Many people are complaining of feeling exhausted during the pandemic. Why? You have both learning fatigue and decision fatigue. Here’s how to fix it.
Today we’re going to talk about something that a lot of people are saying, “I’m freaking exhausted. Why am I so exhausted?“
The reason is there are actually two things happening for you psychologically.
First one is Learning Fatigue. I want you to think back a little while ago when you first learned how to drive a car and how it was overwhelming.
You had to think about steering and keeping the car straight on the road. You had to watch the mirrors; you had to do the indicator thing. You had your feet doing things, and you were trying to change your gears. It was all a bit of an effort while you tried to work out how you were going to get all of these pieces of the puzzle sorted. It took quite a few lessons and those hundred hours of practice until it became second nature.
Right now, every one of you is having to learn new ways of doing things. Many businesses are having to quickly learn how to use Zoom or other types of live streaming to get their business out there. Or they are trying to swap from regular restaurants to home delivery.
Every single business is going through this right at the moment, so every single one of you is learning new ways of being and new ways of doing. It’s like you have lesson after lesson of driving lessons.
If you remember in the early days when you first started to learn to drive, you’d have half an hour or one hour lesson, and then you were exhausted.
Right now, every one of you is having lesson after lesson. It’s like an entire day of lessons – which is why you’re so tired. That’s part one.
Part two is Decision Fatigue. Decision fatigue is a term that was coined by Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist. It’s where when you have to make a lot of decisions one after the other and what happens is the quality of your decisions deteriorate.
Right now, all of us are having to make lots and lots and lots of decisions. Now we have to think about, “Should I go to the shops? If I go to the shops, when should I go to the shops? What do I have to get while I am in self-isolation? How can I shop in the fastest time possible?” All of those decisions make you tired.
You also have to think about “What if I have to home-school? How am I going to home school?” You’re having to think about elder care. “How do I get food to nan and pop? How do we look after them if they get ill?”
All of these are big decisions as well as huge moral decisions. Each decision that you make about going to the shop isn’t an easy “just get in the car and go” anymore.
It’s like a military exercise. You have to think: Do you have your hand sanitiser? Have you got your list? When are you going? Why are you going? It has significant implications. One wrong shop and you could potentially get coronavirus.
And if you’ve got the virus and you’re not aware of it, you can give it to somebody, and you could kill them.
Every single decision that you’re making right now is a huge, big moral decision. It’s decision after decision after decision.
With decision fatigue, once you’ve made lots and lots of decisions, the quality of your decisions deteriorates.
Why that happens is that decisions take a lot of energy to power, so your blood sugar goes out of whack during the day. When your body’s blood sugar goes out of whack, you reach for those carbs, and you reach for those sugary snacks trying to give your body that quick hit of blood sugar.
Not only do you reach for unhealthy foods, but your decisions are also less effective, which is why some people towards the end of the day will find themselves on eBay buying strange hats (we’re not mentioning any names).
Other don’t just make dodgy decisions, they go into paralysis mode or procrastinate. They know they’ve got to make a decision, but they just can’t get the energy to do it. They’re just always exhausted.
Right now, you’ve got decision fatigue clashing with learning fatigue. You put the two together and no wonder you’re exhausted! Your body is telling you it’s making too many decisions.
Tips for Better Decisions
So, what do you do about it? Here are a few tips to get you back into a more positive decision-making mode
1. Eat Well
The most important tip is to eat well throughout the day to balance your blood sugars. You don’t want blood sugar peaks and troughs because that’s when you’re going to get into the carbs and the sugars.
You want to eat small little bits of healthy foods throughout the day. That will also help you to reduce the cravings for those fatty and sweet things, and it’ll also improve the quality of your decision making.
2. Shop Early
It’s important to shop early because if you shop at the end of the day, your decision fatigue has kicked in and you won’t make positive decisions, which means it is more likely for you to pick up bad foods, but also to take risks with your health. So that may mean that you may forget to wash your hands when you come home, or you forget to use hand sanitiser.
Shop early when you’ve got all of your mental resources with you.
3. Make Big Decisions in the Morning
It is important to make big decisions early in the day when you’ve got the maximum possible mental bandwidth.
One way to do this is if you’ve got to make important decisions, write the decisions needing to be made down on your “To Do” list and then see if you can make the decisions early in the day when you’ve got mental bandwidth.
If you do have to make a decision later in the day, have a healthy snack first to even out your blood sugar because some studies are showing that if you have a healthy snack, it’ll help you to make better decisions.
There’s a lot of psychology and a lot of studies around this. There was a particularly interesting study around judges who were granting parole. What they found is that if someone’s parole hearing was just before a judge’s lunch, they were less likely to be granted parole. If their hearing was just after a judges’ lunch, they were more likely to be granted parole.
So, the Snickers ads have it right, and they’re playing on the psychology of decision making. You’re not yourself when you’re hangry.
4. Reduce non-essential decisions
Another thing to do is to simplify non-important decisions. That’s why Steve Jobs always used to wear a black turtleneck sweater and jeans. It was one less decision he had to make.
That’s why Barack Obama always only wore two shades of suits to reduce the decision making options that he had to make.
Remove the unnecessary little decisions from your life
5. Set yourself a routine
It’s essential to have routine and structure and stick to it. It helps if you know what you will be doing at particular times of the day. Having a pattern reduces the decisions that are needed, which allows you to be able to focus on decisions that matter.
6. Take a nap
If you’re tired, try to have an afternoon nap to help you to do a mental reset. Take a siesta because you’re doing it for your mental health and to improve the quality of your decision making and to stop your exhaustion.
7. Turn off alerts for social media
Turn off all of the alerts on your phone for your social media, including your Twitter and your Facebook alerts. You don’t need those unnecessary distractions right now because all that’s doing is distracting you. You see the alerts and then check them which draws from your tiny reserve of decision-making power, and you get even more exhausted.
8. Go outside and get a tiny bit of sun
We’re all indoors at the moment. When we’re staying indoors, we’re reducing our vitamin D. We used to get vitamin D incidentally from the sun when went to the shops or ran our errands, but we’re not getting that now.
If your vitamin D levels drop, that will increase your exhaustion, and it also can lead to mental health issues.
Go outside once a day. Have a cup of tea in the sun and get a little tiny bit of your sun to top up your mental solar panels.
So, remember that right now you might be feeling exhausted – lots of people are. You’re not broken right.
The reason you’re exhausted is decision fatigue and learning fatigue. You’re learning to do new things in new ways, and the number of decisions that you have to make right now is mind-blowing.
You constantly have to make new decisions, and each decision is a big freaking decision with the potential to impact your family and the people around you.
You need to look after your mental and physical health right now.
If you’re exhausted, then eat healthy food to balance your blood sugars, have those naps and be gentle on yourself.