Stress is part of our everyday lives. We experience and respond to stress differently.
What one person considers to be highly stressful may be very manageable to another person, therefore we should evaluate each situation on its merits. No matter what we consider to be stressful, one thing that’s common is whenever we generate negative emotions as a result of feeling stressed, our decision-making ability will be affected.
How Stress Affects Your Decision-Making Ability
Interestingly, making a decision can be perceived as being stressed in itself, however there are some common patterns when we make decisions under high stress.
- We tend to more consider positive outcomes rather than also consider negative outcomes.
- We pay more attention to positive information and discount negative information.
- We find it more difficult to control our urges as we focus more on the rewards rather than the consequences.
- We may take risks without fully considering all options and scenarios.
- We will not operate or behave as we normally would.
The amount of stress we experience will affect the way we make decisions.
The people we associate with on a regular basis affect our mental and emotional states, and also determine the quality of our lives.
When we are young, we don’t have much control over who we spent time with, as we tend to be with our families or school friends. Once we grow older, we can choose who to spend time with based on what we’d like to achieve, experience or do in life.
The reality is not everyone is a positive influence, so we have to seriously consider removing people from our lives, if we believe it’s a better choice for us.
Even though people may not intentionally be negative or unsupportive, it’s not for us to try and change them or their behaviours. While it’s useful to be a positive influence or role model, sometimes we have to acknowledge that some people are stuck in their own ways and we have to do what we think is best for us.
It may not be easy to remove people or let them drop out of our lives, however it’s important to know why it will be beneficial to not be around them as much.
It comes down to choosing what we think is best for us and being willing to go through with it.
As part of our ongoing mental health and growth, learning to identify our emotional triggers and manage them better, is really important.
The better we can manage our emotional triggers, the less reactive we’ll be, which means we’ll not let external events or conditions affect us in a negative way.
What is an Emotional Trigger?
An emotional trigger is something that brings up certain feelings within us. These feelings may be positive or negative.
We naturally prefer to experience positive rather than negative emotions, so it’s valuable to know what triggers us to have negative emotions. Examples of negative triggers include:
- Being rejected by someone.
- Having one of our personal values violated.
- Being ignored by someone.
- Someone blaming, shaming, criticising or judging us.
- Being controlled or threatened by someone.
- Not being included in a decision that affects us in some way.
There are many things that could be added to the list that can triggers us, which is why it’s important to learn to identify them and also be aware of them when they’re actually happening.
Dealing with a big change in life can be difficult, however there are effective coping strategies that can make the process easier.
As we go through life, we experience many changes that can involve our health, relationships, finances, career or where we live. Instead of being resistant to it, it’s more beneficial to accept that change is a part of life and learn to deal with it better.
The Stages of Change
In their book, Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, authors James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo Diclemente share six stages we go through when dealing with change.
These stages are:
- Pre-contemplation — this usually involves denial and being resistant to a change. A person will tend to make up excuses or rationalise they don’t have a problem and there is no need to change.
- Contemplation — this is when a person first acknowledges they may have a problem and starts to seriously consider changing it. However, they may not be quite ready to make the change.
- Preparation — this is when a person has decided to make a change and starts going through the process of preparing themselves to do what will be required.
- Action — this is when a person will move forward based on their preparation. They start taking the steps required to make the change.
- Maintenance — this is where a person will work to consolidate or maintain the gains they have made from taking action. Their focus is to continue moving forward and prevent lapses back to old behaviours or patterns.
- Termination — this is where a person has achieved success, provided there hasn’t been any lapses or relapses. They now have a new self-image. If they have experienced a relapse, it’s an opportunity to recommit and learn from what they have experienced.
When dealing with change, it’s beneficial to keep these stages of change in mind, so we know where we’re at and what to expect in order to give ourselves the best chance of coping with it, and eventually succeeding.
When we worry, we’re either living in the past or in the future, and not fully experiencing the present moment.
We’ve all had experiences where we’ve worried about something, whether it was before an exam or a meeting, or after a certain event. Have you noticed it’s really hard to worry about the present moment?
Say for example, we’ve been worried about a particular meeting leading up to it, but once we’re in the meeting, we can only deal with what we’re experiencing in the present moment. While there may be a sense of nervousness in the moment, it’s very rarely worry.
Why Do We Worry?
Worry is a common emotion that does not serve us, most times. While we may know that on an intellectual level, we still worry. Some of the reasons include:
- Fear of the unknown.
- Self-esteem issues.
