Try as we might, some problems are so vexing and difficult that it seems impossible to arrive at any sort of workable solution. This is not an unusual situation for anyone in today’s stress-filled society, but it can be even more frustrating for those who are in recovery. When faced with simultaneous, and often conflicting, duties, responsibilities, issues or problems, you want answers, not more questions. What you’re really after is how to find a solution for almost any problem. Is this really possible? If so, how do you go about it? While there’s no single approach that will work for everyone, here are some general tips on how to find your own way through the potential solutions to find the one that works best in any given situation:
- Separate what’s necessary from what can wait. If you have too much competing for your attention and can’t find the motivation to get going on any one task or problem, the first thing to do is pare down your list. To do this, start by identifying what’s absolutely necessary to do before anything else and put off to the side anything that can wait while you tend to more important items on the list. This helps ratchet down some of the tension and stress that may be clouding your judgment and preventing you from being able to evaluate solutions that work.
- Determine your timeline for completion. Some tasks, problems, duties or responsibilities have a more immediate timeline. Factor this into which ones you’ll jump on first. Also be sure to allocate sufficient time to gather needed information, line up resources, and enlist the help of others, if necessary and some cushion time so that you’re not rushed to finish at the last minute. This is another excellent strategy to help reduce the pressure you feel to complete tasks or solve problems.
- Break the problem into manageable parts. Especially with complex, complicated or problems requiring lengthy effort or time, it’s important to split them into smaller chunks, ones that you can more easily manage. Consider that you can’t arrive at the completion of anything without going through certain steps. To try to jump to the conclusion without adequate preparation or bypassing critical steps is to ensure failure and disappointment. Using a ladder approach helps you arrange steps into more digestible chunks and gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you complete each one. After going through the steps, you’ll find that what once seemed so difficult or impossible is not that overwhelming after all.
- Make use of your support network to learn how others successfully tackled problems. Whatever problem you’re trying to solve or issue you can’t seem to find a solution to, it’s likely that someone in your support network has come up against something similar and may have some suggestions on what you can do. This doesn’t mean that you automatically copy what they did, but it can provide fodder for you to pick what seems workable and discard the rest. If no one has encountered the particular problem you face, at least they’ll be able to provide the support and encouragement that you so desperately need when problems threaten to get out of control.
- If a solution works, keep it in your recovery toolkit. There’s a reason why certain strategies and techniques prove successful. Once you discover one or more that work for you, why reinvent the wheel? Keep a list of what you did, when, how, and under what circumstances, so that you can have a solution you can turn to again when you need it most. Even if this solution doesn’t seem to apply, knowing that you have a list of strategies and approaches that worked in the past will give you the confidence to know that you can solve this problem as well.
- Sleep on it. Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep does wonders for the body. It also helps calm emotional turmoil and assists in the ability to arrive at a solution to a problem you need to solve. When you get ready for bed, write down or think about the problem that you need an answer for. Then give yourself permission to let your subconscious work on the solution while you sleep. This technique actually does work. By writing down what you’re trying to accomplish, you free yourself from worrying about it. You’ve got it written down on paper. You can go to sleep knowing that some part of your mind is sifting and sorting through various alternatives. When you wake up the next morning, you may very well have an answer — or some potential avenues to pursue.
- Accept that you’re unique and avoid comparing yourself with others. Naturally, you want to be as successful as possible in solving problems. Who wouldn’t want this? One trap to avoid getting caught in, however, is being envious of how apparently easy it is for others to solve the same or similar problems. This will end up with you feeling less self-confident and certainly not very motivated. Remember that you are unique and will find your own solutions that work. You may adapt or adopt what has worked for others, but you will make it your own.
- Take a break. Another way that may prove effective in finding a solution for almost any problem is to take a break from thinking about it so hard. Do something you like. Go for a walk outside to clear your head and get your endorphins going from the brisk exercise. Take in a movie. Listen to music. Read a favorite book. Go shopping or have coffee with a friend. While you are enjoying yourself, your stress level will be reduced and you’ll find that your mind gets clearer. This may lead to you finding the answer you need — often when you least expect it.
- Celebrate accomplishments. Once you find the solution to the problem, don’t just forget all the work you went through to get there. You need to celebrate your accomplishment. This helps cement in your mind that you do have what it takes to plow through all the facts, deadlines, complexities and difficulties to get the job done. This is very important, not only for your self-esteem but also for expanding your mental energy for solving problems and building your sense of hope about the future and what you can accomplish.
- Learn from mistakes. The most disheartening part of trying to find a solution to a problem is when you try something and it doesn’t quite succeed. Maybe it doesn’t work at all. It can be very difficult to convince yourself that there’s something valuable you learned from this exercise, but it is there. You just need to find it. Did you try to rush things? If so, adding more time to your approach may be what you learned from this. Did you fail to consider all the potential ramifications before jumping into the problem with the solution you thought might work? If so, make it a point to more carefully run through what may or may not happen if you take this approach versus that one. Remember that you can always learn from mistakes. Sometimes the biggest lessons come as a result of them.
By Suzanne Kane