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Are You Struggling With Decision Fatigue?

An African American woman is sitting on her couch in the living room of her home. She has her hand on her forehead as she closes her eyes.

Are You Struggling With Decision Fatigue?

An African American woman is sitting on her couch in the living room of her home. She has her hand on her forehead as she closes her eyes.

In our fast-paced world, decision-making is an inevitable part of daily life. From choosing what to wear in the morning to making significant career choices, our brains are constantly processing options. However, as the day progresses and the number of decisions mounts, many of us find ourselves experiencing a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. The moment will inevitably arise when even the most simple-seeming decision feels impossible. You want to go on strike from ever making another choice again. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the burden of constant choices, you’re not alone. But there are ways to combat decision fatigue and reclaim your mental clarity and well-being.

What is Decision Fatigue? 

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision-making. Essentially, as we make more and more decisions throughout the day, the quality of our decision-making abilities diminishes. This depletion of mental energy can lead to poor choices, increased stress levels, and overall feelings of overwhelm, that sometimes means we don’t make any choice at all.

3 Ways to Overcome Decision Fatigue

1) Mindful Delegation

A young biracial couple is sitting together on their couch. They are facing each other as they talk. The young Hispanic woman is holding a cup of coffee in her hand.

Delegating tasks to others not only lightens your workload but also frees up mental space for more critical decisions. However, delegation requires mindfulness. It’s essential to delegate tasks to individuals who are capable and trustworthy. Practice letting go of the need for perfection and trust in the abilities of those around you. We hear a lot about the fear of relinquishing control in our Woodland Hills anxiety therapy sessions. It is unreasonable to expect yourself to make every judgment call and take on every decision, even if it is something you are used to.

If the idea of delegating feels terrifying to you, start small. You can even make it fun; are you choosing what to wear to work tomorrow and like both blouses? Ask one of your kids which blouse they prefer. This exercise isn’t going to change your life and free up your time in a radical way. It will help you practice letting go of some decisions (while still ensuring that you’ll be wearing a blouse you like). Any time you come across a no-stakes choice between two things, ask someone else to make that decision for you, until you are used to delegating small choices.

How do you feel about delegating tasks at work? Sometimes, delegation isn’t about telling others to do something but more about determining what you can solicit help with. Are you comfortable asking for assistance? Do you work in and foster an environment of collaboration? Depending on your circumstance, nurturing a sense of helping one another out and working as a team can benefit everyone. If you feel that you work in a competitive environment, among over-achievers, you might think that the idea of collaborating is a bad one. But everyone has times when they could use a boost, yourself and your coworkers included. There will come a day when you are needed in return, and an environment of mutual support will allow them to reach out for help when they need it.

Mindful delegation isn’t solely about what seems possible but is also about bare minimums and expectations. Confront tough truths about who makes the decisions in your household and why. Do you live with a partner you don’t trust; is that based on past experience with this person? Has a fellow adult in the household utilized weaponized incompetence in the past; have you taken on more responsibility to compensate? Do you co-parent with someone who doesn’t know the names of your child’s teacher, doctor, or dentist? Now, you can’t simply sit back one day and assign tasks to another person. What is needed in a situation like that is collaboration. You may find that you need to sit down together and map out everything that has to be done in your household. Put it all down on a piece of paper, block out times when each of you works, and look at what spaces are left over.

Communicate your desire for the other person to be active in these endeavors and bring their own experience to them. Express your fears about what happens if you are the only person responsible for something important, and then something happens to you. Approach the situation from a place of wanting safety and balance for everyone, and express your own feelings and needs. These conversations aren’t about placing the blame or accusing the other person of knowingly causing harm, even if it might feel that way. Understand that you may have to assert boundaries around decision-making as you transfer some of your mental load to the other person.

Be prepared to confront any issues you may have about control. Many of us seek to impose control to give us a sense that we have power over the things that frighten us. The constant scramble to stay on top of everything is our way of trying to ward off accidents, illness, embarrassment, mistakes, setbacks, and more. When you consider your own struggles with delegation, be honest with yourself but kind to yourself about it. Often, this behavior comes from a desire to self-protect. It will take some practice to get comfortable with relinquishing your command of these aspects of your life. You will feel relief as some burdens are lifted off you and disappointment when some things don’t go the way you might have wanted them to. It is all part of the process.

2) Prioritizing: 

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By prioritizing your tasks and decisions, you can allocate your limited mental resources more effectively. Start by identifying what tasks or decisions are most important and urgent. By focusing your energy on high-priority tasks first, you can prevent decision fatigue from derailing your productivity. Prioritizing can also help you determine what to delegate and when. If you find that you have trouble ranking priorities, ask yourself a series of questions. Can this decision wait even one more minute/hour/day? Are you the only person who can make this decision? Are the consequences of not making this decision high; are they higher than the consequences of not making a different decision? Does this decision impact your highest values?

How can you be comfortable with ranking and prioritizing? You may find that getting into this routine awakens fears and insecurities that have been suppressed by controlling the things around you. Attending in-person or online anxiety therapy can help you to unpack these thoughts and feelings that arise when you consider letting some things go – and not caring that you have! Feeling that your judgment is the only judgment you can trust and taking on the responsibility that comes with that mindset is burdensome.

