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3 Ways to Reduce Decision Fatigue & Anxiety in Westchester, NY

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

mental health, Westchester therapy, New York therapists, emdr therapy

I’ve written before about some of the spoils of the modern world and their effects on our mental health. We trade quality nourishment for time with the foods we eat, unique memories for story posts and external validation that we do, in fact, attend events, and healthy human curiosity for instantaneous misinformation from search engines and social media. Unfortunately, we also trade decisiveness for the abundance of choice, which leads to what is known as decision fatigue. By itself, decision fatigue is not new to the modern world, whereas clearly, we’ve been “deciding” things throughout all of history. It’s that the age of information and various technological advances have provided us with more options to choose from than ever before when it comes to deciding…well…anything. This has always been a limited capacity within our minds, but what we see now is the burning out of this capacity far too soon into our days.

One would assume that with more choice, there’d be more of everyone’s preference available, thus reducing the time it takes us to pick something. Wrong. Researchers have shown that the abundance of choice being a convenience is merely an illusion. For this, we can thank the mobilizing power of dopamine and the hardwired inclination that we may always find something better. We can see evidence of this literally everywhere – the 3 most obvious categories being entertainment, food, and relationships. We have almost every TV show and movie ever made at our fingertips yet never know what to watch, or never finish anything in its entirety. We research menus for hours, sometimes days in advance and still must ask the server for more time to decide on dinner. We must choose the best dating app platform, then decide if we want to take an interaction a step further or keep swiping. We run from challenges as soon as honeymoon phases end in hopes of finding the next soulmate and everlasting euphoria.

Before I derail into the next garden variety dystopian drama script (that you would obviously struggle to decide on whether to watch), let’s discuss some ways that you can reduce decision fatigue, and reduce your overall anxiety level.

1. The Night Before

Get everything you need for the next day ready the night before. This is one of the most suggested ways to increase overall organization in life yet goes so unnoticed when things get stressful. Everything from what clothes you’ll need, what order you’ll take them out of your bag, the meals you’ll need, and any other items for that day should be either already packed or waiting by the door/in the kitchen. And yes, you will be decision fatigued while doing this, but the only thing left to do is to relax or go to sleep at night. When you’re taxing the decision muscle first thing in the morning, your workday can go a whole lot differently than originally planned.

Extending into the morning of said day, try not to do any “work” until you get to work. That’s another way we burn out the decision muscle too soon. If it will be there when you get into your place of work, and can only be worked on in that location, just wait until you arrive and then turn the gears.

2. Blinders On While Shopping

It’s practically common knowledge now that consumerism is directly tied to principles of psychology, and that anything that looks like it’s to benefit us, is just to benefit the company’s sales. In department stores or any retail locations there are usually many small shelves or barrels containing tons of random odds and ends that you’ll find in the front entrance. You’ve seen them – Christmas ornaments, a back scratcher, gum, a Buddha statue, and Tylenol right next to each other. These are also usually items that we consume in mass quantities or buy at other stores during a different errand trip, yet for some reason the Home Goods brand of tortilla chips sounds mouthwatering today. These sections are designed to burn out your decision muscle because we will look at each one and ask ourselves if we need it, before then deciding between the 2500 flatscreen or the one the salesman really thinks we should go with that’s double the price. They also place these sections in the check-out line because you’ve now been fatigued by the first bombardment, the shopping experience with the flat screen, so the useless gadgets while you wait in line are all that much more appealing. Avoid them by looking down at the floor or straight ahead at nothing in particular as you enter the store.

3. Just Wait till You Get There

This goes hand in hand with living more mindfully in that the more present you are, the easier it will be to trust that you’ll make the right decisions in those respective moments. If you’re going on vacation, look up a couple of things to do and then wing it when you get there. If you’re going out to eat, pick 2-3 things that sound good and decide when the server gets to the table. Life is full of situations like this where we unconsciously exhaust ourselves anticipating such drastic outcomes in our mood and experiences depending on whether we got cheese on our fries. You will enjoy the experiences more, and the big decisions with work or socially will become easier.

Other suggestions that you’ve probably heard before are:

  • Stop mindless scrolling on social media or news outlets.

  • Read one book at a time.

  • Master 1 coping skill before you try to install 20.

The list goes on and on, but a general rule of thumb is that if it won’t change the next steps of your life in a significant way, spend as little time as possible deciding on this outcome.


sports psychologist, emdr therapy, emdr therapist, trauma informed

Sean O'Connor is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling in Scarsdale, NY.

Sean specializes in sports psychology and trauma informed counseling to helps adults and athletes overcome anger, depression, anxiety, PTSD and stress.

Sean is available Monday thru Thursday, in person at our Scarsdale Office and virtually for residents of New York and Florida.


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