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Decision fatigue is that really a thing?

Updated: Feb 1


Decision fatigue is that really a thing?

Yes, it actually is and most people have it! Decision fatigue is where we feel mentally and emotionally exhausted from making many decisions throughout the day or even being overwhelmed by having too many options to choose from. Would you believe that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day? That number or repetitions just sounds exhausting!


Decisions take time and energy and thus can deplete us.

They may make people feel tired, drained, mental fog, mental exhaustion.

The more decisions our brain must make the more it can tire it out. The more tired your brain becomes, the more likely it will want to take short cuts when having to make the following decisions as the day goes on.


4 main symptoms or maybe even shortcuts for decision fatigue are:

  1. Procrastination

  2. Impulsivity

  3. Avoidance

  4. Indecision.

9 Signs of decision fatigue; courtesy of Carla Marie Manly a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County and Dr. Rashmi Parmar a psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry. Notes courtesy of Real Simple- Elizabeth Yuko.

  1. Inability to think clearly or focus

  2. Frequent procrastination

  3. Avoidance of decision-making tasks

  4. Irritability and a short temper caused—at least in part—by frustration with themselves

  5. Impulsivity

  6. Feeling overwhelmed and possibly even hopeless

  7. Spending a lot of time making decisions

  8. Physical symptoms like fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, and upset stomach

  9. A sense of dissatisfaction with any choice that is ultimately made


Manly and Dr. Parmar offer these coping strategies:

  1. Limit to three or four big choices per day.

  2. Reserve the most important decisions earlier in the day thus leaving the easier ones for later in the day when there is less mental energy.

  3. Pre-plan your schedule and agenda so that you may be well prepared the next day for what is to come.

  4. Take planned and timed breaks throughout the day to allow your brain to reset and replenish. Hydrate and nourish yourself well so that your brain gets the thinking energy it needs.

  5. Seek support from a supportive friend or partner to weigh in on your most difficult choices.

  6. When there are too many options, choose to narrow down your selection to three. Just choose one, from the final three.

  7. Avoid questioning and simply embrace your selection and move forward.

  8. Feeling stuck? Then create a pros and cons list and evaluate.

  9. Prioritize a list of tasks and create deadlines for yourself.

  10. Create a regular routine so that you will be able to flow with consistency and habit rather than having to decide each step each day. Set reminders on your phone if you need to.

  11. Avoid impulsive decision-making. Postpone decisions if you have to, so that you may avoid making a wrong move you'll regret later.


For example, you plan on sticking to your healthy track plan and do well all day long until 6PM rolls around and you are unsure about your dinner plans. It starts to get late and then you become “hangry” and just are too tired to even think on what healthy choice you need to make to complete a successful healthy track plan.


The symptoms of indecision or impulsivity kick in only because it is easier. Taking the shortcut and grabbing whatever comes in front of you first is what happens. When our brain gets tired, we tend to become reckless in our diets only because it is easier. We tend to take shortcuts and go the easier route just so that we do not have to expend any more mental energy than we must.


One way to avoid this evening health buster is to pre plan your meals by creating a menu for the week, going grocery shopping beforehand, and maybe even prepping the food so that it is ready to grab and cook or just eat when 6 o’clock rolls around. Blocking out a few hours one day of the week to meal plan, shop and food prep was the biggest game changer for me.


I started to to cook larger quantities and freeze half of each of the meals for another week. Freezing the extra meals has been helpful for me on weeks that I work my day job and teach yoga and coach clients in the evenings. For those of you who do not like or want to cook there is still a way! Pre plan your menu for the week and go buy the foods that are precooked and stock them up in your refrigerator or freezer.


Another tip is to pick out your clothes the night before and have them laid out for you so that you can get ready in the morning without feeling rushed and even exhausted by making a decision on what to wear.


Maybe, even creating a schedule of the things that need to be done in the order of importance on your things to do list. Lastly, just saying “no” to things that are not important.


Creating simplicity in your life is key, by having fewer tasks each day and maybe even spreading those tasks over the week rather than trying to tackle them all in one day. Fewer tasks lead to having to make fewer decisions. Having fewer decisions will allow you to be more in control and less mentally fatigued.


Hi! I am Madhavi and I am the Chief Motivating Officer at Prana Health Yoga & Wellness.


I am here to support you create a healthier and sustainable lifestyle to alleviate you chronic pain, mental stressors, lower your health numbers and more.


I help people lead a more joyful and stress-free life by creating sustainable lifestyle changes to transform lives.