No one goes through life without problems. The difference between those who feel powerless and those who feel powerful enough to solve them is what they choose to focus on – worries or solutions. If anxiety sometimes gets the best of you, here’s a way to take your power back from it.
Problems drag us down, make us feel stifled, backed in the corner, and helpless. When they start piling up, you may think you’re unable to solve them all, and that creates fertile ground for the victim mentality – a mindset that grows very rapidly and sucks life force out of you, if you don’t deal with it as soon as possible.
This condition makes us afraid of not only the existing issues we are facing, but also any new ones potentially waiting around the corner. It causes thoughts like “I can’t deal with all this – why are all these problems coming MY way?” Consequently, you lose ability to empathise with others (because, hey, they should see YOUR pile of stuff to sort out – theirs are certainly dull by comparison!) and to go after what you want to move towards brighter horizons (as you’re simply too busy worrying this avalanche might kill you).
How do you avoid falling into the trap and digging yourself in this hole of self-defeating thoughts? You solve your problems as they come, and consciously focus on your power to improve your life circumstances. Yes, just that simple. Except it’s not.
Very often, our default response to a new problem is to hide from it. Distract yourself, run as far as your legs will take you. You may have a compulsion to run to the store and stock up on desserts to alleviate the heaviness you feel with a sugar high, or to get a cup of coffee and go see a movie so you don’t have to think about the real world for a few hours.
While you are looking away, the problem grows. The next time you are forced to pay attention to it, it’s already twice the size, because it’s filled up on your worry about it. Even when you stifle it by ignoring the discomfort, the worry is still there, and it feeds your problems more than anything else.
Without keeping it in check, you will grow worries in your head faster than you consume comfort blueberry muffins. When our mind sees a problem, it’s immediate response is often something like “Oh dear lord, this is horrible – and it’s all my fault, I could’ve done it differently. Now, it’s such a mess – just look how many terrible, terrible consequences this can cause!”
For example, your rent bill bounced. Your mind will instantly go into a rant about how your job doesn’t pay enough, and you could’ve found a different one a year ago or took a whole different career path a decade ago to prevent this from happening. It will agonise about how before you know it, you could be living in the street, and nobody is there to help you out.
Neither of these automatic thought patterns, preinstalled in our mind to go off whenever we see an issue, are conducive to actually solving the problem. Imagining how you could rewrite the past or painting the future pitch black only feeds your sense of worry. These thought patterns are birthed by anxiety that appeared in response to noticing a problem, and they only serve to grow it. In psychology, it’s called self-sabotage – procrastinating the solution of the problem by any means, including giving in to worry.
In an easy-to-read family-oriented article about The Worry Monster, Dan Peters Ph.D. explains that the way to make anxiety lose its grip on you is to expose it. And that’s why to solve any problem you are worried about, you need to air it out, to yourself. If you go to a friend or a family member, there is a chance they may hear what makes you scared and reinforce it without even meaning to – simply by not debunking it.
So, instead, sit down by yourself with the intention that once you speak out your problem, you let it go. You don’t avoid dealing with it – you just intend to set the feeling of anxiety, frustration and fear attached to it free from your body.
Then, quietly tell yourself a little story, starting with “I’m afraid…” Go with it all the way – hear your fearful thoughts out. Observe the chain of consequences your mind has built from a little misfortune that has happened to you, and let it flow out of your mouth without resisting or even judging it.
By the end of the story, you will see, clear as day, that the terrible conclusions your mind has come to don’t really have to happen at all. They might, but there’s a million and one thing you can do from this moment forward to prevent that.
For example, in the case with the rent bill bouncing, you would understand that this one problem doesn’t have to lead to eviction and being homeless. Perhaps, you can start looking for a better paying job, and a small loan from the bank or a family member will take you through the search process. Maybe, a smaller, cheaper apartment can be a better home for you at this stage in life. Or perhaps, your current employer will be happy to give you a few extra shifts to make the money you need to keep this flat.
See – the choice of solutions is endless. Just refocus your mind from worries to solutions, then choose and implement one (or however many until one works). That’s how you prove any problem that you’re stronger than it could ever be!
Hopefully, this little trick will help you refocus your own mind from how bad an issue can get to how you can solve it, and feel powerful again.
Enjoy your journey!
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