Decision Fatigue Before we literally leave the house in the morning, most of us are faced with hundreds of decisions. Flats or heels? Tea or coffee? Bagel or smoothie? Get this - The average American makes over 35,000 decisions per day. Yes you read that number right - 35,000. Is it any surprise we throw words around like “brain fried” or “worn out” to describe the type of deep fatigue we feel as adults trying to navigate our daily lives? This sense of intense exhaustion brought on by having to make so many mundane choices just to get through our days is commonly known as decision fatigue. It’s not the same as physical fatigue, which we are more familiar with; when you’re experiencing decision fatigue, you feel mentally exhausted and therefore making any more decisions, regardless of their importance, becomes nearly impossible.
Your brain literally runs out of steam. The danger here is that you’ve used up so much of your mental capacity in a given day deciding between wheat toast or rye, that later in the day, if you are faced with another choice, even as important waiting to safely make a left turn at an intersection, you are now much more likely to make a mistake. When we’re dealing with decision fatigue, it encourages us to act more impulsively, recklessly and we avoid giving enough thought to make the best choice, or even the safest. Research shows that there is a limit to our mental energy, especially that we can use to exhibit self-control. Our resolve weakens with every minor decision we’re forced to make everyday. It also negatively affects our mood, making us more irritable in our interactions with friends and family. So what can we do to better handle this? To the extent that you can, try to SIMPLIFY your life.
Not every minute choice we make has to be the biggest deal. Pre-plan things, like what you will have for breakfast the following morning. Also, learn to recognize when you are mentally fatigued and avoid making big, important decisions until you feel more rested and restored. After you’ve gotten some sleep, had a decent meal, your body and brain are primed to reflect and make better choices. And try not to use up too much energy deciding between soy or almond milk in the morning so your stores are preserved for the big stuff!