How to Deal with Problems & Challenges

How to Deal with Problems & Challenges

In my younger years, and sometimes even now, when problems would arise at work or in my personal life, it would result in a panicky feeling. Sometimes, it would completely disrupt me, and I would get “stuck” in the feelings about the problem and not be able to find a solution. Sometimes I would even forget that I needed to find a solution or my reaction to the problem would be so extreme that it would make the problem worse or bigger. Learning to become someone who acts instead of reacts has helped me to become a more valuable employee, friend, partner and human being.
The effort to change your behavior is worth it. It can result in a promotion, a bonus, more closed sales leads and it can result in a change in the way people see you. Imagine going from, “Oh, she won’t be able to handle that,” to “Oh, she will get it done.” Now, sometimes being known as a handler means more problems are laid at your feet, but there are usually much greater rewards associated with being a good problem solver.

Notice the rise in emotions.

So, how do you go about this change? The first thing is to start noticing the rise in emotions that show up when a problem occurs. Just noticing is often difficult because you may be automatically reacting. And you may have been automatically reacting emotionally for so long that it will take some work to stop yourself.
I write myself some post-it notes and make it a point to focus on the topic in my journal. I put the post-it notes up on the wall behind my computer or around my house. I write things like “stop and breathe,” or “count to 10 and wait to respond.”

Wait to respond.

The second step is to wait before you respond back to the person who has brought the problem or before you decide what to do or say in reaction. This can also be a really tough step if you’ve always reacted with a big set of outwardly expressed emotion.
One note I want to make here is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for being “a reactor.” A lot of us have always been this way and have never been taught another way to deal. Some of us had this method of dealing with problems modeled to us by our parents. And some of us are still holding onto this behavior because it was useful to us at some point in our lives. It’s time to let go, and it’s time to speak kindly to yourself while changing the pathways in your brain!


At this point, you should begin to work on accepting that the problem or the challenge is there and that you’re going to need to figure out how to deal with it. This is often also a really difficult step, but I find that it really helps to remember that, as humans, it is our job to fix problems. When a problem arises, think of yourself as “the problem master.” Think to yourself, “I’ve got this. I can figure this out.” If you need to, say those phrases or similar positive encouragement to yourself or in the mirror in the bathroom. This is where you are beginning to really change the pathways in your brain away from panic and towards a calm set of next steps.
Once you have calmed down and feel less emotional about the problem, ask yourself some simple questions. What is the best solution to this problem? If you knew someone who could fix it and was an expert on this problem, what would they do? Then, have a good think in a quiet place where you can break apart the problem and then come up with solutions.

Start to break apart how the challenge can be solved.

Now, your problem may be a problem that doesn’t have an immediate solution or that will take time. At this stage, I recommend coming up with a method that allows you to write out what the solution would be and who you would need to ask for help to fix it. Then, you can take this plan and start to execute it.
When I’m trying to break apart a challenge and find a solution, I find, for bigger problems, it’s good to take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. At the top, I write “description of problem.” Then, below that, I break down mini parts of the problem. In the column next to that, I break down mini parts of what could be the solution. It looks something like this:

Right click, download & print me!

Sometimes I will add a third column where I might decide to specify if I want to ask for help from someone or tap someone in. Or I might add a column for links to articles or books that will help me with that particular issues.

Take a break if you get stuck.

The other important thing to remember when you’re trying to move through the problem, is to take a break if you feel frustrated or stuck. That’s a sign that you have not yet dealt with your emotions, as it relates to the issue or having to solve it. Sometimes a simple stroll around the office, listening to a certain song, or just venting to a trusted friend or colleague will help you to come back with a fresh perspective. Instead of focusing on the problem when you vent, take your stroll or listen to the song, focus on being proud of yourself for not over-reacting. Focus on being grateful that you have the skills to break this problem down and that there is someone out there that can help you. And focus on having some compassion for yourself.

Problems aren’t fun to deal with, a lot of the time, but you can definitely train yourself how to deal with them in a way that will result in acceptance, calm actions, and solutions!

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