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Beat Problems Instead of Beating You

Posted May 01 2009 10:10pm

I used to think of problems as something to stop me or stay stuck.  Previously, problems were a pre-cursor to failure.  Now, I like to view life’s problems as growth challenges rather than as obstacles. Problems as an opportunity to grow and have deeper insight into myself.  Problems don’t pop up in your life to beat you down. Their purpose is to help you grow stronger, have more confidence and become happier.

Problems used to cause me to overeat.  If they felt overwhelming or insurmountable, cookies, ice cream, chips, or other trigger foods helped me to cope.  When I changed my mindset from problems as impending failure, to opportunities for growth and awareness, I approached them entirely different.  From “what is this going to do to me (victim mentality)” to “what can I learn from this” thinking, I became a thriver.  Ditch viewing problems as a victim to a thriver.

Despite the benefits of problem-solving, there may come a point where you feel so overwhelmed with problems that you begin to feel helpless, overwhelmed and give up defeated.  You feel like you’re drowning in difficulties, and you can’t see a way out.

This means that the weights in your life are too heavy for you to lift. It’s like going to the gym and trying to lift a 300-lb barbell. It just won’t budge, so you feel powerless and stuck. The solution is that you must reduce the weight so you can lift it.  You’ll be able to move the 300-lbs. once you build up.

Even when most of the individual problems in your life are small, the sheer volume of them can become overwhelming.  Quantity of small problems build up fast to the point that the small become huge.  You can lift a rock but a large quantity of rocks can be too heavy.  When you feel overwhelmed, you must find ways to lighten your load. You need to dump some of your burdens until you’re facing a situation you can reasonably handle.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, here are some ways to lighten your load:

1. Capture and prioritize.

Make a list of all the problems, challenges, and activities that are presently in your life.  Sort them into three sublists: (A) must do, (B) should do, and (C) nice to do. The simple act of writing things down and prioritizing them can be a real stress reliever since it helps to clarify that not everything is urgent. It comparmentalizes those issues into more manageable pieces.  Give yourself permission to attend only to the items on your A-list for a while, allowing your B- and C-lists to slide until you feel caught up.

2. Cancel commitments.

If you’re feeling over-committed, see if you can pull back from any commitments that aren’t essential. I’m not suggesting that you break your promises to others, but it’s reasonable to renegotiate stress-inducing over-commitments when possible. Look at your calendar, and drop or cancel the non-essential items.

3. Accept no new commitments.

When you’re feeling overloaded, don’t add new items to do.  Learn to say “no” and mean it.  Give yourself time to work through your existing challenges before you think about taking on new ones. A polite way of turning people down is to simply say, “I appreciate the offer. I’m currently over-committed though, so I must decline. I hope you understand.” I find that people are generally very understanding when you decline their requests in this manner. The next time your time and energy is needed, evaluate carefully before agreeing to take it on.  Equally important is the ability to say “no” when you need to.

4. Postpone.

If you have a problem that you aren’t ready to take on, postpone it.  Think of a filing cabinet to input your sublists above in item #1.  If you need to postpone dealing with a problem, file it away.  Literally, visualize yourself putting an issue or problem in the filing cabinet, away from your sight and promise not to get it out again until you’re ready.  When you’re ready to take it on, who knows…..it may be resolved or not as intense as it was before.

5. Declutter.

Clearing out clutter can be a great stress reliever and eliminate the drain of energy the clutter has on you. Last weekend my family and I went through boxes in our garage from our move four years ago (yep, four years ago).  This included getting rid of a great deal of clutter.  Things that I wanted to keep but would never use again or didn’t even like but didn’t want to part with.  After a few intense negotiations with my husband that included “need” versus “want,” we eliminated quite a few of the boxes.  Afterwards I felt lighter and there was less noise when I opened the garage door.  Not nearly as much clutter.  Every time I look at the garage, I feel relaxed instead of being reminded of all the things that I have yet to handle. At the very least, get all visual clutter out of your field of view. Better to have a messy closet that you can forget about for a while than a messy desk that distracts you multiple times per day.  When I write an article for OH Magazine, I must eliminate any clutter or unnecessary items around me and my computer.  Clutter is a huge distraction and drain of our energy.

6. Request help.

You don’t have to go it alone. Ask someone to help you. When I feel overwhelmed, I often ask my husband if he can take on a few items from my to-do list.  I follow-up by expressing my gratitude and letting him know how much he helped me.

7. Batch tasks.

If you batch up several small tasks together and do them all in a row, you may feel significantly lighter afterward. Batch up all your errands and do them all at once. Process all your emails, phone calls, and other correspondence together. When you get some of the small items or errands finished, you’ll feel more capable of tackling the bigger ones.

8. Exercise.

Exercise helps to boost your metabolism, raise your self-esteem and increase confidence so you feel more energetic throughout the day. Even though this adds a small expense of your time, the benefits more than make up for the extra time. Exercise also combats stress and serves as a great mood enhancer.

9. Reduce interruptions.

Tell others not to interrupt you during certain times, so you can free up blocks of time for catching up on your to-do items.  I try to complete my tasks that require attention and concentration when my husband and sons aren’t around.  If I’m interrupted during times I’m trying to accomplish a pressing tasks, I become frustrated and don’t give my best to the task.  Establish “Do Not Disturb” times for yourself.  No phone, e-mail, Blackberry notices, etc.

10. Renew.

Take time for personal renewal. Read an uplifting book. Take a hot bath. Meditate. Listen to audio programs. Go for a walk. Clear your mind and focus on restoring your energy, so you can come back to tackle life’s challenges with renewed strength.

Real life can throw a lot at us sometimes. In those situations it’s important to practice good time management, but it’s even more important that you manage your energy and attitude to avoid burning out or feeling helpless. Even if you do feel burned out, you can re-energize. If you can lighten your load a little, you’ll find that the weight you must lift no longer seems so heavy and daunting. Soon your attitude will shift from “I hate this and can’t do it” to “I can and will do this.”

Believe In Yourself,
Cathy, CLC
Certified Life Coach, Weight Loss Surgery Coach
Certified Back On Track Facilitator

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