I Know Why You’re So Exhausted

Posted on Dec 15, 2014

I know why you are so exhausted.  The reason might surprise you.

  • It isn’t because of the extra effort it takes just to do the simple things this time of year, like buy groceries or park your car.
  • It isn’t because of extra time you spend with your extended family, and the inevitable regression that it triggers.
  • It isn’t because of the pressure on you to actually have “Happy Holidays.”


You are exhausted because there are just too many decisions to make in December.

You have Decision Fatigue.

Decision Fatigue different from emotional or physical fatigue – you’re not consciously aware of being tired – but you’re low on mental energy.


We are exhausted not just because we have so much more to do, but because we have so many more decisions to make.


Most of our holiday tasks involve hundreds of micro-decisions:


Buying Gifts: Who is on the list? How much should I spend? Is this the best price? Is a gift card okay? Elsa or Anna?

Sending holiday cards:  Which picture? Which tinyprints design is best? Do I need to include a written note? Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Holiday parties: Yes, No and what should I wear? Is a bottle of wine good enough to bring to the host or do I need to buy a gift too?


The list goes on and on.


Mixed messages this time of year only make decisions harder:

  • We are encouraged to indulge during the holidays, while NOT to gaining weight.
  • We are told to buy gifts for almost everyone we know, while not running up credit card balances.
  • We are told to express our gratitude for what really matters-family and friends–while being bombarded with advertisements extolling materialism.


Of course, you’re exhausted!


Good decision-making is not a character trait.

It is a form of mental energy that can be exhausted.


No one can make decision after decision without paying a biological price. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain.


Here are some suggestions for reducing the strain on your brain:

1.     Make the most important decisions early in the day when your brain is rested.

2.     Don’t waste energy deciding what you are going to eat.  Eat the same breakfast every day. Choose 5 dinners your family loves and make only those recipes for the month of December.

3.     Turn off non-essential alerts on you phone.  Do you really need an update on immigration reform while running errands? I think not.

4.     Choose a single gift that you can give to many people: Buy a case of your favorite wine or nice chocolates wrapped and ready to give to hosts. Give all the kids over the age of 12 an amazon gift card.

5.     When you start feeling decision fatigue, don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion.  The quality of your decisions won’t be good anyway.  Hello, impulse buys.


Above all, remember this holiday season that done is better than perfect.