Ego Depletion Definition
Ego depletion is the theory that self-control or willpower is a limited resource that can be used up. According to the reading, ego depletion occurs when people use their self-control or willpower by engaging in activities requiring mental effort and focus (McRaney). Once the store of willpower is depleted, humans are less able to control their impulses and thus procrastinate or give up easily. The causes of ego depletion are still being debated but may include glucose levels and mental energy (McRaney). Glucose is the sugar the body uses for energy, and it powers every activity in the body. Mental energy is what allows one to focus and concentrate on tasks. When either of these two is low, ego depletion can be experienced. The mechanisms at work may include reduced blood flow and changes in brain activity. Ego depletion is when people experience a decrease in mental resources after exerting self-control. This often leads to poorer decisions and can have dangerous consequences like drinking, eating unhealthy foods, or smoking. Ego depletion has also been linked with increases in aggression and unethical behavior.
Counteracting Ego Depletion
A person can do a few things to become aware of ego depletion and thus aid in counteracting it. Firstly, it is important to be aware of the signs of ego depletion. These can include feeling overwhelmed or stressed, having difficulty concentrating or making decisions, and feeling exhausted; in case of these indications, one needs to take action to replenish it (McRaney). Secondly, one should try to avoid decision fatigue by streamlining choices and simplifying their life where possible.
One can adopt many practices to minimize the effects of ego depletion. First, one can practice self-control skills regularly; building self-control reserve is achieved by practicing skills such as resisting temptation, delaying gratification, or regulating emotions. Second, one can take breaks often from work or activity by doing something fun and relaxing. Similarly, there are numerous strategies and habits of mind that can assist one in guarding against ego depletion. For instance, fatigue can contribute to a heightened sense of ego depletion; thus, this factor should be managed (McRaney). In terms of mental habits, it is helpful to adopt certain practices that promote self-regulation and self-control. For instance, practicing meditation can aid in training the mind to concentrate on the performed activities.
McRaney, David. “Ego Depletion”. You Are Not So Smart, 2012.