There are many decisions that you have to make while living with a chronic condition. Managing your current conditional along with all of the decisions you face each day can deplete your mental energy. Too many decisions at once can become overwhelming, leaving you feeling worn out and less confident.
This is a sign you are experiencing decision fatigue.
The hard part about chronic illness is that often there are more details to think about than fewer. Whether you’re dealing with an illness, caring for someone else who is ill or simply in the throes of chronic stress about all that’s going on around you, decision fatigue can set in before you’re aware of it.
Here are some ways to cope with decision fatigue when you feel worn out.
Focus on what’s most important to you
Decision fatigue makes it difficult to focus on any decision – big or small. Thoughts get jumbled, stress levels go up and it’s hard to move forward with a clear mind. Additionally when you have a number of decisions to make each day, when you’re feeling depleted, it can be hard.
The key is to learn how to focus on what’s most important to you. This will help you prioritize your needs first in the decision making process.
Make a list of all the decisions you need to make, and then consider which of these decisions would make things easier if they were handled today. If they don’t meet the “today” criteria, move that decision further down your list to free up mental space and energy.
Postpone decisions that don’t have a deadline or can wait until you’re less worn out
Have you noticed that you feel pressure to get everything done in one day or all at once? Or do you find yourself thinking ahead weeks or months at a time to figure out what you’ll need to do next?
There’s nothing wrong with being prepared to manage your life. But, with a chronic illness, this way of planning can keep you stuck in a decision fatigue loop full of worry and stress if you’re not careful. It also makes you feel overwhelmed and it’s very hard to make progress when you’re feeling burned out.
The stress from needing to handle everything as you manage your chronic illness can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. Focusing your thoughts in the future too much makes it harder to stay present with your health needs of today.
Balance your energy and calm your thoughts by prioritizing decisions that impact your life right now. Making decisions for something happening several months in the future may not be the best use of your time. It’s okay to take that off your plate for now and focus on today.
Take a look at your decisions list you made and figure out what you can postpone for later. Ask yourself what decisions need to be made each day. Then, cross off any that can wait. This will give you the mental ease of seeing a shorter list, and that makes everything feel less overwhelming.
Identify Someone You Trust to Help You Make Important Decisions
Ask your loved ones to support you by asking for help with certain decisions. Remember that managing your health is a full-time job, and it’s harder to keep everything going without help sometimes. You don’t have to make all of the decisions on your own.
Here are some quick decisions a loved one can help with to reduce your decision fatigue:
- Confirm and prepare dinner plans
- Help with your kids (what they’ll wear, going to a friend’s house, etc.)
- Household chores
Place Decision-Free Time on Your Schedule
What does your typical schedule look like? If you’re anything like me, it can get pretty full with medical appointments for myself or a loved one, work, household chores and errands that come with being an adult.
But how much of that time do you give yourself to actually be decision free?
Carve out decision-free time in your schedule to help you cope with exhaustion and fatigue, as you let yourself off the hook from doing it all. Your brain needs a break, and sometimes you have to take that time intentionally.
Consider what can work for you. It could be first thing in the morning, mid-day, at night before bed, or any regular time when you don’t have too much going on. Even if you need to block time out of your schedule, make that time for you to be free from anything serious of making any decisions. This can decrease stress levels and give you a rest for the rest of your day.
Start blocking times (or days) off right now. Your mind and body will thank you later.
Participate in Weekly Meaningful Activities
Now that you’ve taken some things off your plate by postponing or allowing someone else to take care of it, now it’s time for you to do something that doesn’t feel like work. Do something that you enjoy as a way to keep your mood steady and rejuvenate your energy.
New decisions about life and all that comes with it will be back on your schedule soon enough. Participate in meaningful activities as a way of giving yourself the experience of being fulfilled instead of just “productive.”
Meaningful activities help you focus on living and enjoying your life. This intentional act of self-compassion gives back to yourself as you learn to cope with decision fatigue.
Truthfully, you may not feel like doing anything at all (and I totally get it). Give yourself as much time as you need to recover. Then, focus on balancing rest with other meaningful activities so that time doesn’t pass you by while you get everything done.
Next Steps for Chronic Illness Management
It can be hard to determine the pros and cons of what’s most important after being diagnosed with a chronic condition. Discuss priorities for your health and lifestyle with your medical provider for additional assistance. Here are some ways to cope with the medical appointment anxiety as you make decisions.
I help individuals and families who are living with chronic illnesses and the emotional toll that it can bring. Therapy is a powerful tool that can help you continue talking about your chronic illness in a safe space. Although your journey with a chronic illness can be hard, therapy can make it more bearable because you get to practice having those conversations during the therapy session, giving you more confidence and improving your mental health.
You can schedule your first appointment with me by booking a free 15-minute consultation call.