What is Decision Fatigue?

It seems that everything moves so quickly today, and we’re always having to make decisions. Sometimes they’re simple, like what to wear and eat, and sometimes they’re complicated, like major life choices. The mental effort required for decision-making can accumulate and lead to a phenomenon known as decision fatigue. Today, we’re going to explore what decision fatigue is, how you can recognize it, and what you can do to deal with it.

What Is Decision Fatigue?

Decision fatigue is a state of mental exhaustion that occurs when the cognitive resources required for making choices become depleted. When you’re dealing with decision fatigue, the quality of your decisions goes down as you make more and more decisions. This concept was popularized by psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, who explained it as a form of ego depletion, where self-control and willpower are diminished as decisions accumulate throughout the day.

Decision fatigue can be particularly prevalent in modern society due to the constant barrage of choices we face. As our world and lives grow more complex, the amount of decisions we have to make rises. The phenomenon can occur in various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and personal health. It is essential to recognize the symptoms of decision fatigue to address and mitigate its effects.

Symptoms of Decision Fatigue

There are numerous symptoms of decision fatigue that you should know how to recognize.


One of the primary symptoms of decision fatigue is impulsivity. As you become mentally drained from making decisions, you are more likely to make impulsive choices, often opting for the easiest or most convenient option rather than carefully considering the best decision.

Poorer Decision Quality

Decision fatigue can lead to a decrease in the quality of decisions. As cognitive resources are depleted and you become more tired and fatigued about making decisions, you may struggle to think rationally, weigh pros and cons, and anticipate long-term consequences, resulting in unwanted, undesired, or ineffective choices.

Mental Exhaustion

Decision fatigue is emotionally and mentally exhausting. After a day filled with decision-making, you may find yourself feeling drained and mentally fatigued, making it challenging to focus on tasks, engage in problem-solving, or enjoy hobbies and leisure activities.


In an effort to conserve mental energy, people suffering from decision fatigue may procrastinate or avoid making decisions altogether. This can lead to delays in both personal and professional life.

Irritability and Stress

As mental resources become depleted, you may become more irritable and stressed. Small inconveniences and challenges that might not typically bother you can lead to heightened emotional reactions.

Reduced Self-Control

Decision fatigue can significantly impact self-control and willpower. You might find it challenging to resist temptations and make the choices you want to make, such as avoiding unhealthy foods or sticking to a budget.

Choice Paralysis

The accumulation of decisions can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to make choices. Choice paralysis occurs when you become immobilized by the number of choices you need to make, hindering your ability to make any decisions at all. You may also find yourself questioning your decisions when you do make them, and you may constantly second-guess yourself. This consumes even more emotional energy and contributes to the vicious cycle of decision fatigue.

Coping With Decision Fatigue

Coping with decision fatigue is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional well-being and making sound choices. There are several effective strategies to manage and treat decision fatigue, including getting help from a professional Here are some key approaches:

  • Prioritize Important Decisions: Focus on identifying and prioritizing the most critical decisions in your day. By reserving your mental energy for these key choices, you can ensure that they receive the attention they deserve.
  • Simplify Routine Decisions: For everyday decisions like clothing and meals, simplify your options. Create a capsule wardrobe, meal plan, or establish a daily routine to reduce the number of decisions required.
  • Time Blocking: Organize your day by allocating specific time blocks for decision-making tasks. This can help prevent decision overload by spacing out choices throughout the day.
  • Set Deadlines: Establish deadlines for decisions to prevent procrastination and promote timely action.
  • Delegate Decision-Making: Whenever possible, delegate decisions to others. This can reduce the burden on your cognitive resources and allow you to focus on more critical choices.
  • Rest and Recovery:
  • Get Adequate Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for mental clarity and decision-making. Ensure you get enough rest to rejuvenate your cognitive resources.
  • Take Breaks: Incorporate short breaks into your day to refresh your mind and reduce decision fatigue. Even a few minutes of relaxation can help.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness and meditation practices to increase self-awareness and reduce stress. Mindfulness can help you make more deliberate choices.
  • Know Your Limits: Recognize your personal limits when it comes to decision-making. Be honest with yourself about your capacity, and don’t push yourself beyond what you can handle.
  • Decision-Making Apps: Utilize digital tools and apps that can help streamline your decision-making process, such as a decision matrix or pros-and-cons lists.

Therapeutic Approaches for Decision Fatigue

While the action items above can help with the immediacy of decision fatigue, getting help from a therapist can help you address the underlying causes and create a mindful approach to dealing with long-term decision fatigue issues. These therapeutic approaches work differently for everybody, so discuss them with your therapist to find the best one for you.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a widely used therapeutic approach that can help individuals cope with decision fatigue. Therapists using CBT work with clients to identify thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to decision fatigue and develop strategies to reframe thoughts and make more effective decisions.

Stress Management Techniques

Therapy methods that focus on stress reduction, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) or relaxation therapy, can be beneficial when you’re dealing with decision fatigue. These approaches teach individuals how to manage stress and emotional reactions, helping them make calmer and more considered decisions.

Behavioral Therapy 

Behavioral therapy can help individuals break down their decision-making process into smaller, manageable steps. Therapists work with clients to develop decision-making skills, practice problem-solving, and build self-confidence in their choices.


Decision fatigue coaching can be a valuable resource for individuals struggling with this issue. Coaches can provide guidance, strategies, and support to help clients improve their decision-making abilities and reduce decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a pervasive phenomenon, but one that is often underestimated. And you don’t have to live with these exhausting effects! When you know how to recognize the symptoms of decision fatigue and take steps to implement strategies to deal with it, you can regain control over your decision-making processes and make more thoughtful, intentional choices that lead to better outcomes in both your personal and professional lives. If you’re struggling with decision fatigue, reach out to the therapy team here at Love Heal Grow. We want to help you get back on track and take control of your life!  Contact us today to get started.


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