Decision fatigue: This is why making decisions causes you stress and anxiety

Decision fatigue can affect even the most rational and intelligent individuals like Obama and Zuckerberg.

It is estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 choices daily. Every little mundane thing we do from waking up, eating, working and going to sleep involves remotely conscious decisions. Some people get overwhelmed by having too many things to choose from. It’s why the likes of Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg wear plain and similar looking shirts every day to avoid spending time and energy on making such mundane decisions.

What is decision fatigue?

You experience decision fatigue when you have to make many decisions -small or big - over a certain period of time or in the course of a day. For many people, there’s more to decision-making than the time and energy it takes; it also concerns having to constantly weigh results and consequences of the choices being made.

This can compromise the quality of decisions being made, especially for entrepreneurs, managers and others in decision-making positions, according to The Decision Lab.

The more decisions made throughout the day, the harder each decision becomes for us. Eventually, the brain looks for shortcuts to circumvent decision fatigue, leading to poor decision-making.
Getty/ Richard Newstead

How to avoid decision fatigue

If you find yourself getting easily overwhelmed and anxious about the choices you have to make, you might want to make some of them automatic. For instance, if you enjoy a particular breakfast, you can have it for long periods of time before switching it up.

You may also eliminate this stress by limiting the options you have in terms of what you wear, what brands of groceries you buy and where you shop. Psychologist and author of the book ‘Paradox of Choice’ Barry Schwartz tells Washingpost:

There’s a meta decision we can make about how many decisions we’re willing to make in a day or week. The trick is to automate a lot about your life so you don’t have to make so many decisions.

The article also suggests enlisting the help of someone you trust as a choice adviser. You should also learn to manage your expectation and pace yourself when making decisions, so you don’t overstretch your cognitive bandwidth.

Read more:

Exhaustion: How to tell the difference between being tired and experiencing fatigue

Feeling exhausted after socialising? You might have post-lockdown burnout

Four physical effects of stress on the body

Try optimising your mental health with 'mental hygiene' tips Try optimising your mental health with 'mental hygiene' tips