8 Feb by HPA/LiveWell Clinical Psychology

Decision fatigue. Surprisingly, many of us are unfamiliar with the term considering how often we’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable amount of choices. Whether it’s choosing what to make for dinner, a new book to read, or to risk putting all of our finances into a mortgage – making constant decisions can drain our emotional and physical resources, and eventually, make all of the decisions in our life seem stressful. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and are experiencing decision fatigue, you may benefit from seeking help and talking to someone. You can contact HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York for more resources and support. 

What is Decision Fatigue?

Initially identified by social psychologist Roy Baumeister, decision fatigue is when you start to feel overwhelmed by the number of choices that you face every day. Over time, the requirement to make decisions can even lead to emotional and mental burnout, increased stress levels, and a lessened quality of life. Essentially, decision fatigue could be considered a psychological phenomenon in which the individual suffering from it feels as though their capacity to make the right choice is depleted. 

This can lead to anxiety about making the right choice. This anxiety doesn’t just apply to the significant decisions in someone’s life, but also the minor ones – making everyday life more and more exhausting. Eventually, like a battery that isn’t charging effectively, the individual’s resources start to diminish, and they may wonder, “what even is the point anymore?!” Once we reach this stage of decision fatigue, our thoughts and behaviors are usually seriously affected, and we may experience a “shut-down” of our emotions. 

What’s more, due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been experiencing decision fatigue more and more due to the increasing numbers of major life choices that we’re faced with regularly. These choices may be fraught with stress, fear, and anxiety about our current situations, as well as for our futures. In fact, a recent survey conducted by the APA (American Psychological Association) reported that approximately half of millennials have difficulties with making even the most ordinary decisions. They stated that the pandemic has made planning their lives feel impossible. If you are struggling with anxiety around decision making, the pandemic, or your future, there are steps you can take to help manage anxiety

How to Avoid Decision Fatigue

Recognizing decision fatigue can be difficult as it can often manifest as extreme weariness, but nevertheless, identifying it is essential for managing the effects on your mental health. If you find that you tend to avoid making decisions, procrastinate, become impulsive or indecisive, then you may have decision fatigue. However, making decisions is an unavoidable factor of life.

Here are some simple steps you can take to help avoid decision fatigue:

  • Make a hierarchy of decisions – start with making the important choices first. This way, if you suffer from depleted resources from making decisions, you will at least have made the essential life choices earlier on in the day when your mind is fresh.
  • Limit distractions – doing so can help to prevent procrastination or avoidance. Thus, reduce the amount of phone time you have, stay away from the television, and strictly no social media when choices need to be made. Once decisions are made, your fatigue and stress will reduce. 
  • Plan ahead – whether this means making your breakfast or lunch the night before, laying out your outfit for the next day, or booking a ticket for a particular train time ahead of schedule, planning can reduce the pressure around making decisions and replenish depleted mental resources. 
  • Engage in self-care – when we become stressed, we tend to neglect simple self-care. Be mindful that you’re going to bed at a reasonable time, include nutrient-rich food in your diet, exercise, and factor in mindfulness or meditation activities. 
  • Share the responsibility – allowing others to help with the decision-making process can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Ask your partner to help meal plan for the week, a family member to aid with the grocery shopping, advice about who to call regarding work around the house, or a co-worker for guidance on the best work strategy. 
  • Praise yourself for all the good choices that you’ve made! Sometimes we spend so much time focusing on the negative that we forget our capacity for making good decisions. 

Importance of Mental Health

If you recognise that decision fatigue is something that you struggle with, it may be important for you to regularly check in on your mental, emotional, and physical health. Are you making poor life choices because you feel stressed or overwhelmed about constantly needing to make decisions? Are you struggling to sleep because you’re ruminating about the choices you need to make the next day? 

Having a strong sense of wellness and resilient mental health means that people can cope with life’s stressors, make effective decisions, work productively, and live up to their potential in life. Keeping track of your habits and reactions to stress may enable you to recognize when you need mental health support. Seeking mental health support when necessary, staying connected with your social support system, exercising, regular sleep, and staying constructive in the face of adversity are important ways of maintaining positive mental health. 

If you would like to know more about how to manage decision fatigue or the other mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, contact us at 518-218-1188. 

With our new online therapy capabilities, HPA/LiveWell can now offer mental health services to anyone within not only the Capital Region, the Hudson Valley region – Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Newburgh, White Plains, Kingston, and surrounding New York cities, but we can offer mental health services and eating disorder treatment to anyone throughout New York state.