Our decisions can become more rushed, more unsteady and we can begin to shut down altogether rather than make one more choice when we’re under stress and pressure. We can feel more tired and overwhelmed than usual, we can experience brain fog and the inability to think clearly or focus, we might have a shorter temper and become less patient, or become more emotional, we can suffer from insomnia, headaches and stomach problems, the list goes on.
Decision fatigue is a state of mental overload that can impede our ability to continue making decisions. Depending on our individual circumstances continuous decision making can be exhausting causing sensitive people to feel more overwhelmed, anxious or stressed than usual.
How can we learn to turn inward to recognize when we may be experiencing decision fatigue?
Some general signs might be:
- Impulse buying, for example the unhealthy snacks at the grocery checkout after a long stressful day at work.
- Taking much longer to make decisions that you might otherwise or make a decision that you later regret.
- Putting off or even avoid making decisions at all when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
- Procrastination and putting off making a decision until the next day and then the next until we just erase the decision from our lives completely.
Ultimately what happens as a result of decision fatigue is when our stress levels are high and our energy is depleted we’re less able to think clearly and override our basic impulses so we just choose whatever is easiest.
Here are 6 ways to help us make decisions easier:
- Try to plan out things a day in advance; that way you will be better prepared when you have an early start the next day. I’ve started making a weekly Sunday night plan where I write out all the things I’d like to get done during the week and then I update it daily as needed. Always leaving space to have compassion for myself if I don’t accomplish it all.
- Take regular breaks in your day to replenish yourself. And plan ahead having things you may need, healthy snacks like fruit, water, maybe a book to read on your lunch hour. Having these things with you throughout the day can give you a much needed mental health break.
- Try to remove unnecessary distractions: this can be a really tough one. Every time we look at our phone, scroll social media, or watch TV we can drain our energy away from things and decisions that truly need our attention. Removing some of these distractions can help us to reduce our fatigue.
- Following a set routine or a daily structure- this one can also be tough. Establishing a routine can help us conserve time, and will bring a sense of consistency into our lives. It also eliminates the need to make decisions for many of the things we do everyday—like when we get out of bed, what food to eat, and when to exercise. I like to set reminders on my phone and have alarms to remind me of things until they’ve become an established part of my daily routine.
- Try to avoid making impulsive decisions. If you find that you’re making unhealthy decisions or choosing something just because it feels the easiest because you’re exhausted, stop and take a few breaths before you make a choice. Ask yourself… if I was feeling my best would I be making the same choice? If not then try to postpone that decision until you’re feeling more energetic and focused.
- Meal planning can be a great way to reduce your decision fatigue. Try to make a plan for the week and batch cook if you have the ability and the means. In our house we usually cook large meals on the weekend and then have leftovers throughout the week. This way we’re not grabbing for whatever is easiest and usually unhealthiest because we’re tired and hungry.
The most important thing to remember about decision fatigue as HSPs is that its perfectly OK that we make decisions differently than others. Yes we might be slower and more methodical when we’re processing all the options because we’re thinking not only about the obvious outcomes but the more obscure ones as well.
And we very often take a less selfish approach to decision making weighing how our choices might affect others. It is because we operate from a place of empathy and compassion that we often put the needs of others before our own- which we need to be mindful of so we don’t compromise our own needs in the process.
We’re also more often affected when we make “wrong or bad decisions”, but I really don’t like the term bad decisions because as much as we may regret a decision we’ve made in the past there is always something we can learn from it. I love this quote by Charlotte Fallowfield:
“There’s no such thing as a wrong decision. You make your choices in life based on the cards played to you and your emotions at the time. Whatever will be will be, you can’t change fate.”Charlotte Fallowfield
And I really believe this is true.
Here is an affirmation that you can turn to if you find that you’re struggling with decision fatigue:
I am making the right choice with the knowledge I have now. I trust that I will guide myself to the right decision.
Remember its OK to take your time when making big decisions, but don’t become petrified by them. We can end up going through endless loops and over analyzing, but some things we just can’t know until the decision has already been made. As highly sensitive people all of our choices are based on a knowing that radiates from somewhere deep inside of us, whether we call it our little voice, gut instinct, intuition, it is from this place, our true self, that requires only for us to stop and listen.