Defer making any long-term major decisions in lock down

In many ways lockdown has given us some time to reflect on our lives and reassess our vision for the future. But stress levels are up, which impacts our decision making processes.

It’s real. There is a growing body of research on the impact of confinement on mental health, even for those with no history of any problems. For those that suffer in any way, it has been especially challenging.

Dorothy Dalton said, “I felt it myself last week after 10 weeks of confinement and feeling overwhelmed by the oppressive news in the media. My first face to face meeting was as exciting as my trip to the garden centre. I see clear evidence of people struggling to process even quite simple information (myself included) and absorb basic communication. Concentration levels are down and coaching clients are visibly distressed. I am fully aware that my experience of this crisis has been from a position of privilege.”

She added “Never has it been more important to try to understand what is going on for other people. If someone says they are “fine” see if they will be willing to share more detail. The reality is no one is “fine.”

Re-examination of priorities

This feeling of malaise is causing everyone to examine their priorities. The pandemic has surprisingly changed us and the way we perceive things. In many ways it has given us some time to reflect on our lives and our vision for the future we want for ourselves.

Although being on lockdown has been stressful, there have been many elements about quarantine life that people have actually enjoyed and want to maintain as part of their lifestyles in the “next normal.” As we configure the reset button, we are deciding to spend less money on material goods. We want to enjoy our gardens, bird song and homes and to become more mindful generally. Some want to commit to putting family and friends at front and centre of their lives rather than work. Others comment on the good habits they established, brought about by restrictions, such as exercising and eating healthy meals.


major decisions in lock down


Extreme change

In many cases lock down has exposed some cracks in the surface of our lives and people are tempted to make more extreme decisions. A complete career pivot, to end a personal relationship, to move house, relocate or even emigrate. Some may have no choice. They may have lost their jobs or a loved one. But for anyone who does have options, it is probably best to avoid making major decisions in lock down, if you can. For many this has been a highly stressful time and it is not the best time for making life impacting choices.

In stressful conditions we subconsciously counter any anxiety by limiting and simplifying our options. It blurs our thinking and limits our choices to easy fight, freeze or flight style thinking which are the basic primal decisions.  We view our choices  in simple, binary terms to create a feeling of comfort which is temporary only. But no problem can be drilled down to only a few options. It’s much better to consider a range of choices and usually the best decision will be somewhere in the middle. At that point we will need to create a more detailed and structured plan.

Research from Anthony J. Porcelli and Mauricio R. Delgado suggests “that stress exposure influences basic neural circuits involved in reward processing and learning, while also biasing decisions towards habit and modulating our propensity to engage in risk-taking.”  

Under stress our brains are wired to be more reactionary which can show choices as binary and even extreme, especially if risk taking offers a benefit.  Thought processes might be: stay in our house  (we don’t like it here) or move (much better, we will be happier). Leaving my relationship will make me more fulfilled. Relocating will be energising.

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Avoid making major decisions in lock down

It would be much better to defer making any long-term, major decisions until you have had time to reflect and recover your psychological equilibrium and well-being.  This could take six months. Maybe more.

  • Don’t rush out and put your house on the market. You have somewhere to live and you don’t know what will happen next.
  • Do you want to change your job? Don’t quit if you have one. The market is very tight currently and there are millions of job seekers. Test the market by all means and seek professional help to boost your chances.
  • If you want to leave your relationship, unless there is abuse involved, take some breathing space. Everyone in your family is super stressed and life for many has been like living in a pressure cooker. Maybe see a relationship counsellor. This can be done online.
  • Avoid making rash investments or speculating financially unless you have deep reserves and can afford to take the hit if it back fires.


Life in the past five months has been very challenging. It has been far from normal. Most of us are not totally centred. Be careful about taking drastic decisions while under duress.



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