Self Care: Eliminate Decision Fatigue

From the moment you wake up you’re bombarded with choices to make. What to wear, what to eat, where to go, what route to take, what drink to make, what lunch to make, how to respond to an email, what craft to do with your kid…it’s never ending! And it’s exhausting us. 

Dr. Laurie Santos discusses this in her podcast, The Happiness Lab. Dr. Santos is a cognitive scientist and Professor of Psychology at Yale and her class, Psychology and the Good Life, became so popular at the university that they started offering it online for free to anyone! 

According to her research, we make thousands of choices each day and even the most trivial decisions can deplete our energy and cause anxiety. Otherwise known as decision fatigue. 

What are the signs of decision fatigue? Well, it kind of feels like being a parent: fatigued and foggy. If the idea of making another decision feels difficult, overwhelming, or exhausting, it’s a good sign you might need to take a break. 

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist, has one helpful tips for giving our brain a rest. 

The Thinker Moment.

This can be a few seconds to a couple of minutes where you simply close your eyes, daydream, and let your thoughts wander. 

“If we don’t regularly take these little breaks, we can upset the balance in the brain and start draining its energy, similar to when we have too many apps open on our phones and the battery starts going fast. Add to this the many uncertainties and challenges of life (such as the pandemic and family issues), and we can experience a cumulative effect, which will elevate our levels of mental fatigue. Managing the demands on our cognitive abilities and resources is therefore an essential skill; we cannot just keep going and going and going without a break.” – Dr. Leaf

Here are a few more ideas:

Make Sleep Your Friend

Quality is better than quantity. Reduce your screen time before bed and find ways to slow your brain down so it’s ready for a good night’s rest. Make sleep your friend so your brain has a chance to turn off and reset. 

Automate Some Choices

Experts suggest automating whatever you can. For example, if you like oatmeal for breakfast, stick with it on a daily basis. If you like to exercise, commit to the same time daily. When grocery shopping, have a master list that you always use and buy the same brands each time. Make Friday a weekly pizza night. Create a capsule wardrobe so you eliminate decision fatigue from a busy closet.  

Baby snuggles! 

Studies have shown that the simple act of skin-to-skin or babywearing can reduce anxiety and help your heart rate. If you need a break, take it! Pick up your little one, throw them in a carrier, and take a walk outside without your phone to clear your mind. 


What about you? What are some of your favorite ways to take care of yourself when you’re feeling mentally exhausted?


Vittoria Allen

Vittoria is a writer based in San Diego. A lover of good food, slow living, and a good novel, she shares her life with her husband and two daughters trying to squeeze out the beauty in every moment.

February 14, 2022