Live Better. Love Better. Work Better.

Decision Fatigue: What Is It and How to Manage It

Megan Mulroy, LPC 

We make a lot of decisions every day. We make simple decisions like what shirt to wear, and we also make more complex decisions like to stay or leave a relationship. You may have a job where you make a lot of decisions, and people may even depend on you to make important decisions. Sometimes there are so many options that make deciding something so hard! Think about the number of times you may have set out to watch a new show on Netflix only to watch a rerun of The Office because going through each new show seemed like an endless task. When you feel inundated by decision making, your ability to make sound decisions may suffer. This is what is known as decision fatigue: when you are feeling extremely stressed by the decisions you make every day. 

I see clients on all ends of the spectrum who resonate with this. Whether you are in a high-powered job, or a college student, I see decision fatigue hindering a lot of folks’ everyday lives. Healthline’s article, Understanding Decision Fatigue, outlines some helpful tips for recognizing and dealing with decision fatigue that can help you to manage your own feelings of fatigue. 

What Happens? 

When your brain is given too many options or has to make too many choices, a few things can happen. It’s very possible your brain becomes too overwhelmed and shuts down completely and you’ll avoid decisions altogether. On the other hand, you may be more prone to make risky decisions when you feel too overwhelmed to think about the possible outcome of your decision. Or, your brain may start running on overdrive and pick whichever decision seems easiest. 

How Can I Spot It? 

Decision fatigue can be hard to identify because it often just feels like exhaustion or lethargy. Some things to look for are procrastination (“I’ll sort this out next week”), impulsivity (“Rock, paper, scissors”), avoidance (“I just can’t take care of this right now”), and indecision (“Well, saying yes usually has worked for me in the past, I guess”). When we experience decision fatigue it can lead to burnout at work, irritability, anxiousness, and depressed moods at home.  

How To Manage It

Luckily, there are several ways you can manage your decision fatigue. The best way to take care of it is to intentionally and mindfully direct your thoughts and actions. 

  • Self-care: With any reaction to stress, it is important you are devoting time and energy into doing things that make you feel recharged. Make sure you are getting enough rest, take breaks at work, and making time to move your body. 
  • Prioritize Decisions: Try making a list of all the decisions you need to make every day and rank them in importance. If you do your best work in the evening, save those decisions for last, and if you are an early bird, make sure to tackle them first thing. 
  • Plan Ahead: Remember, small decisions add up and can amplify your fatigue. Plan your meals on Sunday so you won’t be tired and overwhelmed when you have to decide on dinner after a long day of work. Try and prepare smaller decisions in advance to minimize the toll they take on you, like laying out your work clothes before you go to bed.  Sticking to a routine can also help minimize the impact of small decisions adding up. 
  • Ask for Help: You don’t have to do everything and be everything for everyone. When it’s appropriate, ask for help and delegate tasks. Can your roommate help with meal planning? Can you ask your colleague for help with decisions? 
  • Reframe: Reframe your language to give yourself more room to make sound decisions. There are no GOOD and BAD decisions, just different outcomes and consequences to the ones you make. 

If you find yourself struggling with decision making, contact Symmetry Counseling to make an appointment with any of our Chicago therapists who can help you to manage your stress.

Sources

Lamothe, C. (2019, October 3). Understanding Decision Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/decision-fatigue#takeaway

Symmetry Counseling Recent News Image 4
Recent Posts

How do I Communicate Better With my Partner?

Feb 20, 2024

Zoe Mittman, LSW   Do you and your partner find yourselves in the same conflict patterns? Are you feeling unheard, frustrated, or even resentful? If so, then this blog might be for you. Oftentimes, cycles of conflict occur due to…

Read More

Am I depressed? 

Jan 20, 2024

You may be reading this because you are wondering if you are experiencing depression. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines depression as “a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how a person feels,…

Read More

Body Image: Why is it so hard to like my body?

Jan 5, 2024

Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023   “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…

Read More