Decision fatigue is a debilitating condition affecting millions of Americans today. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) survey, 32% of adults faced this issue in 2021 after going through the stressful time caused by the pandemic. However, the degree of affliction varied across different age groups. For example, those who suffered from it the most were Millenials, forming almost 48% of cases. Older and baby boomer generations seemed less affected, reporting about 3% and 14% of cases, respectively. On the other hand, it affected 32% of gen X and 37% of the Gen Z population.
The survey found that younger people and parents of children under 18 years old felt more stressed than older people. 47% of parents of children under 18 years old expressed that making everyday decisions seemed more challenging compared with 30% of people without younger kids. However, the impact of the condition was also visible on certain ethnicities. The studies suggested that nearly 32% of Black and 38% of Hispanic adult populations coped with the covid-induced stress that weakened their decision-making abilities.
The concept of decision fatigue
Losing the ability to decide anymore after making several decisions can be a case of decision fatigue. These may involve simple choices like what to eat or wear to something complex, such as a change of employment. Although it has become a focus area after the pandemic, the concept was already prevalent since 1998. There is a belief that humans can control their behavior up to a specific limit; beyond that, they may not have any energy left to decide things. Some refer to this condition as ego depletion also.
Linkoping University’s associate professor Dr. Gustav Tinghög informs that a person likely faces an issue of decision fatigue when they have to constantly compare value-based choices that come with their share of benefits and risks. Also, this type of fatigue can set in through any activity besides decision-making that involves practicing higher self-control. Other examples include emotional control, cognitive effort, physical labor, etc. Case Western Reserve University’s Dr. Grant A. Pignatiello adds excess workload, lack of time, the complexity of the job, continuous exposure to stress, and other factors to the list.
On this note, people were also confused about public health measures, including masking, vaccination, and social distancing. While some resisted the policies, others showed their support. According to a survey by MyBioSource, almost 36% of people in South Dakota started opposing the guidelines, while 43% of Alaskans expressed their support.
The health leaders say that anyone can be at risk of this disorder, but every individual has their unique reason or cause. However, the demanding working conditions and the pressure of the modern lifestyle can lead to more cases of decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue in the context of COVID-19
Only a few studies have investigated the direct connection between coronavirus infection and decision fatigue. Still, a significant amount of work shows the deterioration of mental health during the early times of the pandemic and that it might have impacted the degree of decision fatigue too. Dr. Pignatiello pointed out that while such data may not be available that studies the link between covid and decision fatigue, the fact remains that daily lives and work environments have drastically changed. Healthcare professionals faced burnout due to an overwhelming number of infections, and people had to shift to the model of working from home. A lot of people lost their wages and employment.
That aside, it is undeniable that healthcare workers (mainly nurses) suffered from decision fatigue for a long time, even after a couple of months into the pandemic since its inception. One of the reports in 2021 suggested that nurses needed facilities to avert decision fatigue caused by the covid-induced stress.
Symptoms of decision fatigue
A sense of tiredness and brain fog can be some of the common signs of mental or physical fatigue. One can also introspect to identify if they are having this problem. If a person cannot deliberate appropriately before making a critical decision, they can be the victim of decision fatigue.
Coping up with decision fatigue
According to Dr. Pignatiello, different ways are there to manage this condition. People can save energy for more important decisions than spending on their daily choices. You can achieve this if you set up a daily routine, fix your outfits, and prepare your meals in a planned manner. Don’t feel guilty if you feel tired and need to take a break or nap. Replenish your mind and body. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and removing stress can also help.
COVID-19 has caused tremendous worries in everyone’s life, affecting their physical, mental, emotional, and financial well-being. While its impact is receding, the threat is still there. CDC guidelines have relaxed masking requirements. But one must be careful of their steps while returning to normal life. Some habits like exercising and good food intake should continue. At the same time, spending time in nature for fresh air can also promote wellness. If someone has to slow down, they should be compassionate and try to build themselves back gradually.