HEALTH: Decision Fatigue

“What should I cook for dinner tonight?” “What should I pack the kids for lunch?” “Do I have time to go for a run?”

These are just some of the daily decisions parents need to make, not to mention answering the hundreds of questions kids ask every day.

With so many choices and decisions to be made every day, we can become mentally exhausted, also known as ‘decision fatigue’ and more often than not it can affect you more than physical exhaustion.

When we have too many decisions to make we can become overwhelmed and stressed and in doing so we can start to make poor choices for ourselves and our family, resulting in feelings of failure and guilt.

I had my three kids in four years and the daily decisions I had to make became so overwhelming I couldn’t focus and give my full attention to anything. I started to doubt my decisions and was constantly questioning myself. I knew my kids were being affected because at such a young age they felt and took on my nervous energy, which in turn made them nervous and unsettled. I decided I had to change the way I thought about going through my day. I didn’t want to just survive, I wanted to thrive.

We can cut down on decision fatigue, it just take some planning ahead and creating new routines for yourself and the family. Step by step I made life simpler until I was happy with the way life was flowing. Here are eight ways I have made decision fatigue a thing of the past.

  • Plan your weekly meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This alone will cut out the bulk of decision making for the week.
  • Plan the days you do your laundry. My husband wakes up at 4.30am and I get up with his alarm and turn on the washing machine, having loaded it the night before. I often go back to sleep and by the time I wake up at 6am the washing is done and I hang it out before starting my day. I’m particular about how the washing is to be hung (without pegs and inside out) so this is one job I don’t give the kids.
  • Pick a day to do your grocery shopping. This is one of the jobs I don’t enjoy but I know I have to do it (my husband does the top ups during the week in case we run out of bread or milk) The local supermarkets open at 7am and I’m usually there waiting for the doors to open every Wednesday morning. Mornings are usually quiet so I can zip around the isles and get through the register within the hour. Once home, my kids and I put all the groceries away and that’s that for another week. I have to admit, it is satisfying once everything is put away.
  • Set up automatic banking for bills. I have most of my bills and payments set up in my bank account so the bills come out when they’re due. All the other bills I don’t have automated I make a date in my phone calender and I pay them when my reminder goes off. I set the reminder alarms just after 9am so I can pay them after I have dropped the kids off at school.
  • Some of you may be driving your kids around after school to their extra-curricular activities so you could spend that time ‘catching up’ with your kids. Car ride conversations are a great time to see how your child’s day was at school or find out if they have anything on their mind. Sometimes kids might feel more comfortable talking about an uncomfortable topic or concern if the focus is not entirely on them, eye to eye. I admit, I love the things my kids tell me during sport drop offs and pick ups.
  • Set a reasonable bedtime for your children and yourself. If the kids are in a good bedtime routine, it can be easier to create your own. When you sleep well you feel good and you make healthier choices and better decisions. Lack of sleep can make you overtired and that is when you can start to feel like nothing is working or going your way.
  • Make time to exercise. Not everyone is a gym junkie or an avid runner but try and make time in the day to ‘move’. I’m lucky I live near the beach so most mornings I take the kids to the beach so they burn all the excess energy they have from a good night’s sleep and I get to walk on the sand and breathe in that amazing sea air. If you don’t live near a beach, take the kids to the park or playground or even a brisk 20 minute walk around the block is great. Some evenings I will go for a bike ride with one of my kids. I make sure I do at least one thing a day. I used to do pilates three or four times a week but at this point in time I can’t do the classes due to family commitments and that is okay, because I know there will come a time when my kids are older that I can pick up the classes again. Some of you might like to exercise alone so make a point of fitting it in to your weekly schedule, without it affecting your diet or sleep.
  • Create some ‘nothing’ time. This might sound like a waste of time in world full of busyness and decisions, but I guarantee even 10 minutes of alone time will benefit you. What do you do in these 10 minutes you ask? Just breathe… grab a cuppa, flick through a magazine, stretch, stare out of the window – whatever you find relaxing.

For me personally, planning and having a solid routine for sleep, diet and exercise are non-negotiable. These are the three things that make my life easier and are good for my emotional and mental wellbeing. When I’m a calmer and happier mother and wife, my family are calmer and happier.

Reading this could be overwhelming but just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once, do one thing at a time. Get used to the routine and then add in another thing. The point is to make life simpler and not to have to make so many decisions every day.

Originally posted 21 October 2018 on Kids on the Coast