Decision Making Without Having a Nervous Breakdown

I remember when grocery stores were switching over to plastic bags and they would ask you “Paper and plastic?” As a young mom, it was almost the tipping point for a nervous breakdown. By the time I had navigated through 32 varieties of canned tomatoes, made budget decisions and evaluated if my kid really needed to use the potty before leaving the store… well, my brain was shriveling. (What was left of my brain anyway.)

She may as well have asked if I would like a nervous breakdown to go with my grocery order.

Most of us don’t realize the number of decisions we must navigate every day. True, we do many things via muscle memory. You don’t need to think of which leg to put on first when you dress in the morning. We drive the same route to our usual destinations. And a glance at the caller ID on your cell phone will trigger an instant decision to reject or accept a call.

Some decisions are important but we struggle with them because of the accumulation of all the smaller ones that consume our bandwidth. We get decision fatigue without even realizing it.

If decisions are cluttering your head, here are some guidelines to help you clear some space between your ears.

First, recognize not making a decision is making a decision. Look, I feel ya. Sometimes it’s easier to pour yourself a glass of wine and binge watch Downton Abbey. Again. (Ahem, ahem.)

This thing called life is going to march on whether you chose to step up your participation in it or not. So much of our cultural and educational training has turned us into passive participants by creating an atmosphere of fear around making the wrong decision.

OMG people. Make a fricken’ decision. There are no wrong or right decisions. There are just decisions. Sometimes the outcome of those decisions may cause some pain or unintended consequences. So, make another decision.

Automate as many decisions as you can. For example, I keep my breakfast choices limited. This helps limit the amount of time spent staring into the fridge pondering what to eat.

This also means making important decisions in advance. Exercising daily is a given. I don’t need to ask IF I’m going to the gym, it’s when. And then I usually have a few predetermined times.

Minimize options. Grocery sales fliers are tempting but I stick to two main grocery stores. When my kids were little, I had meal themes for each day of the week (think–Taco Tuesday,) so it minimized the “what to fix for dinner” question.

I am also a fan of capsule wardrobes. These are simple wardrobes that revolve around a few versatile basics. I realize the thought of such a small wardrobe could make my fashion conscience friends twitch, so feel free to disregard.

Curate and limit your sources on information gathering. The amount of data available to use with the click of a mouse is staggering. There can also be a plethora of conflicting information. Find a few quality sources and stick with it.

If you’d really like to get your head swimming with overload, ask for opinions on Facebook. NOT!  But do ask a few trusted friends for their perspective if that would be helpful.

Set a deadline for the decision. This is where many of us get caught in analysis paralysis.

Small decisions (should I get Bounty or Brawny paper towels?), just make the damn decision.

Medium decisions. Purchases over $100 bucks or so fit this category for me. These are the “sleep on it” decisions. A thousand-dollar purchase would merit a week or so of consideration time.

Bigly big decisions. These are career changes, moves, do-we-move-mom-in-with-us sort of decisions. Give these a few months. Beyond that, you’re just procrastinating.  Chances are excellent that no new information is going to bring more clarity.

Finally, decide. Getting bogged down in indecision creates a beast all its own. But by implementing these few strategies, you can direct your day–without decision fatigue. Or a nervous breakdown.

The best part though?  You are taking control of the only thing you can control-your power to make a decision.

Theresa Winn Lode is a certified life coach and author.  She makes the very important decision to drink coffee every morning which in turn helps her make other decisions. She loves people watching and occasionally cusses a lot. Find her at

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