We all have problems to deal with in life. From a broken washing machine and the bank deducting money incorrectly to arguments with a loved one, bereavement and ill health. Most problems have many similarities and there is a formula that you can use to tackle many of life problems. This post is about how to approach problems and live a life with increased peace of mind.
Are you too entangled in your thinking?
Are you getting too caught up in your thinking about the problem? Are you catastrophising, assuming you know what others are thinking or predicting the future? “What if” thinking is another ‘thinking sin’ – there is no evidence for this type of worry yet it can seriously undermine our mood and increase anxiety and depression. Are you dwelling on fearful thoughts that are just thoughts? Remember that thoughts aren’t facts. Learn to dismiss thoughts that are fearful without being productive or problem solving in any way – know the difference. Be in control of your thoughts, don’t let them control you and rule your mood.
What are you currently doing that makes your life worse in the long term? We often engage in what CBT therapists call “safety behaviours” to feel temporary comfort. The problem with safety behaviours is that they help in the short term but they actually maintain the problem long term. Examples of safety behaviours:
Avoidance – the more we avoid, the more the fear stays. We may feel happier in the short term avoiding but we don’t gain the skills of using ‘approach behaviour’ and testing out reality. When we do, we realise we cope far better than we thought we would. We all tend to underestimate our ability to cope with problems. Look for behaviour that keeps you stuck, wastes your time or money, drains your energy, restricts your life or impacts negatively upon you in some way. Reduce safety behaviours – avoidance, procrastination, seeking reassurance, being indecisive etc
Struggling with emotions
What emotions, urges or impulses do you fight to avoid, suppress or try remove? Its no fun feeling sad, angry, let down etc but if we try to suppress these emotions and avoid/ignore them, we end up with unresolved emotional issues that will makes themselves known in others ways. I deal with clients who regularly suppress their emotions. They are the ones that a live a life that is “unplugged”. There are no highs or lows, they are just surviving. What a waste of a good life. Learn to take the good with the bad and deal with scary emotions head on. You can do it, be brave…stop being afraid of life. Youa re stronger than you realise but you need to show yourself you can do it.
Avoiding challenging situations
What situations, activities, people or places do you avoid? What have you withdrawn from or stopped doing? Have you done this out of choice or out of fear? Are you alowing fear to boss you around? What do you keep putting off till later?
Stop avoiding and approach…don;t be too entangled in your thinking about what might happen. Try to see life as neutrally as possible even if bad things have happened in the past. Of course, learn the lesson from the past but do not allow bad experiences to stop you from living a full life.
So, to summarise – don’t overthink things and be selective about the thoughts you choose to believe and focus on. Just because you have a thought does not mean it is valid and deserves your attention. Watch self sabotaging behaviour – are you cheating yourself out of fulfilling life experiences due to avoidance? Avoidane is HUGE, I have never met a person personally or professionally who doesn;t avoid something. When we avoid the threat remains unchallenged and it rules our life. It’s time to take back control and tell yourself you wil cope with no matter what comes your way. Let the feelings flow, experience them – learn to embrace them and conquer them.