How to Make Good Decisions in High Stress Situations


If you’re a decision maker in your line of work, there may come a time where you’ll need to make a decision in a tough situation. Possibly turning a stressful situation into an ‘it’s you call’ disaster. But how can managers find ways to make the right decision in a stressful situation?

Well, it’s not easy. The way we deal with stress can help us make better decisions, take your personal life as an example – things said in anger, haste or poor taste are usually induced by stress, lashing out at your staff or clients might not be as easily forgotten as it is at home.

Does stress affect your ability to make good decisions?

Stress causes physical changes in our body, it makes us sweat, it makes us shake and it can even make us physically sick; but stress can also influence the way we think and react to certain situations. Whenever we are going through a stressful period, our brains enter a preset mode that creates a sort of filter on how we manage our reactions.

Making an important decision in a stressful time is an extremely harder task to achieve without the proper preparation. But there are ways to make a good up your mind in a fast and efficient way, read more to find out how.

How can I improve my decisions fast?

Ever heard of SMART goals? Well, SMART goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Result-focused and Time-bound goals that will allow an indiviudal to make a clear cut decission in no time; even if a stressful situation is brewing.

High stress situations mask our perception of goals stopping us from completing the decision-making process. All you need to do is levitate out of that high-stress scenario and see the problem from an outsider’s perspective. Here are some tips to help calm down a situation freeing your mind for some important decision making.

Calm down a high stress situation

Finding ways to calm down a stressful situation is hard. Especially if you’re not the only person dealing with the dilema.

Imagine you work for an advertising agency, you’re a brand executive working with a designer who’s just sent out an artwork for client approval without your go-ahead. You find out about this through the client; they tell you that the work is mediocre and they’d like the designer off the project. How are you going to break the news? What will you do if the designer reacts defensively? What if things get blown out of proportion?

When all these thoughts rush to your mind, the first thing you need to do is calm yourself down and take on the task ahead. Be sure to speak to your designer professionally and politely, do it away from the rest of the team and make sure you get your message through clearly and concisely to ensure that the error is not repeated. Always remember to:

  1. Make eye contact to show you care but that you are still in charge
  2. Understand what your employee is saying
  3. Speak slowly and don’t raise your voice
  4. Prioritize the truth, don’t play the blame game
  5. Offer a solution, you should be a leader and role model

Can this wait?

High stress situations seem to be filling our time more and more these days, well that’s because life’s demands on managerial roles are getting harder and harder. With the concept of ‘now’ is an instant thought in our minds – we want solutions quickly, we want them fast and we want them way more frequently than we can handle sometimes. This adds to the pressure of a situation.

But can it wait?

There are so many futile tasks in our day, tracking our time and planning out what our day holds always helps to alleviate high stress situations, but no matter how prepared you are sometimes, stress still kicks in.

Learn how to prioritise your tasks, set reminders, deadlines and be ready to delegate whenever possible. Sometimes when the ceiling is caving in, there are many people willing to hold it up until you manage to squeeze out. It’s a team effort that will diffuse high pressure scenarios most times.

Take your time

Whenever we’re put on the spot, we tend to freeze up and blurt out any random answer to get the spotlight off us. Calm down, there’s no need to stress out – be a strong leader and be honest in saying that you need time. You need to think or you need advice on a situation.

A fast and hard approach is not what a growing team needs from a manager. High stress situations will test a manager’s ability to dilute a situation and extract the most potential out of a problem, creating a solution that is beneficial to the growth of a company.

But these sort of highlights don’t happen when decisions are taken haphazardly. Your team will respect you more for making the right decision than a speedy yet incorrect one.

High stress situations will occur every now and then, especially if you’re facing harsh deadlines, big campaigns or difficult clients. Always remember to breathe, prioritise and take your time.


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