Decision Fatigue and Stress

There have recently been a number of posts in social media that have resonated with me that help me understand why I developed the products I did... and it comes down to decision fatigue. I had read about this syndrome with judges. A 2011 study on decision making in judges in the Israeli Parole Board system found that judges were more likely to make favourable rulings right after breaks. Otherwise, as the day wore on, they tended to default to a non-favourable ruling. Think about that when you're going through your day!

Everything in Caregiving is a decision, from what you wear in the morning, to which route your need to take to the appointment, to how much time do I have to squeeze one more thing into my schedule, to how do I handle this piece of information/behaviour/situation.

In my reading there are eight key actions we can take to reduce stress:

1. Reduce the number of choices you have to make each day. For example, plan menus for the week and there's one less decision every day.

2. Create repetition to help with recall. For example, make appointments at the same time and place and hopefully the same day of the week if possible.

3. Write down the details so you aren't trying to remember everything and become afraid of forgetting. (Stress affects our ability to recall information.) Check out the 4ward Care and Health Trackers at

4. Tackle the most difficult decisions first thing in the morning after you’ve eaten.

5. Exercise and breathe. Stretch, particularly your shoulders, get up and go for a walk, breathe deeply at points throughout the day. Exercise has been found to be as effective as medication in managing mild ot moderate depression.

6. Eat properly and regularly. If your blood sugar goes too low, so does your mental state and your ability to absorb new information and make decisions. Think of that study on the judges.

7. Stay connected. It becomes a viscious circle if you don't. Talking to others helps you get a fresh perspective and be more creative when making decisions. Getting out and about, listening to music, and socializing re-sets the brain so you have a chance to actually come at an issue from a different perspective.

8. Ensure you have a support group who can help with last minute things. For example, if an appointment with the care recipient runs over time and you have to pick up your child from school, have someone you can call to pick up your child from school. Make sure the school phone number is in your phone as well so you can inform the school someone else is picking up the child. You know you’ll be able to return the favour another time.

But when anxiety hits and your body kicks into overdrive the key is to bring your minds focus back into your physical environment:

1. Touch something so you have a physical connection and describe it to yourself, how it feels, what it’s shape is, etc.

2. Get some food and something to drink, preferably something cold to drink. The sensation will jog your mind.

3. Breathe slowly in and out while counting to yourself.

4. Move your body Stress causes the blood to pool in the core, leaving hands and feet feeling cold and shoulders hunched. Stretching and moving will help to move the blood through your body and change the dynamics going on inside.

5. Put in writing what is causing the stress. What decision are you trying to make that is causing the anxiety. What personal principles are competing? For example, your commitment to your care recipient versus your commitment to your child, or fear of financial loss versus fear of being perceived as selfish. If you see the problem in writing, it is now an object that can be tackled rather than emotions that shift as you think about the topic causing the anxiety. Then create a decision tree (if I make this decision, then that happens) and you can work through the options and the pros and cons of each option. By the end you will have a better understanding of what is causing the anxiety, whether you can reduce the factors that cause you the anxiety and what options you have in your control to address the issue causing the anxiety.

6. Find a quiet place and have a good cry. It’s amazing how the release of tears also releases stress. Then try #5 again:)

For more reading on the topic, check out:


And here is the reference to the study on decision making of parole judges

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