Whether you're in charge of a company or just making important decisions about what happens in your department, it's easy to become overwhelmed by the accompanying sense of responsibility. Depending on your position, the decisions you make can be critical to the livelihood of the business and/or the people who make it possible. Decisions that must be made under pressure with a lot at stake can really affect you. How can you handle yourself without choking or having an anxiety attack when these moments strike?

For starters, it's a good idea to stop and take a deep breath. When things get hectic, measured breathing can help calm your body down. It can slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. When job pressure is getting the best of you, take a break, focus on your breathing, and try to clear your mind.

Jacqueline Carter, the North American director for Potential Project (a firm that works with businesses to help train employees on stress management), had this to say about the effects of taking a deep breath when making decisions under pressure: “It enables the mind to get out of reactivity mode into responsivity mode where we can use our higher order brain functions to make better and more ethical decisions."1

It's also very important in your decision-making to keep things grounded in reality. Don't make promises that you can't keep, because that will only lead to higher pressure, and you could be setting yourself up for failure. Try to give yourself enough time ahead of important deadlines so you have the breathing room you need to make the best-educated decisions based on real data or analysis. 

Keep in mind that not all decisions have to be final. While many are certainly difficult or even impossible to undo, many others can be reversed or adjusted as needed. Try not to think of everything as black and white or yes and no. Some gray area and "what if" scenarios must be factored into the decision-making process. Consider every possible outcome and the events that are most likely to lead to each one, and assess the likelihood of those events to help you come up with the best possible solution.

Forbes has a great list of questions to ask yourself during the decision-making process.2 These include:

  • What are my choices?
  • What are the possible outcomes—short and long term?
  • What are my most important values and goals?
  • How will this decision affect those most important to me?
  • Is this good for others and for me?
  • Is this the best decision over the long term?

Still, using all of this to guide you is easier said than done. Sometimes you can look at every possible outcome from every possible angle and still have trouble deciding. In these cases, it can help to simply trust your instincts. There's a reason you're in the position that you're in. If you have these kinds of important decisions to make, it's because you've earned your role as a decision-maker. Your instincts have gotten you this far and should not be dismissed, as they are an important weapon in your business arsenal.

That said, even when a decision is ultimately yours to make, you can still seek the advice of others whose opinions you respect. Chances are, these high-pressure decisions you're making affect people other than you. It doesn't hurt to get feedback from people involved to get a better sense of how your decision will impact them.

Once you've finally made the decision at hand, it's time to reflect and evaluate the decision you made. Do you feel confident that you made the right call? Did your decision accomplish what you intended? If not, can the decision be reversed? If, in the end, you feel that you made the wrong move, it's important to act quickly to minimize the damage. Obviously, the ability to do so lies with the particular scenario, but if you know the wrong decision was made, quickly do whatever you can to right the wrong before the passage of time makes the decision an even bigger issue.

1. http://www.smartbrief.com/original/2016/11/4-tips-making-high-stakes-leadership-decisions

2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemaddock/2014/04/11/making-tough-decisions-under-pressure/2/#24fb52bb5389