As I lie awake scrolling through my Amazon basket and wish list deciding which items I absolutely need at 4am for the third time this week it dawns on me that I am making some pretty shocking decisions of late. Now I don’t mean the neon pink platform jelly sandals (although they maybe should make the list) but also my more frequent decisions to buy things I really don’t need and quite frankly can’t afford right now. It started with a hot tub, then it was a massage machine and then it was clothes and tubs of Dulux to decorate every room. These are all out of character purchases for me yet for some reason I just can’t stop making rash decisions at early hours of the morning. And its not just poor judgement when it comes to shopping but I'm noticing that I am finding it harder and harder to make necessary decisions to get through the day. Choices like what to have for lunch or what to watch on TV suddenly feel life changing and have been leaving me either feeling utterly panicked or trying to avoid making the decision altogether.
Whilst I was late night googling, feeling anxious and too overwhelmed to sleep I came across a guided meditation for ‘Decision fatigue’. I’d never heard of the phrase before but something about it felt familiar and relatable so I decided to look into it more. It turns out that decision fatigue is commonly known as the 'deterioration of quality of decisions after a long period of decision making', Putting it more bluntly it’s when your brain has had to make so many grown up decisions that it goes into ‘fuck it’ mode and starts saying yes to all sorts of things you normally would decline. In my case it has been relatively tame and other than a battering to our savings there’s been no real damage done but if ever there has been a time that I’ve felt overwhelmed with decisions it’s now and its not just showing in my poor choices. Decision fatigue can also leave you feeling anxious, weary, irritable and physically drained, it can even cause panic attacks and sometimes migraines or headaches.
COVID19 is certainly adding to the decision making load for everyone right now, whatever our situation may be. we are all faced with more decisions than usual but also bigger decisions than we would normally encounter. From the day to day decisions such as what home schooling can I do with my children?, what 400 meals and snacks will I make today? or where can I take us on our daily walk? to the big whopping great decisions such as should we take a mortgage payment holiday? or should we send our reception child back to school in June?, the choices are coming thick and fast so it’s no wonder so many of us are struggling.
According to Mind Charity decision fatigue is relatively common and often is just labelled as 'stress' however the good news is there are some ways you can combat decision fatigue and with a few changes to your routine you can start to feel a little less overwhelmed by choices.
Focus on self-care
As with any response to stress your first port of call should be self-care and taking some down time or time to unwind. This may seem impossible with the children off school but self-care doesn't have to be huge, just 20-30 minutes can make all the difference. Unfortunately for many of us the activities we would normally do to take time out are off limits but there are still some ways you can practice good self-care at home such as;
Taking a candle lit bath and leaving your phone out of the room (and the kids too)
Start a new book or perhaps listen to a new podcast series
Adult colouring is a great way to shut off the world and you can find some great printable sheets here
Pamper yourself with a face mask, foot soak or paint your nails
Watch a cheesy chick flick or a golden oldie like Dirty Dancing
Whatever you do just make sure that you switch off from social media for a little while and try and empty your mind of any decisions you have to make in the future.
Eat well, sleep well
Its important during times of high stress to nourish our bodies and to rest. Try cutting down on alcohol, caffeine and sugary treats and get more fruit and veg into your diet. Just swapping your snacks for healthier options will make all the difference and when it comes to quality sleep saying goodbye to your trusty phone is a must. Switch off your phone 40 minutes before you go to bed (yes that's right no more scrolling through Brad Mondo videos inbetween the sheets!), avoid any stimulants and if you find it hard to sleep try a lavender spray for your pillow to help you drift off.
Make a list of which decisions have priority
A great way to reduce anxiety around decisions is to write them all down in the order of importance to you. What may feel like a priority to you may not seem such a big deal to others so ask yourself which decision is giving you the most worries and work from there. Then tackle the most important ones first and schedule the others for a later date, you may even find that some decisions you don't even need to make after all.
Try to set up your day with a good routine so that you can reduce the amount of decisions you have to make each day. For instance having a strict set of meal times, activity times and bedtime may seem excessive but it will help you feel less overwhelmed each day and the structure will help you have more time for that all important self care.
Allow others to help
Sharing the mental load of decision-making can help prevent feelings of overwhelm.
Discuss big decisions with someone you trust and delegate smaller decisions when you can. Even in lock down you can still call your loved ones and ask for support, a problem shared is a problem halved after all and letting your partner decide whats for dinner may seem little but it will certainly lighten the load.
Celebrate your good decisions
You make so many little decisions all day so why not have a little celebration for those bigger ones? Perhaps a chocolate treat or a glass of wine to mark having made your mind up when it comes to those grown up choices.
With so many choices to make and so many things out of your control at the moment the one decision you can definitely make is to take care of yourself! x