Have you ever just sat staring into space pondering over a simple decision and then before you know it, 15 minutes has passed and you’ve forgotten what you were doing or given up and moved onto something else? That’s what I like to refer to as my decision fatigue.
Life with both a physical and mental illness is exhausting most of the time. I have very little energy throughout the day so my time needs to be spent wisely. It really helps when I can make decisions quickly, but that can be really difficult when the brain fog sets in and I become lethargic and confused. Simple choices like deciding what to wear, what to have to eat or what to watch on television become long drawn out affairs. Sometimes I’ll give up and put it off until later. That’s fine if I was just trying to decide on what TV programme to watch but not so great if I was choosing what to eat. Who’s to say I’ll have the energy left to cook later? I probably won’t, and sometimes that results in skipped meals.
If like me, you find yourself struggling with simple everyday choices then I hope you will find some of my tips helpful.
Decision number 1. When to wash my hair.
Before I became ill I was one of those people that insisted on washing their hair every day. It kept me feeling clean and looking my best. Now that I spend alot of time at home and need to conserve my energy I decided this every day ritual needed to stop. It was no longer necessary. So now I’ll plan out my hair washing a few days in advance to avoid the usual morning should I or shouldn’t I routine, which usually involves me staring at the mirror for a half hour trying to decide if my hair looks greasy or not. If I know I’m spending the day at home then I’ll not bother to wash it. I’ll schedule it for when I have an appointment or I’m meeting friends and I’ll plan it so that I’m only washing it 3 times a week. For example, this week I had an appointment on Monday and Tuesday and I’d arranged to meet a friend on Friday and have my usual family day on Saturday. So I’ll wash it on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That way, when I’m out or seeing anyone I’ll have washed it either that morning or the day before. Perfect! A spray of dry shampoo on the days in between is more than adequate.
Decision number 2. What should I wear today?
Like many other people I have a wardrobe jam packed with clothes that I often don’t wear. I have too much choice and it can take forever to make a decision in the mornings. Since becoming ill I’ve developed a few strategies to help speed up the process of choosing what to wear.
I began by sorting through items and disregarding anything I don’t feel attractive or comfortable in. I took these items and either stored them elsewhere, sold them or donated them. I spend a long time being housebound and wearing comfy but unattractive clothes only adds to my low self esteem. I might be housebound most of the time but I still deserve to wear nice things. I will also store occasion/party wear elsewhere because my health rarely allows me to attend social events so I really don’t need these items cluttering up my wardrobe. Same with high heeled shoes that my sore legs and feet won’t allow me to wear right now.
Now that I have narrowed down my options a bit I’ll pick out a couple of bottom options for the week. Say, one pair of joggers for house days, a denim skirt for house days or sunny days and a pair of jeans to wear for any appointments I have. I don’t like the idea of choosing the entire outfit in advance because it takes away all the fun, so just selecting the bottom options works well for me. I have lots of t-shirts and sweaters that will mix and match with the bottoms I’ve chosen and I’ll pick these out on the day. Just having one item to choose is way less overwhelming and I find it much quicker.
Decision 3. Deciding what to watch on TV.
One of the biggest difficulties for me mentally is the feeling of being unproductive when I’m unable to go out to work. The novelty of daytime TV soon becomes old and I found myself pointlessly staring at the TV guide or channel hopping in hope that something interesting would catch my eye. For me there’s only been one solution. Turn the darn thing off unless there’s something in particular I want to watch. It’s saved me hours of wasted time. I have 2 daily soaps I like to watch and the odd evening programme once a week so I’ll set the TV box to record my regular programmes and I’ll only switch on the TV when I want to watch them. Instead, I’ll fill my time with more productive hobbies like journaling or blogging. Then when I do feel like binge watching Netflix in bed for a few hours it feels like more of a treat.
Decision 4. What should I have to eat?
This one has been hugely difficult for me. I live on my own so I have to make my own meals for one, and 90% of the time I’m too fatigued to stand and cook hot food. I tried to listen to other peoples advice about eating a good meal and making sure there was plenty of shopping in the house at all times but it just didn’t work for me. I have to accept that on most days I’m not going to feel well enough to stand over the cooker making hot food and then clean up afterwards. Plus, having too much choice with food just becomes overwhelming. So now, I’ll write a list of meals that I can reasonably expect to be able to make for the coming week and I’ll buy only what I need. Anything fresh and in the fridge will be used at the start of the week and then I’ll move on to freezer stuff towards the end. So I’d definitely recommend writing a list of meals in advance of shopping day and sticking to it! Don’t forget of course to add a few little snacks you can nibble on throughout the day, ideally ones that will keep for a while like nuts, crisps or babybel cheeses (I love those at the minute!). Stick to the list and be realistic, it makes the decisions so much easier!
Decision number 5. I’ve been invited to a social event. Do I say yes, no or maybe?
One of the most difficult things since becoming ill has been maintaining the relationships with my friends. Most of them sadly have given up on me because I don’t go out much and they don’t want to waste time sat indoors with me. As a consequence I don’t get many invites for social events but the ones I do get, I really appreciate and would like to make the effort to go to, however difficult it may be for me. In reality though, I know I most probably will need to cancel at the last minute because I never know from one day to the next which symptoms will flare up and to what severity, and I absolutely hate letting people down. So what do I say? Agree to go and then have to let people down? Say maybe and have people not understand and think I’m not interested? Or do I just say no and save myself weeks of stressing about it. Years of being let down by friends has taught me just to put myself first and not feel bad about it. So, that’s what I do. I’m honest about it and say yes I’d love to go but please bear in mind that my health may prevent me from attending on the day. Genuine friends shouldn’t expect you to go if it’s going to cause unmanageable pain or fatigue on the day. If it’s something I just feel obliged to go to but I don’t think the additional pain and stress is worth it then I’m honest about that too. I’ll say thankyou but my energy is precious and I have to be very selective about what I spend time doing. If that offends them then so be it.
There’s lots of simple decisions that need to be made on a daily basis and for someone that suffers with fatigue it can feel both overwhelming and exhausting. I hope that you find some of my tips to be helpful and please feel free to leave some of your own tips and comments about your experiences with decision making.
Thanks for reading.
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash