Is Decision Fatigue Getting The Best of You?

I read something the other day that said to avoid making decisions when tired. While I can appreciate this, I have to say, since this pandemic started, I am just…TIRED. Yet here I am, an adult person, having to make decisions anyway. 

The pandemic has taken decision-making to a whole new level. We are having to make big decisions about things on a daily basis that we never even had to think about or question. Along with this, the information we need to make all of these decisions continues to change as we learn more, which leads to even more exhaustion as it feels difficult to keep up. 

While we have been talking about this concept for almost two years now, I have noticed another wave in which decisions have become increasingly more challenging. When this happens, it seems as though the simplest things can feel so difficult, and we start to feel drained and overwhelmed. For instance, do I go to this upcoming family holiday event, or is it more people than I’m comfortable with at this time? Do I let my child go to their friend’s birthday party? What feels safe right now?

Decision fatigue, a term coined by Roy F. Baumeister, describes the deterioration of our ability to make good decisions, or a weariness we feel after a long period of decision-making. Conditions of uncertainty, time pressure, cognitive overload, and high levels of stress can make decisions even more challenging. 

Below are some ideas to consider when you notice yourself struggling with making decisions:

  • Establish routines so you can simplify daily decisions. For instance, picking out outfits for the next day ahead of time, meal prepping so you don’t have to think on the spot about what you and your family are eating for dinner, etc. While these may seem silly or small, you are actually minimizing the amount of decisions you need to make, and preserving your brainpower for the bigger decisions throughout the day.
  • Recharge your battery. Allow yourself time for a break between decisions when possible. Make sure you’re eating, drink some water, stretch your body, etc. This gives you time to replenish your energy and make more thoughtful decisions, instead of quickly moving from one to the next.
  • Remove distractions. That might mean putting your phone on Do Not Disturb, not turning on the TV until the task is complete, or whatever it might mean in your life to eliminate distractions when able. This will empower you to engage more fully in each task, which will allow for more appropriate decision-making.
  • Pay attention to your internal experience. Check in with yourself and be honest about your level of fatigue. Once you are more aware of what is going on in your body, you can then ask yourself what you need in that moment.
  • Utilize your support system. Ask for help when appropriate, or talk it out with the supportive people in your life who understand how challenging this time can be. 

During this time, it can often feel like there is no good choice. While there are always consequences and there are no risk-free decisions, remember that each decision does not have to be THE decision. Sometimes, it’s okay to make a “good enough” decision, and know that none of us are going to get this perfectly. 

These are just a few of many ideas. As always, if you feel you could benefit from professional support, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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