Practice letting chance decide about things that don’t matter. Flip a coin (or use an app that simulates it if you don’t carry change) to decide between two drinks at the coffee shop, which pair of shoes you’re going to wear, and which last-priority item on your list you’re going to do first. Get in the habit of releasing the need to control everything and practice it when the stakes are low. This will free up mental space to make the biggest decisions and help you stay focused on what the bigger priorities really are.

Your priorities should align with your highest values. If your highest value is quality time with your family, then the tasks, behaviors, events, and habits that facilitate family time become your highest priorities. Quality time is about being consistent and being present; don’t get hung up trying to curate events and control situations. Your family members will likely not remember that everyone had a certain toy or wore matching sweaters. They will remember that you laughed together, that you listened to them when they spoke, that they felt that you were happy to be with them. What items on your to-do list can you imagine letting go of forever in order to ensure that that is the feeling you’re leaving with your loved ones? Those items are your lowest priority.

There will always be low-stakes but necessary things to do. Experiment with how you make decisions around these – do you delegate, do you roll some dice, do you give yourself a time limit to decide, and then go with whatever you’ve come up with? Can you group these decisions together and prioritize time to unwind before making them all in one go? You may find that these decisions come more easily once you are used to calling the shots about your high-stakes situations.

3) Saying No: 

An older woman is laying down on her couch in her living room. She is holding her phone in her hand.

Practice assertiveness and learn to decline requests or invitations that don’t align with your priorities or values. Remember that saying no isn’t a sign of weakness but rather a demonstration of self-awareness and self-care. By setting boundaries and protecting your time and energy, you can prevent decision fatigue from overwhelming you.

So many people struggle with anxiety related to setting boundaries. The people we see here at our practice for anxiety therapy in Woodland Hills report that saying no to requests brings them feelings of shame and discomfort. They worry that they are letting others down, that they look like they can’t handle their lives, that they’re being selfish, and so on. They see saying no as a sign of failure, and a fear of failure can really take control of your life if you’re not careful.

Saying no can feel inherently negative, but in actuality, it is making room for the positive. When you decline events, items, and mindsets that don’t align with you, you free up space for what does. The first thing to say no to is the idea that you have to say yes to everything. If you have a hard time coming to terms with that idea, switch it up: imagine you’re saying no to the opposite thing every time you say yes to something that doesn’t serve you. For example, if someone asks you to attend an event that is occurring at the same time as something that takes higher priority, imagine saying no to the event you actually want to attend. Really sit with the feeling of missing out on what matters most to you. Ask yourself why you don’t deserve to do the thing that means more. Ask yourself if you would expect a friend or loved one to pass up an opportunity to do something important to them. How does that feel in your body; are you comfortable? Every no is a yes to something else. That yes can be to free time, rest, a meal you enjoy, quality time with a loved one, your favorite hobby, the space to take care of business that needs to be handled, and so much more.

While you can decline invitations to free up mental space and energy, you can also flat-out decline decisions. True, not every situation is structured for you to opt out of making a call, but some are. How you say no to making decisions will depend on why you need to say no. Recruiting help, delegating, and finding a support buddy are all ways of making sure you are able to say no.

There may be times when you feel that a decision is too big or impacts too many people to be made by just one person. In this case, you might say, “I am too overwhelmed to make this decision, and I need some input from someone else before I can decide.”

Not everything is your job; if you’ve been given more and more decision-making responsibilities, it might be time to bid them farewell. You might say, “This decision is not my responsibility.”

Decision fatigue doesn’t only exist within the space of trying to decide; it can also be overwhelming to make a tough call. In this situation, you might say, “I’m really struggling and could use some help doing what I know I need to do; can I please get some support in making this decision?”

An Asian American woman is at the beach sitting down next to her skateboard. She is smiling as she looks at her phone in her hand.

As an anxiety counselor in Woodland Hills, what I see most often in decision fatigue is a fear of what happens if someone makes “the wrong choice.” A big part of being able to make decisions is in having the self-confidence in your resilience. Sometimes, you’ll make a call that doesn’t work out the way you’d have liked it to. Knowing that you’ll get through it and move forward is a comfort. Your worth does not depend on how many things you “get right.” And it definitely does not depend on how many things you do on your own. Letting go of decisions makes room for surprises, for growth, for learning, and for rest. Support yourself with positive affirmations, such as, “I am capable of making this decision,” or, “The world will not end if I don’t make this decision.” Reinforce your goals of having mental space through releasing some of the decisions you have to make and staying focused on what that space makes room for in your life. The goal is to have more time for what matters and the energy and clarity to pursue what is most important to you.

Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills

Anxiety is a debilitating emotion when unmanaged. It can create procrastination and paralysis in many areas of one’s life due to uncomfortable physical sensations and anxious thoughts. 

When you seek Anxiety Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, you will learn CBT and mindfulness techniques to better regulate your emotions and have healthy thought and behavior patterns to help you thrive each day.Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!

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