How to unblock decision fatigue
by Emma Triplett
What is decision fatigue?
Decision fatigue is not a modern phenomenon, but it is on a rapid increase and manifests in various guises that all follow a similar theme:
- Not knowing what to do about something
- Fear of making the wrong decision
- Not knowing which decision to make
- Lacking direction
- Feeling lost
- Feeling stuck
- Bored with your life but don’t know exactly what’s wrong
And sometimes it’s just a feeling if something is wrong but you don’t know what.
As contemporary humans, we seemed to have lost the power to tune into our intuition as it has become smothered by the stimulation bombarding our senses on a daily basis. The need to be engaged with technology and the fast pace of life has become almost an addiction for many and combined with the desire to take control to make things happen, to fix things, it’s almost as if that part of you that is shouting from somewhere at the back of your mind is being deliberated tuned out and overridden.
We underestimate ourselves, we don’t trust ourselves to make the right decision and we fear what might happen if we make the wrong decision, so we do nothing and get stuck going around in circles perpetuating the emotional and sometimes physical pain.
How to break the decision fatigue cycle
You can break the decision fatigue cycle and this is how you get started.
- Stop trying
You are getting in your own way. If you are trying to figure out what to do but not getting anywhere, you are probably overriding your intuition (also known as gut instinct or inspiration) and acting in opposition to it instead of with it. You think that it is up to you to make a decision and it is, but you are engaging with the wrong part of your brain to try. First of all you need to put the problem down and let it settle on its own. You’re not going to lose anything by backing off, the problem or the solution are not going to go away, you are not going to lose grip on it altogether and putting it down is not going to slow the decision down, on the contrary it will actually speed the process up – hold that thought, I will explain why.
- Start doing something for yourself
There is a greater purpose in doing something for yourself, not just to make you feel good, although if you do feel good then you are doing something right because feeling good is a sign that you are creating serotonin – hold that thought as well.
Doing things for yourself falls into three categories
- Positive Activity – Exercise is the number 1 recommendation as it also burns off the adrenalin you create by worrying and stressing which contributes to the decision blockage but hobbies, looking after yourself, taking positive control of a healthy diet, ticking things off your ‘to do’ list and achieving things are also under the heading of positive activity.
- Positive Interaction – Take some time out to spend with friends and family, visit people you like being with who you haven’t seen for a while, get involved in something that creates the opportunity to be with like minded people or types of people you like, for example children or elderly where you can do something positive for them.
- Positive Thinking – Very important! Stop focusing on the problem and the potential negative consequences of anything or everything. Negative thinking is also contributing towards the decision blockage or fatigue – it is literally exhausting focusing on problems constantly, so give yourself a break and focus on the positive things in your life
Why does this help stop decision fatigue?
I asked you to hold two thoughts:
- Putting the problem down will speed up the process
- Feeling good by creating serotonin will also speed up the process
When you get stuck in decision fatigue you are attempting to make decisions from the wrong part of your brain. You have a conscious mind (the bit you knowingly think with) that can collaborate with either of two other parts of your brain, the primitive part that is primarily concerned with fight or flight or the intellect.
– The primitive part of your brain
This part is concerned with flight or fight, danger crisis or emergency and works within the parameters of anxiety, depression or anger. You know that your conscious mind is collaborating with the primitive part when
- All you can do is focus on the problem, going around in circles about what is wrong
- Negatively forecasting the future, worrying and what if-ing.
- Negatively introspecting about yourself and the past
- Obsessing about things
- Imagining the worse possible scenario
- Getting stuck in behavioural patterns or bad habits
Your primitive brain does not have the same job as the intellect, it cannot think of solutions to problems or work out what to do. But the biggest give away that your primitive brain is trying to solve problems is when the decision you are trying to make doesn’t feel right and you are worrying if it is the right thing to do or not. Decision fatigue
– Your intellectual brain
This is the part that will always come up with solutions based on a proper assessment of the situation and it’s usually very positive. It knows everything about you including all the stuff you’ve forgotten and so you can trust it to make a decision that is right for you. You know when your intellect has made a decision because it will ‘feel’ right, there will be no ambiguity or second guessing the decision and you will be happy to go with it. You will be able to tell the difference.
So in summary, by putting the problem down and take a break from focusing on it you allow the primitive brain to settle, you stop producing the adrenalin that activates the primitive brain which will give the intellectual part of your brain a chance to work on it (it does it best when you get out of it’s way and don’t try and intervene). By increasing positive activity, positive interaction and positive thinking you produce serotonin which is the powerful happy neurotransmitter that connects the neurons in your intellect so it can work on a solution in the background. To give you an example of your intellect in action – have you had the experience of trying to think of an actor’s name and it’s on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t remember, then you forget about it altogether; after hours or sometimes days the name suddenly pops into your mind? Well this is your intellect going off and fetching the information you have requested. When you put the problem down and stop trying, you allow your intellect to take over and exactly the same will happen, sometimes days later you will know exactly what to do and how to get unblocked.
Sometimes your intellect doesn’t have enough information to make a decision, but it will find it for you, you just need to be a little patient, focus on doing positive things in your life and it will come.
Trust the enormous intellect you have that has made us humans such a dominant species, it wont let you down.
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When someone is in the grip of anxiety or depression, their brain gets stuck in a mode that is meant for dealing with crisis, emergency and danger. That’s why they might feel like they are going round and round in circles, doing the same thing over and again not able to break free of the thought patterns or are too scared to try anything different in case it doesn't work or something even worse happens. Worrying about the worst case scenario or feeling nothing will every work are typical thought patterns for anxiety and depression, the difference between the two is that people with anxiety tend to worry and what-if about the future and people with depression negatively introspect about themselves, their life and the past. Many people do both and many develop other symptoms of anxiety and depression such as anger, suffer from sleep disorders, panic attacks, migraines, IBS, eating disorders, addictions, OCD, and so on.
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