- Fear of what others think or of being judged.
- Putting focus on ourselves and how we feel.
- Using it as motivation to do something.
We experience the emotion of worry because certain things trigger certain thoughts, which then causes us to feel a certain way.
The ability to not let external conditions, circumstances or events affect us is a vital skill to have if we want to be mentally tough and remain level-headed.
Knowing how to respond when things happen in a calm, confident manner is a better quality to have than always reacting to things, which means we’re controlled by things outside of ourselves.
What Does it Mean to Be Level-Headed?
When someone is considered level-headed, it means they:
- Pause and think before they respond in any situation.
- Have developed their mental faculty of perception so they can look at things from different points of view.
- Are able to make the right decisions, most times.
- Are comfortable with who they are and what they want to do.
- Have a healthy attitude and tend to be in a positive mental state more often than not.
Developing the characteristics of level-headed people will help us be mentally strong, result in better mental and emotional health, and a higher level of self-confidence and self-esteem.
The challenge is knowing how to be level-headed, while staying true to who we are, and not coming across as someone that’s robotic, who does the same things and operates the same way over and over.
Knowing how to be calm when dealing with difficult people can be a huge advantage.
Sometimes, it can be tempting to respond in the same manner when someone is being difficult, but that very rarely leads to a mutually beneficial outcome.
It’s valuable to know that when someone is being difficult, most times, they may not be aware that they’re coming across as being difficult. If we have ways to handle difficult people, we can turnaround a difficult situation and still get a positive outcome.
At a personal development training program I once attended, during one of the sessions, the facilitator was explaining a concept and leading an open discussion about the concept with the participants. Everyone were sitting on the floor in an open space, with the facilitator walking around managing the discussions.
One participant asked a question, which the facilitator answered, and they had a short dialogue, that would have lasted less than thirty-seconds. Something the participant said may have been misheard or misinterpreted by the facilitator and suddenly out of the blue, the participant screamed, “That’s not what I said!”
That certainly got everyone’s attention. The tension was building and I remember thinking at that time, “How would I handle a situation like this?”
What the facilitator did in that moment I thought was best thing he could have done to deal with the situation.
As we are beings programmed for growth, our desire to have more and create a better life shapes almost all the things we do on a daily basis.
The more we can convert the things we do that makes our life better into habits, practices, routines or rituals, the easier it will be for us to keep doing them and continue to reap the benefits of doing so.
Having daily, empowering rituals can help us:
- Start off each day on a positive note.
- Maintain a healthy attitude throughout our day.
- Feel good about ourselves, which will enhance our self-esteem and confidence.
What is a Ritual?
A ritual is an activity or series of activities that involves movement, words or objects, done in a pre-defined order or sequence. In other words, rituals are things we can do to generate certain emotions, which can then assist us in accomplishing what we want to.
Having daily rituals means being intentional about what we do and how we do them.
The idea of having self-discipline can bring up different responses. There is often a love-hate relationship with self-discipline.
Some people love being disciplined because it gives them something to focus on, while knowing there is a benefit associated with it.
As an example, consider someone training to participate in the Olympic Games. For years leading up to the Games, they have to put in hours and hours of training, be on a controlled diet and/or supplement program, and be committed to show up as best as they can every time they train or compete.
While the grind may be difficult, for most of them, the reward, which is their desire to participate and win a medal, keeps them going.
On the other hand, self-discipline can bring up a lot of resistance and discomfort for people. Most people aren’t willing to commit to being disciplined long-term, so they don’t achieve the things they really want.
Just think of those who set New Year’s resolutions. The majority of them will abandon their resolutions within a couple of months of setting them because chances are they don’t have a high level of self-discipline.
In this video, actor Will Smith, suggests that self-discipline is the centre of all material success. The better we can master self-discipline, the more self-confidence we will have and the more success we can achieve.
Knowing how to deal with uncertainty can be a major advantage as we navigate through or deal with changes that are happening daily.
Whenever we feel uncertain about something in our lives, it can generate unnecessary stress, anxiety and can also affect our motivation to be the best version of ourselves.
Those who can embrace uncertainty when things are constantly changing are more likely to do what’s required to create and live the life they want.
It’s highly likely that based on what we know now, if we could go back in time, we probably would make some better decisions. We’re always doing the best we can based on what we know.
If we take that concept, knowing that uncertainty will always be a part of our lives, we have to learn to deal with it better. This is where we can learn from those who are emotionally healthy and make better choices for our lives.