Everyone has problems. For most problems, they are resolved quickly or easily. From time to time however, we encounter problems that take more work to overcome. Problems become more difficult to resolve when there are no obvious solution or when past strategies have not worked. These types of problems may cause anxiety and stress in your life. Perhaps that is the time to come up with a new plan. Well, this blog is for you! Keep reading for more practical tips on problem solving.
Step 1: Identify the Problem: To start, you must recognize the problem. Since problems can cause anxiety, people may tend to avoid them or minimize them. Unfortunately, avoiding your problems can lead to bigger problems or cause the problem to return.
Tips for Identifying Problems:
A. Make a list- get in the habit of writing out what the problem(s) is in your life. Writing
can also be therapeutic help you process the situation.
B. Explore your feelings- We often try to suppress anything we think is negative when it
comes to your feelings. Use those negative emotions to guide you.
C. Find the challenge- A big obstacle for people is when they get stuck in viewing
their situation in only the negative perspective. This can cause you so shut down
and not attempt to even tackle the problem. If you can change the perspective and
see an opportunity in the problem then you are more likely to work on it.
Step 2: What is the Problem: Be specific. Before you can solve your problem, you need to have it defined.
Here are some more tips:
A. Focus on the problem- Ask yourself the tough questions. "What is the situation?"
"What would I like the situation to be?", "What are the obstacles that are keeping me
from my desired situation?" Try putting your problem into sentences.
B, Just list the facts- Be careful to not put assumptions or opinions.
C. Be specific- If you are vague in defining your problem, it will be difficult to know how
Step 3: What are your Goals? In order to know whether you have solved your problems, it is important to know ahead of time what a solved problem would look like. Think of SMART goal
A. Be realistic! Make sure it's achievable able. If it's unrealistic you will probably not
reach them and you might feel worse.
B. Be Specific: Again, if your goals are vague then you won't know when you reach
C. Start with short term: If you set goals that are to far in the future you might find
yourself giving up. It's okay to also have long term goals but make sure you
Step 4: List Possible Solutions: A mistake one may make is using the same old solutions for the same problems and expecting different outcomes. If your old solutions didn't work the last time, why do you think it will work this time? In order to come up with new solutions, try brainstorming!
A. Devise lots of solutions. You are more likely to come up with a good solution if you
have lots of options to choose from. Try to list 5-10 options.
B. Don't be critical of your solutions. Remember you are brainstorming and not all
solutions will fit or make sense. That's okay! It's all part of the process.
C. Ask for help if you are struggling with coming up with options. This can be a good
use of therapy.
Step 5: Pick a Solution: If you struggle with anxiety this may be difficult for you. You may find yourself second guessing those solutions or having a hard time picking. Don't forget though, not
solving a problem can led to more anxiety in the future. Remember also, the goal is to find the best solution which is not always the perfect solution.
A. Ask yourself if the solution will fix your problem and help you reach your goal.
B. How much time and effort does your solution require?
C. How will you feel after each solution?
D. What are the costs/risks/benefits of each solution?
Step 6: Execute the Solution: This is often the most difficult step. You finally figured out what to do, now are you ready to actually do it? Most people will find themself afraid of change or second guessing themself. Make a specific action plan to follow. If you know how you are going to carry out the solution, you are more likely to do it! List very specific steps that you will need to take.
Step 7: Check Back In On Your Problem: Now that you have carried out the solution, you need to follow up. Is it working? Do you need to make any adjustments? Sometimes even the most thought out plans don't turn out like we anticipate. How can you make adjustments?
So you work through all 7 steps, now what if it's not working? First, don't panic. Unexpected things happen. Sometimes the best solutions don't work. This is unfortunate but it's life. We have to adapt and keep moving. Try recycling through your steps again and ask some follow up questions:
Did I define the problem accurately?
Are my goals realistic?
Are there other solutions? New ones to add?
Is there a different solution I could try?
Did I carry out the steps I planned?
These steps might help you figure out where things went wrong. If you find what is wrong then you can find a place to implement change. Solving problems, especially difficult ones, can be very hard. Take time to reward yourself!