Could this be the time to make life changing decisions?

Author: Kate Cross

Contemplating moving house? Changing careers? Ending a relationship? Making a big decision is difficult at the best of times but throw in a pandemic and the situation can get even stickier. 


Just ask Sarah Thorpe who, along with husband David Izzard, found themselves waist-deep in the house buying-selling process when COVID-19 decided to ramp up. 


“After actively looking to buy a bigger house for six months we finally purchased a property in late February, just prior to COVID-19 restrictions coming into play and the market declining,” says Dr Thorpe.


The Australian-based veterinarian and mum explains that what followed was “the most stressful couple of months of our lives”.


Rather than take their time selling their two-bedroom unit after moving as planned, Dr Thorpe says the pair decided to “rush [the sale] before the market truly crashed”. This while dealing with the unprecedented logistics of prospective buyers inspecting their unit during a pandemic.


“Lots of sterilisation pre and post every inspection was required,” says Dr Thorpe, who adds: “The hardest part was that no one could help us”.

“Due to social distancing restrictions my husband and I had to do everything on our own [including the move] whilst looking after a two-year-old and both working full time.”


When asked whether she would have delayed purchasing and selling had she known about the impact COVID-19 would have, Dr Thorpe says “my first thought is yes”.


But she quickly adds: “Now that we have just moved into our new home and we have so much more space we are much happier … I’m actually really proud that [we] survived and managed to sell our unit and move successfully.”


Decision urgency


In an ideal world we’d have a surplus of time and stress-free conditions to think through major decisions, but as we’ve seen with Dr Thorpe’s case, this isn’t always possible. 


Registered Psychologist Patrea O'Donoghue says that sometimes big decision-making is “essential” during periods of uncertainty, giving the example of fleeing domestic violence.


In these situations, she recommends personal strategies, such as mindfulness, exercise, and making use of any available support networks “to cope with our own reaction to the changes presented to us and the stress that uncertainty brings”.


For Dr Thorpe, maintaining a positive outlook was crucial to coping. “Looking for the positives in every situation” was key, she says.


But what if postponement’s possible?


If you’ve got the luxury of being able to delay a big decision during an uncertain time, such as a pandemic, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should.


That’s according to Counselling Psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip who says: “For some, [now] is the perfect time to stop, reflect, reassess and decide.”


However, she adds, that’s provided your decision is “achieved with clarity of mind, with consideration of others and consequences involved”.


On the flipside, says Dr Phillip, are those who “under duress and stress … may make decisions reactively instead of proactively”.


In fact, it appears that the consensus among experts, is that when it comes to making or delaying major decisions, state of mind matters significantly.


Says Ms O'Donoghue: “As a general ‘rule’, it would be inadvisable to make any major decision in a highly emotional state”.


The decisions we make in this state, she explains, “are not often ones we want to stand by in the long-term” because “our ability to think clearly, to rationally weigh up the pros and cons … is highly compromised”.


For this reason, she says it may be worth delaying a big decision if feasible. However, Ms O'Donoghue stresses that every situation is unique, and the decision conundrum ultimately depends on many variables.


“The nature of the current circumstance, the type and extent of the impact of the change, and the type of reaction, are examples of elements that would need to be factored into the equation regarding whether it is wise to make a big decision now or later.”




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