Making decisions is not what it used to be. For many of us, whatever choices we are making, big or small, require an unprecedented amount of weighing and measuring. Moving back to college, living on your own, conducting most activities online — all of these things have thrown off our ability to make even the smallest of choices. “Should I eat dinner with a friend, or alone?” “Should I go to CVS or order toothpaste online?” These simple questions are not really about dinner or toothpaste. Their scope has become so much larger than it ever was before: “Is this really what I want to do?” “Is it truly worth the risk of getting COVID-19?”
All of these decisions are made so much harder when there simply isn’t a “right” answer. And, when there are seemingly no right answers, it can be rather overwhelming.
Normally, our choices may vary moment-by-moment depending upon our mood, whether we have consumed alcohol, been alone all day, or simply if the person standing next to us agrees with our choice or not.
Making decisions may be particularly difficult for college students who have experienced months of loss, grief, and uncertainty. In terms of mental health, students are some of the most severe and overlooked victims in the pandemic.
In the best of times, making good decisions is challenging and these are not the best of times. So, here we have 5 steps to making healthy decisions in the time of the pandemic.
Let the little things go. Life in the pandemic can be difficult. We are having to set priorities, and let the rest go. The emotion of overwhelm comes from trying to do too many things at once or achieve too many competing goals at once. We can do one thing at a time. Create core criteria for your decision-making. Understand your own values, and compare your choices with these in mind. Once you create these criteria, stick to them. Weigh your options against these criteria, but let your core criteria remain the same. For example, if you decide that you will only socialize within your immediate known friend group, do not revisit that choice when you are invited to party with people you do not know. Stop comparing your decisions to others’ . When making social decisions at college, stop comparing yourself and your decisions to others – it will likely just leave you more confused. Everyone’s needs are different, and what makes sense for one person at one time will not make sense for another. The best you can do is use the information you have available to you, and match this to your core priorities and goals. There isn’t a perfect answer. Remember what is in your control and influence, and what isn’t. There are many choices we can make about how to spend our time in healthy ways. There are also many things we can not control. When you focus your time and energy on the things within your control, you will limit feelings of helplessness that come from futile attempts to affect things outside of your influence. Do activities that help you feel grounded. Mindfulness practices, even just a few slow breaths, can calm us down. Set aside a few moments each day to go for a walk, sit quietly in your room, or have a dance party.