We are all confronted by difficult problems in life that require a solution or at least a way of coping. For example: losing your job, getting into debt or being discriminated against. Most people react to these types of problems in an unhelpful and unhealthy manner:
- become overwhelmed and stressed;
- engage in denial and avoidance tactics;
- become angry or depressed;
- project their responsibility onto others;
- engage in maladaptive behaviours, such as drug-taking or promiscuity;
- resort to self-blame and criticism; and
- react impulsively.
There are, however, other healthier ways of approaching a particular problem. Here are a few points to help you along the way:
- Challenge your assumptions – don't let your assumptions limit your possible solutions;
- Break big problems down into smaller ones – identify the different aspects to a particular problem and then address each aspect individually. This will ensure that the problem is no longer overwhelming and will help to motivate you;
- Ask 3 people for their opinions and advice – this will help you to reflect on your available options and will ensure that you have not overlooked anything obvious;
- Write down the problem – sometimes things make more sense when we write them down. This will help you get an overview of a particular problem, the causes or triggers of that problem, as well as some brainstorming of all the possible solutions and likely consequences.
- Consider the pros and cons – when brainstorming all your available options, consider the pros and cons to help you make the best possible choice;
- Look at it from someone else's perspective – pretend you are a stranger and take another look at the problem and available options. In this way you can take an objective view of the problem and possibly develop a fresh perspective.