Have you ever felt overwhelmed with fear and dread? Perhaps you don’t even know the cause – or the situation hasn’t even happened – yet you can’t shake the feeling…
Worry can be a debilitating situation.
Thoughts flood your mind, the heart starts racing and you begin trying to find a solution. However, despite the search for a remedy, most of the time we’re just giving into worry instead of actually solving the problem. (And sometimes, there’s not even a real problem to solve!)
If you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you know how these scenarios can quickly lead into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Before you know it, you feel completely out of control. The rush of anxiety keeps you from thinking clearly as a rush of worst-case scenarios start playing out in your mind.
As this happens, the mind often starts considering what you would do if these things actually occurred. While this feels like productive problem solving, it’s not.
In today’s article, I’d like to talk a bit about how worry manifests, and give us a blueprint for turning our attention from out-of-control worrying to tangible problem solving.
What Is Problem Solving?
Before we go any further, let’s get a clear picture of problem solving:
Problem solving refers to cognitive processing directed at achieving a goal when the problem solver does not initially know a solution method. A problem exists when someone has a goal but does not know how to achieve it. Problems can be classified as routine or nonroutine, and as well defined or ill defined. The major cognitive processes in problem solving are representing, planning, executing, and monitoring.
– Oxford Handbooks
Based on this description, it’s clear to see that true problem solving is proactive (e.g. taking control of situation to achieve a desired outcome). It’s not a response to a situation, but making a plan to control the situation.
What is Worry?
We already established that problem solving is proactive. By contrast, worrying is reactive. It’s a response to something that has occurred. Now, that something could be a difficult circumstance that presents itself. For example, you would worry in reaction to hearing that someone you loved was involved in a car accident.
But the something may also be a fearful thought. For example, you worry that someone you love could be in an accident – even though that hasn’t actually happened.
We worry when a situation is beyond our control. It’s natural, and can even be healthy.
A Time for Worry, and a Time for Problem Solving
It’s important we learn how to identify when it’s appropriate to indulge in a bit of worry. Really, it all comes down to the control factor. If you have no control over a situation – like a tragic accident – then a bit of worry is okay.
But, even in those circumstances, problem solving can be productive. For example, if a loved one was in a car accident, you could reach out to energy healers, call on your higher power, initiate an outreach to cover medical expenses, or coordinate people to bring food.
There’s always a way to channel nervous energy into productivity.
However, in instances where you do have some control, you should transition to a proactive, problem-solving mindset. Some situations that come to mind include:
- Worrying that you aren’t making enough money. Instead, shift into problem-solving mode to identify new ways to increase your income.
- Worrying that you’re going to die alone. Instead, make a plan to begin dating and meeting new people. Reach out to friends and ask them to set you up on date.
- Worrying that you’ll never be good enough. Instead, identify areas of improvement and make a plan to strengthen your weaknesses over time.
In life, it’s always better to focus on what you can do instead of what’s beyond your control.
Problem Solving Your Worries Away
Fears will always try to hold us back. Succumbing to these thoughts leads even the best of us into a downward, negative spiral. But you don’t have to get caught in the trap.
Although it may not be easy, it possible to stop worry in its tracks with a bit of problem solving.
Feeling in control of our lives is important for well-being. When worry has too strong of a hold, you lose that grounded sense of being. But taking a proactive approach to problems, trying circumstances and even tragedies puts the power back in your hands.
We cannot control everything. In fact, we can’t control most things. But we can control the way that we respond and move forward. And at the end of the day, that’s what really matters.
What about you? Do you have any special tricks for combating fear and worry? How about any tips for productive problem-solving? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!