Another way to help us with our worry is to figure out what is a worry and what is something we can problem solve. You may have once thought that worrying and problem-solving are one and the same. However worrying and problem-solving are two very different things.
Worrying is a negative thought process. When we worry, thoughts involving worst case scenarios and all the possible problems that might happen go around and round in our heads. We are so anxious that we can’t think clearly and can’t find any solutions. Worrying makes us fearful and leaves us without a plan. It can impact our sleep and make it hard to maintain healthy life balance.
Problem-solving is different. It is a constructive thought process focused on how we can deal with a problem by identifying what the problem is and thinking of possible solutions. We then examine the pros and cons for each solution and develop a plan. Then we put this plan into place with actions and behaviours. At the end, we reflect and evaluate whether our solution helped us solve our problem.
The first thing to check though is if there is a problem that requires solving. Head back to your Circle of Control. Is this a worry or a problem that requires solving? Ask yourself:
Is it a likely problem I am concerned about?
Is the problem something happening now?
Is the problem something I have some control over?
If the problem you are worried about is an unrealistic and unlikely prediction of the future, of which you have little control over, then although it might appear that the problem is “real”, it is not an actual problem that requires action. In these cases try a postponing strategy, such as a designated worry time, or mindfulness to assist you in ‘letting go’ of the worry.
However, if it is a real problem in the here-and-now that you can do something about, then using problem-solving strategies may be a useful way to deal with the problem.
Step 1: Identify/Define Problem
Try to state the problem as clearly as possible. Be objective and specific about the behaviour, situation, timing, and circumstances that make it a problem. Describe the problem in terms of what you can observe rather than subjective feelings.
Example Problem: I need toilet paper and the news says the shops don’t have any and every time I have gone there is none
Step 2: Generate Possible Solutions/Options
List all the possible solutions. Be creative and forget about the quality of the solutions. If you allow yourself to be creative, you may come up with some new options that surprise you.
Now eliminate the less desirable or unreasonable alternatives only after as many possible solutions have been listed. Then, list the remaining options in order of preference.
- Solution 1
- Solution 2
- Solution 3
- Solution 4
- Solution 5
- Solution 6
Step 3: Evaluate Alternatives
Evaluate the top 3 or 4 plans in terms of their advantages and disadvantages
Step 4: Decide On A Plan
Decide on one, two or more of the plans. Specify who will take action, when the plan will be implemented and how the plan will be implemented.
Step 5: Implement Plan
Try not to evaluate as you go just follow your action steps. If you start to get caught in a worry cycle use grounding techniques to help you reconnect with the physical world and support effective problem solving.
Step 6: Evaluate the Outcome
• Does the existing plan need to be revised or would a new plan be needed to better address the problem?
• If you are not pleased with the outcome, return to Step 2 to select a new option or revise the existing plan, and repeat Steps 3 to 6.