Decision Fatigue pt. 2 What’s Really Going On Here?

Decision fatigue is exhausting. 

It also prevents you from doing day to day tasks, having good experiences and relationships, accomplishing goals, and just feeling like you have a handle on your life.

It also can seem like an impossible thing to fix. 

I mean, who has the time?

We do. Our joy requires it. Our relationships require it. Our health requires it.

There are basically three things that I have found that help to create decision fatigue. There are probably more, but these seem to be, for me, the most impactful. They are separate things, but together they are the foundation, as well as the solution to decision fatigue.

  • Too many decisions to make.
  • Too many options for each choice.
  • Differed Decisions

Today, I’ll delve into the first reason for decision fatigue.

TOO MANY DECISIONS TO MAKE.

Duh! It seem an obvious choice. But then again, things are not always as they seem.

Every day, we make thousands of decisions. It can seem impossible to minimize all of the choices and things we have to do each day.  And that’s probably true on some days. Things can happen which can totally derail your day, your week, your month.  Sometimes all we can do is react to it, rather than take charge. If you have enough of those times often enough, fatigue and exhaustion set in.

That fatigue has a paralyzing effect. So extreme, that even the most simple or fun choices are just too much.

How many days a week are you feeling overwhelmed by all of the choices you need to make? And how many days are you operating in crisis mode? Now consider this: How many days are you really in a crisis?

I know it can feel like everyday is a crisis. But most days just aren’t. Here are 4 thoughts on the subject.

  1. We don’t have too many decisions to make every day, but we may have too many decisions to make on some days. Life is just life. You can have quiet days; you can have busy days. Some days you have to make some pretty hefty decisions and other days the biggest decision is deciding what’s for dinner.
  2. We enjoy making some decisions more than others.  Because the fun decisions are easier to do, we tend to want to do those more.
  3. Some decisions require more thought, patience, and research than others. We need to allot more time to gather information before making decisions on the hard stuff.
  4. How we manage our easy choices impacts how we manage the tough ones. We need to balance out these decisions to function and be happy.

In February of 2019, I found out I had cancer. My surgery was scheduled for Valentine’s Day. The days before my operation were a blur. Greg and I had to make life altering choices in moments. Who was the best doctor? What was the best procedure? How long would I be in the hospital?  What things need to be done at home to prepare? Were my personal affairs in order if I didn’t make it? Then there was the shock of that thought.  What if this was “it”? What about all our plans? What happens next? What do I tell my nephew?

In the space of a moment, I knew I wasn’t prepared. I knew that I needed more time to decide, to think, to pray; but I also knew that there wasn’t that much time and briefly, I shut down. I couldn’t face the hard stuff. I found myself thinking about the less important stuff because it was easier to handle. I would focus on what to leave in fridge for Greg to eat while I was at the hospital, and if the dogs had enough treats, instead of reviewing the paperwork for the operation and deciding on chemotherapy. But I could only postpone those things for just so long, then I had to face them.

I have a great partner in Greg. When I am not strong enough to do what I need to do, he will step in and hold me up. He does this, not in a pushy or controlling way, but in a way that fits the situation. He knows me.  And even though we were both scared out of our wits at the time, he would gently pull me back to reality and get me to refocus.

After the surgery, there were tons of tests, appointments, and medications and pain. After being in the hospital for 10 days, I was released to go home. 18 hours later, I was back in the hospital with a blood clot in my leg and more pain.  There were choices to be made about needing a stent, having chemotherapy, and installing a port.

Too many choices, too many decisions, and no time to consider anything more than the next best step.

But not every day was like that. There were quiet times.  A lot of times I just slept. Life went on. The household went on. I had my chemotherapy. I lost my hair. I had tons of fatigue. My hands and feet went numb. The things I could do, I did.  The things I couldn’t do, I either left, or Greg, or my nephew, Chris would help with. Our neighbors were great, and I learned to let them help.

Life forced me to slow down.  It also taught me to embrace each day.  My bout with cancer taught me to look at my life and how I lived it. It’s a process, but I’m learning that anything can happen at any time.  Life can change quickly and unexpectedly.  

This next thought is a biggie:

How you handle the unexpected times is based solely on how you live during the “expected times.”

I was used to filling up my days with projects and stuff. I always focused on being a productive person.  I was always busy. It goes back to some childhood stuff that I won’t mention here. But I would always do more than what was needed, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. When my illness forced me to stay in bed, I watch life go on without my input.

And it did go on. My family reminded me that I was important to them, but it was very sobering to realize that my being busy all of the time, didn’t really change anything as far as how the day to day living went. It was the little things that they most needed from me.  It was those things that gave them and me, strength in the tough times.

I realize it may seem like I am off topic here, but I’m not. There will always be days when we need to make huge, life changing choices. But they are really few and far between those times when we must make the little choices. And t’s how we handle the little things that really matter. It is how we prioritize what is right in front of us and where we decide to spend our energy that fuels us.

If we stay busy all of the time, there’s no chance to rest or absorb the experiences that give our lives meaning and true purpose.  And it’s nearly impossible to recharge in the middle of a crisis. During a crisis, you need your wits about you. You need to be thinking clearly.

If you are stuck in decision fatigue, the best you can do is struggle your way through. So, making a mindful choice won’t come easily and the results will be haphazard.

I’m not saying to sit around waiting for the next disaster to happen. Far from it. In fact, just the opposite. I had to reassess my busy times and figure out what was important. I asked myself these questions:

  • What kinds of things do I have to decide on each day?
  • Which of these do I care most about or are most important in my life?
  • What decisions are easy to make?
  • What choices do I need to make each day that I could simplify?
  • Are there any choices I’m now making that I really don’t need to make at all?

As I asked these questions, I began to see where I could claim back some of my day. Some of what I did daily, Greg had cheerfully offered to do. I would always say no, because I didn’t want to bother him. Other decisions were fun to do and I found that when I was bored or overwhelmed, I would ignore a harder project, and do the fun thing instead. I also realized that some choices could be made obsolete, simply because there was an easier way to do it.

There is something amazing and empowering about discovering that it’s ok to let something go.

As I cleared out and rearranged my daily choices,  I created mental space I was searching for. I became more creative, active, and best of all, happier.

In the next post, we’ll move on to another part of the cause of decision fatigue: “too many choices.”

See you then.

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