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Problem solving

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.