How to Avoid Making Bad Decisions When Under High Stress

5 Ways to Improve Your Decision-Making Ability in All Situations

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.

  1. We tend to more consider positive outcomes rather than also consider negative outcomes.
  2. We pay more attention to positive information and discount negative information.
  3. We find it more difficult to control our urges as we focus more on the rewards rather than the consequences.
  4. We may take risks without fully considering all options and scenarios.
  5. We will not operate or behave as we normally would.

The amount of stress we experience will affect the way we make decisions.

why stress leads to poor decisions

As stress will be a part of our lives, if we can learn to avoid making bad decisions while under stress, we’ll also avoid any potential negative consequences.

5 Ways to Avoid Making Bad Decisions Under Stress

  1. Only make important decisions when you are well rested. As not all decisions are the same in terms of level of importance, we have to recognise that we operate best when we’re well rested. If we have an important decision to make, getting a good night’s sleep is vital if we want to make the best decision we can.
  2. Consider the big picture. Rather than just focusing on the immediate benefit, it’s wise to step back and consider a decision from all perspectives, including the big picture. This is where considering the pros and cons will also be beneficial as we’ll take into account both the positive and negative outcomes.
  3. Bypass decision fatigue. When we have to make too many decisions, we will start to experience mental fatigue, which will affect the decisions we make. To avoid this, it’s better to make our important decisions first up when we’re mentally fresher and alert.
  4. Avoid too much information. While it’s valuable to review information relevant to a decision we have to make, having too much information to review can lead to analysis paralysis. We have to find the right balance of having enough information versus too much information to make the best decision we can at the time.
  5. Be mindful of your emotional state. We very rarely make intelligent decisions when we’re in a negative emotional state. We have to learn to take our ego out whenever we’re considering making an important decision that’s highly emotional. This is where we have to learn to trust our intuition when making important decisions.


Our decisions greatly impact our experiences in life. Even though making a decision may seem like a trivial thing, how we actually make decisions can be difference between a good one and a bad one.

If we can learn to avoid making bad decisions while under stress, we’ll prevent generating any additional stress and continue making progress towards what we want.

Action Step: Next time you have to make an important decision, if you can, only make the decision after you’re well rested and have been able to apply some, if not, all the ideas suggested above. That will help you avoid making a bad decision.

Question: What is something else we can do to avoid making bad decisions when under stress?

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