The Connection Between Stress & Willpower
In a previous post, I shared how it takes a lot longer to form a healthy habit than we had been led to believe (three times longer, in fact!). I’ve got some more news for you when it comes to sticking with those healthy habits.
Have you ever noticed how much harder it is to have willpower when you’re stressed or have had a long day at work or with the kids? It doesn’t have to be “bad” stress, either – your willpower can lag after an awesome day spent sightseeing, shopping or doing something else that you love.
The reason this happens is because of something called “decision fatigue.” Studies show that the more decisions you make over the course of a day, the harder it is to use your willpower or self control.
For instance, after a long day you might not feel very energetic… and feel like skipping your workout. Saying “no” to junk food can also become harder. You might procrastinate on chores, and if you go shopping, you could end up spending a lot more than you planned.
Here’s a weird fact: even your ability to do basic math equations can be affected!
This doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when decision fatigue kicks in. Instead, now that you know it’s a real “thing,” you can head it off at the pass. Here are some things you can do to avoid decision fatigue in the first place:
- Plan and prepare your meals ahead of time. When you have healthy food ready to go, that’s one less decision to make!
- Before you go to bed at night, prepare yourself for a successful next day. Remember how you planned before your first day of school each year? You had your outfit ready and your timeline set so you be ready on time and get off to a great start. This is huge!
- When possible, time block your schedule so you have more control over how you spend your time. This way, instead of thinking about what you need to do next, it’s already planned out for you! Don’t forget to make time for your to-do list, workouts, grocery shopping, and spending time with family and friends!
And, when decision fatigue DOES strike, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. Instead, now that you know it’s a real “thing,” you can head it off at the pass. The best way thing you can do is show yourself a little TLC!
You can burn off the stress with a workout (you’ll feel better once you get going!) or eat a healthy spicy meal (studies show hot foods boost endorphins, the feel-good hormones).
If that seems like too much work, how about brewing a cup of herbal tea and finding a quiet spot to chill out with a good book?
Another great way to battle decision fatigue is by having a support network. Having a strong team around you is a HUGE part of being successful. Your team can keep you on track and focused.
A lot of people who experience decision fatigue think that there is something wrong with their willpower. They blame themselves and then get insanely jealous of others who seem to be able to stay on track no matter the challenges. The difference between you and them isn’t willpower – it’s that they have created (and follow) healthy habits that help them plan for decision fatigue moments because they happen to everyone. So if you struggle with willpower ‘issues’ then this is just an indication that you need to cultivate habits and create systems that will help you manage the stressful parts of your day when you’re not up to making healthy choices for yourself.
Creating a blueprint for success and helping to hold people accountable is my specialty. If you need help with this, consider joining my 7 Day Healthy Habits Challenge where we work on creating healthy habits that will help you rely less on willpower and more on strategies and habits that you can depend on everyday to help you make good decisions for your health.