The Truth About COVID-19 And 'Decision Fatigue'

We all have days where we can't decide what we'd like for lunch or what to wear. But if you've felt more indecisive during the pandemic and want to tap out without choosing anything, you might be suffering from a mental overload called "decision fatigue" (via Healthline).

Anyone can experience decision fatigue, which stems from having to make choices frequently, according to Dr. Michael Wetter, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, California, and director of psychology at UCLA Medical Center's division of adolescent and young adult medicine. "It really depends on the number of stressors playing out in their life, the resources available to them to help manage those stressors, and the capacity to engage in appropriate self-care," he told Healthline. "There has perhaps been no greater stressor than that of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has resulted in economic, health, political, and family-based stressors to almost everyone."

It's not just that we've had to make more decisions because of COVID-19. Rather, we're making those decisions in an environment with more uncertainty and greater consequences (via USA Today). Should we go to the store and restock the pantry? Visit relatives? Drop by the mall to pick up that video game? Do we really need that game? Are we exposing ourselves to too many people? "[T]he unpredictability of the nature of the pandemic has most certainly exacerbated people's difficulty in making fluent and confident decisions," Wetter says.

Budget in breaks to reduce decision fatigue

On a typical day, we make decisions practically every minute without focusing on them intensely, Dr. Rashmi Parmar, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry, told Heathline. But in the pandemic, we're making additional choices about our safety and lifestyles, leading to burnout. Our brains, eager for a shortcut, then make hasty decisions or avoid them altogether, Dr. Parmar notes.

Along with decision fatigue, people may experience adjustment disorders, health professionals say. These have symptoms similar to anxiety and depression but result when we have trouble adjusting to a new situation. Let's face it: Between decisions about keeping safe in the workplace, working virtually, sending children to school in person or dealing with e-learning, we've had to adjust to a lot over the past months (via Medical Xpress).

Charles Figley, PhD, founder of the Traumatology Institute at Tulane University, recommends easing your decision fatigue by acknowledging that decisions are becoming difficult, per Healthline. Establish criteria under which you'll make a decision, and commit to reducing the decisions you make in a week. You also can talk with a doctor or mental health professional.

Lastly, give your brain time to refresh. Instead of stacking one virtual meeting or task atop another, add in transitions such as walking around your home or stepping outside for a few minutes, or switching out a load of laundry.