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Problem-solving during stress

It's that time of year. For many a time for reflection and worry. I'd like to share a handy little guide to problem-solving when worrying. 

A few years ago I suffered with anxiety and panic attacks. Not uncommon in our line of work! I tested CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), as well as taking a long reflective break and assessed my work/life balance. The below content is copied from the great material Homerton University Hospital shared with me during our CBT sessions.

The Worry Plan


Worries can generally be separated into two categories: those that are solvable and those that are unsolvable.

A solvable problem could be 'my flat is too expensive', where as an unsolvable one could be 'will I get run over today?'. This plan is a handy guide to help assess which of these two type problems you are facing.

The worry plan helps you to make a distrinction between these worries and asks you 3 simple questions to help you identify how to deal with your worry. Most importantly, it gives you a structure to use during worry time and decide when it is necessary to turning your worries into action.


Before you start solving your problems, try to consider the following:

1. Set aside time

Problem-solving takes energy and concentration, and isn't something that can be done on the run. You will need to give it time and attention to gain the most benefit.

2. One by one

Don't try to find solutions to everything all at once. Make sure you deal with one problem at a time.

3. Use paper

Write down rather than trying to solve the problem in your head. You will find that things get too cluttered when you try to hold a number of things in your head at one tie. Many things will become clear when putting pen to paper.

Step 1. Identify the problem

A good starting point to overcoming any problem is to define what the problem is. Try to write down exactly what you believe to be the main problem or goal. These are examples of the common problems people have:

I haven't got enough money to pay the bills
I don't have enough time in the day to fit in...
I don't enjoy my job

Step 2. List as many solutions as possible

List all the ideas that occur to you, even if some seem silly or 'way out'. Don't censor any solutions at this stage. List all possibilities without any evaluation of them.

Step 3. Discuss the pros and cons of each possible solutions

Go down the list of possible solutions and assess the main advantages and disadvantages of each one. Keep going, even if all options seem unpleasant. Sometimes there is no easy Answer.

Step 4. Select the best and most promising solution

Choose the solution that can be carried out most easily with your present resources (time, money, skils, etc.). It may help to discuss this with someone you trust.

Step 5: Plan how to carry out your chosen solution

List the resources needed and the steps you will need to take, try to break these down into bite size chunks. Look at the main problems that need to be overcome. You may wish to practise difficult steps and make notes of information needed.

Step 6: Try it out, review what happens and praise all efforts

The solution you have chosen may work perfectly or it may not. If it doesn't, go back to you list of solutions and try something else or revise your plans. Whether your solution has worked completely, partially or not at all, praise yourself for your efforts. Continue with the problem-solving process until you have resolved your problem or achieved your goal.


Disclaimer: Copied from the great material Homerton University Hospital shared with me during our CBT sessions.

Jenny TheolinComment