Battling Decision Fatigue

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I remember recently sitting at a restaurant one evening and staring at the menu, feeling foggy and unsure of what to order. I smiled across the table at my friend, giggled, and apologized for my delay. It had been such a long day…heck, a long week, and the 10-page menu seemed like an 80-page spiral notebook filled with waaaay too many options. I didn’t want to think, to make yet another decision that day, even if it was just to choose a delectable dinner entrée. Thankfully, I was finally able to make a choice, but I realized this was happening more and more with anything and everything:Decision fatigue had found its way into my life.

Maybe it was there all along, maybe not. It just seemed decisions were becoming harder some days, and especially towards the end of the week: What clothes and shoes should I wear (I could stare into my closet and have a zillion clothes and shoes to pick from for a social event or outing, but that was too daunting, so I’d get online and order a new dress lol), what color to paint my nails, what vacation spots to book, what summer camps to sign my son up for, what gifts to buy for people, what to make the family for dinner, what changes I wanted to make at work…the list could go on. I do a lot of “peopling” at my job, and I think some days, juggling that along with my family, my self-care/fitness, and all the other logistics that enter our lives daily, was adding up. I could still blame it on lack of sleep due to having three puppies but, perhaps that’s a blog for another day. At the end of the day, I just don’t want to be asked any more questions; I know I can’t be alone in that.

The idea behind the “decision fatigue” terminology is that the more decisions are made, the more exhausted an individual can become, leading to potential procrastination or avoidance behavior. The bottom line is that people who suffer from decision fatigue are just downright tired of making decisions; it’s almost like the brain just wants to shut down.

Decision fatigue is real, even if it’s not talked about often. In 2022, the American Psychological Association conducted a survey and reported that nearly one-third of adults were struggling with basic decisions, such as what to eat or wear.

Thankfully, there are some ways to navigate decision fatigue and use various tactics to diffuse it:

Try to remove unnecessary pressure.

It is always best to keep things in perspective. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is just another decision; do not blow it up in your mind. Tell yourself it is not a big deal unless you make it a big deal, and perhaps that reminder will allow you to relax more, clear your mind, and remove unnecessary pressure. You can then think more clearly and rationally and improve your ability to make a good decision.

Make a solid plan.

If you are aware of an upcoming “big” decision, plan for it. Set aside time on your calendar to think about the matter, put yourself in a space conducive to quality reflection time and create a plan. It’s always worth the reminder that “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” When you intentionally set aside time for a decision, and you take control and set deadlines, you are more prone to make the decision a priority instead of an item of procrastination, and you are more likely to feel confident and assertive as opposed to nervous or hesitant.

If possible, delegate.

If you can lessen the number of choices in various aspects of your life, that can help you mentally lighten the load on your brain. Maybe your partner can plan meals or decide on travel plans, and you can remain in charge of other key tasks. Maybe someone at work has a special knack for doing certain projects, whereas you contribute in other concrete ways. Delegating while also maintaining a realm of reciprocity can truly be a lifesaver!

Get quality sleep.

Brain fog is more likely when sleep is not prioritized and falls to the back burner. Never think that sleep should be trumped; it affects almost every aspect of your daily life, such as your mood, reactions and interactions, appetite, performance, and much more. It’s especially challenging to combat decision fatigue when you are exhausted physically and mentally due to a lack of sleep. Get those zzzs and battle those decisions more easily!

Continue to be a work in progress.

Improving decision-making skills can take time, and that is ok. Weighing your options, managing stress in a healthy way (such as exercising), carving out time for self-care, and trying to be assertive in the decision-making process may truly help you make strides in battling and overcoming decision fatigue.

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