First of all, your responses to my last blog were amazing, most importantly because they are honest and apply to all humans in different ways. I thank you because you have validated that “decision fatigue” runs rampant within our culture. This dis-ease, which is consuming and evolving in our technological society, refers to the idea that people appear to make their worst choices after having to make too many decisions in the course of a twenty-four-hour day. Considering all the roles we play and the desire to do what each one of us deems correct, it is not surprising we are all under pressure and susceptible to “decision fatigue”. Examples are: wife, husband, child, worker, friend and so on; we have to make a myriad of daily decisions to make ourselves fit into a complex piece of the puzzle. I fall prey all the time, over-flexing my “decision muscles” until they are so worn out I can’t think straight, let alone make a smart choice. So, a balancing act must be achieved, or we will not survive the many arrows shot at us on a daily basis… but a solution must be out there.
So, let’s see what really makes sense. Without a medical degree or any sound research, we can diagnose ourselves and propose our own solutions and even compare them to the medical community. The most fascinating part of this serious mental masturbation (I mean condition) is the fact that we can bring it under our own control if we choose to do the work… of course, I don’t have any real answers, just ponderings that help me and hopefully, help others.
Okay, let’s brainstorm this together and see if it makes any sense, especially with the holidays on their way. I believe we each need to look seriously within ourselves and perhaps, even stare deeply into our own eyes in a mirror. As they say, “The eyes never lie.” The question to contemplate is “Why are we doing this to ourselves?” Rapid decision making is not serving us, but instead, has decomposed our thought processes! Moreover, it has become a job, work, and has imprisoned us rather than freeing ourselves. It appears to be provide good fast decisions but really is only a disguise for fear of being left behind. Fear of being unable to act and worst of all, fear of being wrong (oh my G/d not that).
My gut tells me that if we recognize this as a medical phenomenon that is real, we can work on solving it each in our own way. I began by breaking down the words: A “decision” is a simple choice between many options, but, is it really that simple, when we can’t choose between black or white, up or down, pencil or pen, staple or paper clip. The fear of making the wrong “decision” weighs us down, so we choose the simple way out, make it fast and make it certain. But to what end. Look around at the landscape of Southern California, bad decisions at every turn. Ugly streets and buildings, seemingly plopped down without a care. A far cry from those cities that were built on grace and planning. “Fatigue” means exhaustion to its maximum. If “fatigue” is making us ill, we have to look very carefully at that old fashioned remedy called rest. So, rest has to be involved in a myriad of ways as a step toward health. In fact, our bodies probably need a break to allow it to regroup. Imagine our lives without us under a cloud of doubt… Hmm, Fatigue vs. Rest… Seems like an easy decision worth making.
Seriously though, how can I (we) get out of this spiral of stress created by the daily routine of modern life. I honestly do not know. What I can say, at least for myself, is that decisions of the mundane type, paper or pen, rarely have a real impact on my life or those around me. So I make this pledge to myself, make the small decisions with a sense of calm, as they rarely come back to bite you. The big decisions, like dealing with aging parents, dumping a boy or girlfriend, buying a house, or moving on from an old job…these are the ones to spend the time on. Leave the brain to the big stuff and let your instincts control the rest. Trust yourself and the calm will take over, the decisions will be made and the fatigue will fall away.
We, as people, like to have choices. But, our human brain has its limits just like the rest of our bodily organs. So, it makes total sense to me that making too many decisions during the day will wear the brain down.
Is this a helpful beginning to our mental health? I believe we must contemplate it, or we will explode! Yes, Dr. Marcus, I think you have sufficiently diagnosed your personal overthinking, decision making problem. It’s time for a nap.