You've just finished a long day at work and can't be bothered to prepare dinner, so instead you decide to order food in. But now you're overwhelmed with the many options! You end up aimlessly scrolling up and down the Food/Delivery App without the slightest clue what your hungry for. Believe us when we tell you this -- there is nothing's wrong with you! You're probably exhausted and, on top of everything else, are dealing with decision fatigue.
If you think about it, we are constantly making decisions throughout the day. The never-ending choices – up to 35,000 a day (on average) and it can start significantly weighing on us. Let's delve deeper into decision fatigue, exploring its causes, recognizing its signs, and discovering effective ways to handle it.
What is decision fatigue?
Coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices. Simply put, it's the mental exhaustion you feel after making decisions over and over. You exhaust your decision-making muscle which can lead to stopping you from making impulsive or irrational choices.
How to recognize it?
According to Healthline, here are some of the tale-tell signs you’re heading for burnout:
Procrastination: “I’ll tackle this later.”
Impulsivity: “Eney, meeny, miny, moe….”
Avoidance: “I can’t deal with this right now.”
Indecisions: “When in doubt, I just say no.”
Overtime, this kind of stress can lead to physical symptoms like fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, irritability, or digestive issues.
How to manage it?
If several of those signs sound familiar, you may be dealing with decision fatigue. For a way to handle it effectively (and ideally, move past it), here are some coping strategies:
Choose to be less choosy: if your mini decisions are one of your pain points, try developing shortcuts to avoid analysis paralysis and stop devoting so much time and energy to an avalanche of tiny choices. Limit yourself to no more than a few (three or four) big choices per day and try to make the most important decisions early in the day—when you're relatively charged with mental energy.
Edit your options: when facing too many options, narrow down your selection to three—don't question yourself—and then, from the final three, pick one.
Automate some decisions: follow a set routine or a structure, which helps to save time and bring a sense of consistency in your life due to the habit you create. It also eliminates decision-making for your routine tasks —like what to wear to work, what to eat, and when to exercise.
Embrace good enough: striving to make every decision perfect can drain you of time, energy, and brain power, plus it limits the overall number of decisions you can make in a day. If you’re planning a vacation, rather than searching endlessly, make a criteria list, which can help facilitate objective and sound decision-making easily.
Let someone else pick: sharing the mental load of decision-making can help prevent feelings of overwhelm. If helpful, ask a supportive friend or partner to weigh in on your most difficult choices.
If you’re feeling irritable, overwhelmed, or without energy, you might be dealing with decision fatigue. Reducing the anxiety and frustration caused by your inability to make decisions —start with identifying the signs of decision fatigue. This can go a long way toward improving your mental health.
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