If there be one, try and find it.
Anon says,” For every problem under the sun,
there is a remedy, or there is none.
If there be none, never mind it.”
It may seem strange to have a section on problem -solving in my website. After all, you have been solving problems all your life , and are probably pretty good at it. You do it without thinking , and without even noticing , you are doing it most of the time .
So why do you need to be told ? It is because when you get depressed , your natural problem – solving abilities break down, and the skills that you used automatically before you got depressed may disappear. When problems come , as they inevitably will, they may seem overwhelming and impossible to deal with.
So in this article , we are going to describe the steps you can take to solve problems and get on top of things more easily and thus stop things feeling so overwhelming.
Before we talk about how to solve problems, we need to think about whether there is a problem to be solved. This is important because we have spoken a lot about negative thinking, and the way that depression makes you see everything in the worst possible light. But we also know that not all problems are in your mind . Sometimes there are real difficulties that need to be dealt with.
For any problem that we experience when we are depressed , we need to be able to tell the difference between our negative thoughts about the situation, which we need to tackle as we have already seen, and the problem itself , which we need to tackle in the practical way described here.
Imagine that you have been made redundant from work . This is l;ikely to be a problem for many people . You might be worried about paying the mortgage or about ever finding another job; you might be worried about what other people think of you. Dealing with difficult situations when you are depressed often requires two stages:
1- What are your negative thoughts about the situation?
In this example , it’s the idea that everyone will despise you, and you’ll never get another job. You can use the techniques on questioning Negative Automatic Thoughts to help you manage these thoughts – so you may end up reminding yourself that no one despised your friends when they were made redundant , and that one of them has got a new job and the other has set up a new buisness.
2- What are practical aspects of the situation that you need to tackle?
In this case , it’s working out the best way of finding a new job , and asking for help , such as from the Citizens Advice Bureau to manage your finance in the meantime.
There is another aspect of thinking about problems that we need to bear in mind. There are times in life when things happen that make us sad and low, but such feelings are natural and normal. Imagine that a pet has died, The pet- say a much-loved dog that has been in the family for fifteen years- died of natural old age . No one was to blame and no one could have done anything different , but the beautiful old dog has died .
Everyone is sad , and everyone misses him. These feelings of sadness and grief are natural – no one would try to solve the problem of sadness . There are times when feelings of sadness , loss and anguish are the right and proper things to feel, painful as they are. As we feel these painful emotions , we somehow learn to work through them, and to come to terms with the sadness .
In this sense, although there is a’ problem ‘ , there is no remedy . We just have to bear the sadness , until we have learnt to come to terms with it.
Once you have decided there is a problem that is not just negative thinking or natural sadness , you need to think about problem-solving.
There are a number of steps to follow:
- Define the problem
Sometimes problems can seem absolutely overwhelming , and extremely complicated . Breaking them down into their component parts can be very helpful in making them seem more magnageable , and in thinking about where to start.
Take Jack , for instance.Jack had finished university and was having problems finding a job. He needed to move out of his university flat , but didn’t want to go home, mush as he loved family. He had been living in his flat for two years and had accumulated a lot of stuff , which made the prospect of moving worse. He was very low and felt very despondent about his future . He knew he had to move out , and it just seemed too difficult . When he started to break the problem down into its separate parts it looked like this :
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- I haven’t got anywhere to go- I haven’t even decided quite where I want to live.
- I can’t face the prospect of moving because of all my stuff.
- The flat is filthy and I’ve got to clean it before I leave.
- I’ve got no clean clothes.
- I haven’t paid all the bills-in fact I haven’t even opened some of the envelopes I think they’re sitting in.
Once he had written all these things out Jack at least knew what it was he had to tackle.
2- Decide the first target
Which aspect of the problem are you going to tackle ?
If you have written down more than one problem, decide which one to tackle first.
This can often seem a bit tricky . You could choose the problem- or the aspect of the problem-that is causing you the biggest headache .Or you could choose something much smaller , where success is more likely . In some ways it doesn’t matter – now that you have started working on problems you will be able to come back to other aspects later.
In Jack’s case , he decided that he would tackle the mess and untidiness in the flat first , since it was going to be almost impossible to move until he’d done this.
3– Think about solutions
We often describe this part of the process as brainstorming . The point of this to write down as many solutions as you can think of , even if they seem a bit unrealistic . At this stage you don’t need to think about whether the solutions will work or not-you just need to write them down. When you are thinking about solutions, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself.
A- What would I have done before I was depressed?
B- How I had to tackle this before? How did I do it then?
C- What would someone who wasn’t depressed do in this solutions?
D- What are my strengths? How can I use these to help?
E-Who else is around who might be able to help ?
F-What resources do I have?
G-What resources do I need to tackle the problem?
That there are other people around. Depending on the problem, friends, or family could help, or there is a range of organisations. For example , the Citizens Advice Bureau offers help for practical and legal problems and has offices in most reasonably sized towns.
4- CHOOSE ONE SOLUTION
Now that you have written everything down , choose a solution ! Think about the pros and cons of each solution, and consider whether you have the energy and resources to carry them out.
5- Make a plan of action
It will be easier to carry out solutions if you can break the overall plan down into small and more manageable steps.
6- Put your plan into action
Now that you have made your plan , don’t let anything put you off. Make your start , and remember that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
7- Evaluate the results
Once you have started to work on your solution, you need to evaluate how it’s going. Is the solution helping? Do you need to do something else?
Think about whether the action you have been taking has helped the problem-have things improved? Do you need to do something different?
8- Plan next steps
This is where you need to think about what else needs to be done.
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