Stress is the hallmark of challenging situations, making it even harder to pull yourself out of them. You often have an overwhelming sense of responsibility that interferes with your ability to see what is working, what needs changing, and what is actually under your control. Stress comes not only from that sense of responsibility but also from the pressure of finances, tribe management, interactions with vendors and customers, the need to stay ahead constantly, and more.
Yet, when your stress levels are high, the quality of your decision-making plummets.
A study cited by the Association for Psychological Science found that the negative impact of stress on decision-making, including risk aversion and antisocial behavior, increases during the first hour after a stressful event(1). Simply said, any decision you make within an hour of a stressful event is at risk of being poorer than if you would have made that same decision later.
What can you do in that first hour to decrease stress and improve your decisions?
Under stress, your first temptation may be to find a target to blame. Placing blame or making a judgment does not change the problem or produce solutions. Acceptance opens your mind to thinking of new possibilities.
In studies of depression, people who were able to move on to solving problems were most likely to reverse the sense of helplessness that accompanied their stress(2,3). Accepting that the problem exists regardless of blame, you free yourself to solve it.
In the face of a problem, often the most comfortable action is to declare a solution and move on. However, quick fixes are notorious breeders of unintended consequences. They also inhibit research and creative thinking, which could bring about longer-term, more profound, and more helpful solutions.
Instead, try acknowledging your stress and giving yourself and your team a moment to settle. By slowing down when you are under stress, you are improving the chances that you and your team will find the long-lasting, quality solutions you want.
Affirm the Positive
A study of 1,100 employees found five leading causes of negativity: excessive workload, anxiety about management’s ability, anxiety about job security, boredom, and insufficient recognition(4). Thoughts of negativity lead to unhealthy decisions.
Negative thinking takes many forms.
Self-deprecating- I’m not good enough.
Wishful thinking- If I had more money, I would be happy.
Comparing– I’d get more dates if I exercised more like them.
Labeling- I am a fraud.
The stress of negative thinking drains your ability to see a problem clearly, let alone find a solution.
By purposefully directing your awareness away from negative thoughts, you decrease this source of stress. You free yourself to hear the contributions and concerns of others and to consider the broader effects of your decisions.
The following mantras will help you relax, accept, slow down, and listen. Don’t like these, your favorite will do ☺
This is but a moment and this too shall pass.
This moment/situation/event is not my life. My life is what I make of it after this moment is over.
I am stronger than I feel.
I’m doing my best right now, and that’s all I can ask of myself.
Recognizing and celebrating the small successes within your team has a profound impact on morale and motivation. It is essential to create an environment where achievements are acknowledged, regardless of their scale. By doing so, you foster a culture of appreciation and continuous improvement.
Furthermore, transparency in decision-making and actions is crucial for keeping your team engaged and informed about the progress of your projects. Sharing updates about the steps being taken and the reasons behind them promotes trust and allows team members to align their efforts more effectively.
Research shows having and sharing gratitude is one of the powerful ways to ward off stress. When an entire tribe has/shares appreciation for one another, decision-making becomes far less complex.
At times, breaking free from the habits of assigning blame, rushing, dwelling on negativity, overworking, and neglecting your team can be challenging, especially when confronted with unforeseen issues that demand immediate attention. Seeking assistance, however, enables you to form a collaborative partnership, aiding in clarifying the situation and preventing overwhelming stress from clouding your innate capacity to think rationally and make effective decisions.
In times of high stress, accepting help is a powerful strategy. Here’s why it matters:
Diverse Perspectives: Seek input from others to gain fresh insights and creative solutions.
Shared Responsibility: Delegate tasks to distribute the workload and focus on critical decisions.
Emotional Support: Reach out to trusted individuals for emotional support and clarity.
Collaboration: Foster teamwork and unity, creating a resilient environment.
Faster Problem Resolution: Leverage collective knowledge and skills to solve complex challenges efficiently.
Navigating high-stress situations with clarity and effectiveness is not only possible but crucial for success. By embracing the strategies above, you can reduce the detrimental effects of stress and enhance your decision-making abilities. By implementing these principles, you can lead with confidence, adaptability, and a clear vision, even in the most challenging of circumstances, ultimately driving your tribe toward success and growth.
- Bendahan, S., Goette, L., Thoresen, J. C., Loued‐Khenissi, L., Hollis, F., & Sandi, C. (2017). Acute stress alters individual risk-taking in a time‐dependent manner and leads to anti‐social risk. European Journal of Neuroscience, 45, 877-885.
- Grover, K., Green, K., et al. (2009) Problem-solving moderates the effects of life event stress and chronic stress on suicidal behaviors in adolescence. Journal of Clinical Psychology. Oct. doi.org/10.1002/jclp.20632
- Klein, K., Barnes, D. (2011) The Relationship of Life Stress to Problem Solving: Task Complexity and Individual Differences. Guilford Press Periodicals. Jan. doi.org/10.1521/soco.1922.214.171.124
- Amble, B. (2003) Strong emotions about work- mostly negative. Management-Issues. Jan.