Currey Ingram Blog

How to Combat Decision Fatigue

Posted by Dr. Danielle Barton, Lower School Division Head on Nov 13, 2019 6:00:00 AM

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  - Viktor E. Frankl 

It has been estimated that the average adult makes as many as 35,000 decisions in one day (Krockow, 2018). Many of these decisions are made with very little thought, such as whether to press snooze on the alarm, what to wear to work, or what to eat for breakfast. Other decisions may be a bit more high-stakes. Despite the type of decision, there comes a point in which a person can reach mental overload, and as a result, decision making quality begins to erode. This phenomenon, known as decision fatigue, came out of psychologist Roy Baumesiter’s work on willpower (What is decision fatigue?, 2019). Decision fatigue impacts a person’s ability to make thoughtful decisions, and results in actions that are highly impulsive, emotional, or thoughtless.

As caregivers, it is important to engage in self-care to prevent ourselves from getting to the point of overload in which our reactions and decisions become rash.

At Currey Ingram Academy, we have implemented the RULER Approach to Social-Emotional Learning, an evidenced-based approach developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

In the RULER program, educators, students and parents are taught strategies to manage these moments of overload. One such strategy, the Meta-Moment, provides for steps for regulating emotions following a trigger.

  • Sense. Recognize the triggering event and the physical and emotional response you have to that trigger.
  • Pause. Create space within the moment to engage in body-based calming strategies, such as deep breaths or positive self-talk.
  • See your best self. Envision your ideal self, including personal characteristics and your desired reputation.
  • Strategize and act. Choose a thought strategy (e.g., positive reframing) or an action strategy (e.g., taking a walk) that aligns with your best self.

It is not easy to create space within moments, especially after having made the 32,149th decision of the day. Mindfulness requires practice and intentionality. At first, this practice may only come to you following a moment of poor decision making. However, the more frequently that intentional thought is pressed into these moments, the more commonplace it will become.


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