CBT | The 7 Step Problem Solve

Anxiety is often a feeling of being overwhelmed, and finding a source for the feeling can be tricky.
It might not be easy to notice the problem, and so finding a reason for your tight chest, nerves or low mood tends to lead us to blaming a number of things, but doing nothing about them.

I find after work I set out a million and one things to do with my evening; whether it’s cooking a really nice meal, exercising, blogging or anything else, it’s on a neat list and I’m feeling ready. But more often than not, I come home and do nothing. I suppose, with so many things to do, we become overwhelmed and effectively stop our productivity.

Which is why we need to break things down: Identify the real reasons behind our moods and nerves. This can be done in 7 steps.

1. Identify the problem Remember, any problem matters. And being as specific as possible is the easiest way to reduce our stresses and make our anxieties more manageable.
So, rather than identifying a problem like ‘I need a new job’ or ‘my messy house is really getting me down’ be more specific: ‘The damp in the kitchen is getting me down’

By identifying the problem, we can eventually find solutions.

2. Here’s the fun bit: Identify solutions. Oh hai felt-tips and spider diagrams! With the help of our trusty revision techniques, we can begin looking for the solutions. Before jumping in and testing out the first idea that comes into your head, write as many ideas as possible down – from the small changes to the extreme.
So that damp is getting you down? You could call a specialist cleaner… or you could burn the house down, move out, or cry in the corner getting drunk and staring at the damp till it goes away.
All valid solutions at this point, I’d say.

I think you could probably have a lot of fun at this stage to be honest, and fun does amazing things for us when we’re feeling overwhelmed or low. Thinking of wacky ideas to deal with life’s problems can be a fun activity in which we release a little stress and bring ourselves back to the present day.

3. Pros and Cons The pros of burning the house down? Well, the damp would be gone. Cons? Well, so would the house… So perhaps not as valid as calling a specialist.
For each solution you’ve come up with, analyse how successful they might or might not be. Then narrow down your list to any that have the potential to work well.

4. Choose a solution. I’m still going with burning the damp house down. 

5. Don’t jump just yet! Woah there horsey, before jumping in and trying to burn the house down (or whatever solution to your problem you’ve chosen), plan plan plan. Planning is an anxious mind’s dream. We love to plan; we love to know exactly what is happening when, where and how, so we can mentally prepare ourselves for the moment.
So lay out the necessary steps (or equipment in my case) that you’ll need to solve the problem. Petrol, lighters, other flammable items.

6&7. Implement the solution & Review Not only should you implement your chosen solution, once the problem is solved, make a note of how it went; if it was a success, how you feel, if there’s anything else you could’ve done. This way, we have written proof that there’s a simple way to solve our problem. So next time we’re panicking, we can look back at our record from our rational selves and deal with the situation immediately, rather than playing with it in our minds.
Often with Anxiety and other mental health problems, it’s difficult to see anything other than the worst case scenario. It’s natural for us to hide away in our heads with our worries, rather than deal with them, just in case it didn’t work. But if we don’t try, we’ll never succeed.

Personally, my solution went pretty well. There’s no damp, and the fire was warm and toasty.

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