Stress kills. This has become commonly accepted and is generally agreed on by experts and laypersons alike. A major source of stress for people these days is worry; which can be defined as the process of repeatedly asking yourself, “What if …?” Fill in the blank with any bad thing you can imagine. For some people, asking “What if...?” can be a good motivator but for most, it is the doorway to sleepless nights, chronic anxiety and an increased likelihood of developing health problems.
Worry focuses the attention on possible negative occurrences, most of which will never happen. It can make people feel like their lives are spiraling out of control. This is because it is only half of the question. When thinking about our concerns, it is more helpful to bring the second half of the question into consciousness and this is, “What can I do about it?” This is where the ability to problem solve comes in.
Problem Solving in 5 Easy Steps
Step 1: Define the problem as specifically as you can. Being specific keeps a problem to a manageable size. This could mean that a current concern needs to be broken down into several related problems.
Step 2: Think of all the possible solutions to the problem. Be creative here. What has worked for you in the past? What advice would you give a friend? What have you heard about working for others? What would Macgyver do?
Step 3: List the pros and cons of each possible solution. Write it down. This makes it easier to contrast and compare your options.
Step 4: Choose the solution you think is best. This includes deciding how you are going to carry it out and may include additional problem solving as you develop your plan of action.
Step 5: Try it out. Did it work? If not, you can either determine why it failed and modify your plan of action or move to the next possible solution. The important thing is to not give up.
Life is filled with speed bumps that can be approached as opportunities to learn and grow or as insurmountable barriers to accomplishing our goals. Developing a problem solving response as opposed to a worry response, can reduce our stress level and lead to a healthier, happier life.
~ by Judy Thomas, LCSW