The average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. But special-needs parents make thousands more than the average, leading to the additional stress of decision fatigue.
Our decision making begins as soon as we wake up. Do I hit snooze or jump out of bed? Do I try to take a shower before my son wakes up or wait until after I drop him off at therapy? What should I wear? Some of these decision are the same ones most moms make each day. But because my twelve-year-old son is functionally nonverbal and needs significant help, I’m not only making decisions for myself, I’m making them for him as well. What will he wear? What will he have for lunch? What book will I put in his back pack for him to look at on the bus on his way home from school?
This extra decision making isn’t just for a season of our lives—this will be true for the foreseeable future. And it’s one of the top contributors to caregiver stress and burnout.
So what’s the solution? We can take steps to eliminate some of the decisions we make.
Studies claim we repeat about 40% of our behavior almost daily. You probably eat lunch at the same time each day. You sit in the same seats at church each Sunday. You order the same meal at your favorite restaurant. I even text my best friend at the same times each day (8:00ish am and 8:00ish pm to see what she had planned for the day and then see how it went). You aren’t making these decisions every time because you’ve already figured out what works for you and you just repeat it.
To eliminate fatigue and burnout, make the best decision you can and then repeat it. As Gretchen Rubin wrote, “I should make one healthy choice, and then stop choosing.” (Better Than Before, affiliate link)
You can do this by keeping a journal of all the decisions you make each day and try to eliminate as many of them as you can. Or you can just pay attention to the patterns in your day and figure out what you can repeat. I wear the same shirt every Monday so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to put on when we’re all in a hurry to get out of the house. On Sunday nights I meal plan for the week so I don’t have to think about it at 4:30 pm when I’m experiencing the fatigue that comes from making decisions all day long. At 9:00 pm I get off my phone and read a book instead so I don’t have to decide when to stop scrolling.
In order to decrease the stress you feel as a caregiver, put decision making on autopilot when possible so you have more energy and wisdom to make the decisions that really matter.
Want more help in setting routines that work for your family and eliminating decision fatigue? Join my Self-Care for the Special-Needs Mom Facebook group!