. Again, it can feel like too much choice and can hamper our ability to make a decision.

As mentioned at the outset, with anxiety, it can seem like there is only one decision path about what might happen. And that worst case fills you with dread. Our minds become blinkered to other options and other outcomes and instead fixes on that one choice. In all likelihood, any consideration of whether it is realistic or even likely to happen doesn't figure in it. Anxiety fixates on that worst case.

There are many ways to counter this, from calming the anxious feelings (to reduce the fuel for the thoughts), to distraction, and to challenging thoughts. 

One way that many people find beneficial is to do this: if anxiety is leading you to focus on the worst case, then by definition there must be a best case mustn't there? So deliberately have a think of what that would be. And if there is a best case and a worst case then there must be many other possibilities and variables on that spectrum between them. Perhaps it only goes a little bit badly? Perhaps it is kind of ok, neither good nor bad? Perhaps it is quite good but could be better?

Deliberately come up with as many potential options as you can think of. If it helps, write them all down along a piece of paper from worst on one side and over to best on the other side. 

Rather than letting your mind focus on only one option, as if that is the only possible choice (and so it develops a sense of inevitably about it), you come up with as many options and 'choices' as you can. Now because none of them have actually happened yet, and none of us know for certain what the future holds, you can create 'choice overload' of your thoughts. Rather than being fixated on the worst case, now there are as many other possibilities as you care to spend time thinking about. Now there are too many options on the menu and too many laptops to pick from.

Create too many options for your brain and it can't chose, and if your mind can't choose then not only does the anxiety about it diminish, but you may very well find that you think about it a whole lot less.

To your happiness,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

Need help to overcome anxiety? You can Book your free consultation today.

Want to know what other people have said about working with me? Check out these reviews

And for added benefit, have a look at these powerful hypnosis downloads that you can access immediately.  

Or, if you prefer, you can have a read of many more useful articles all about reducing anxiety: Anxiety Articles