Decision Fatigue: Why Does Less Feel Like So Much More?
During this pandemic people have found themselves at home either more of the time, or in some cases, almost exclusively. The calendar that was once filled with meetings and reminders, suddenly lacked all its luster. Those annoying dings that once sent us on to the next task, giving us nothing short of a Pavlov’s dog response, stopped suddenly. Previously, we wore the word “busy” as some sort of badge of honor, but now find ourselves feeling lost and even despondent. So how can it be that we’re exhausted at the end of the day? The calendar says that we’re doing less, yet our body, mind and spirit would beg to differ.
Even our personal relationships may be suffering, yet we don’t understand why. “There’s so much uncertainty which, for many people, can lead to feeling insecure,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a leading child, couple and family Psychotherapist in private practice in Beverly Hills, California. “No two people experience the effects of this pandemic exactly the same way, but most can agree that this is an extremely stressful and difficult time, both mentally and physically.”
Remember, your partner and your children may also be suffering, even if they don’t verbalize it.
Life events don’t stop because of a pandemic, and like many other people, I encountered a life-changing event over the past few weeks. We buried my sister after an untimely death due to a fall. As I sat with my family, the funeral director peppered us with questions, seeking answers that only we could provide. At one point, I felt the energy drain from my body and I turned to her and said, “I need to know how many more questions you’re going to ask.” I wasn’t trying to be rude; I just needed to know there was an end in sight.
This experience made me reflect on how different things seem to be for almost all of us and how draining it can be to live in this new normal. The truth is, we’re all suffering from decision fatigue that’s exasperated by no clear end in sight. Prior to March, our lives ran on autopilot. The hectic schedules and repetitiveness allowed us to conserve our energy for bigger, more important decisions. Now, every day, every hour, is filled with decisions. I, for one, would welcome the dictates of a calendar telling me what to do and when to do it. At least then, I wouldn’t have to think so much.
Our brains only allow for so much bandwidth, and when that bandwidth is jammed with pop-up decisions like whether to get dressed, what to snack on, or which show to binge, there’s no room for the important decisions. Even deciding which store to shop at, when to shop, and how to get in and out safely can tax the system, especially since safety concerns put the brain on high alert, draining all the mental reserves.
Many people are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety. Such feelings can come on suddenly and linger for hours. “You know you’re energy’s been zapped when you just don’t care about the things you used to love,” says Jennifer McDaniel, a wellness strategist, energy coach and owner of Soul Abode, “It’s not just about self-care, it’s about soul care. Give yourself permission to retreat, taking a step back to BE instead of DO.”
5 Tips for Combating Decision Fatigue:
- Lay out your clothes the night before. Not only will this motivate you to get dressed, it will free up one less decision for the morning hours, allowing you to focus on more important things.
- Make a list of to-dos. Having a list to check off helps keep you on task and gives your mind to prepare for what’s coming next.
- Recognize the feelings of fatigue and grant yourself grace. This may mean going for a walk, taking a short nap, or meditating with a focus on centering yourself.
- Arrange your dietary habits to include more brain foods, like nuts and avocados, and less brain drains, like carbs and sugars.
- Get lost in a good book. Reading for pleasure allows a break from reality. Your only decision is to turn the page.
Gaman, J. (2020). Decision Fatigue: Why Does Less Feel Like So Much More?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/decision-fatigue-why-does-less-feel-like-so-much-more/