Problem Solving Strategies to Reduce Anxiety and Depression

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Solving Problems can help your depression and anxiety

Solving Problems can help your depression and anxiety

John Lennon wisely said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”   He was right, of course. Most of us are constantly experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression due to life’s problems.  A recent study showed that many people who are being treated with depression medication aren’t suffering from chemical depression at all; they are depressed because of life circumstances.

Your problems can cause you to suffer from anxiety and depression.  A few of your problems may be out of your control. However, most of life’s problems can be solved. Determining which of your problems can be solved (and then solving them) can provide a dramatic reduction in your stress levels.

Many anxious people know there is a reason for their anxiety. They also may know their anxiety could be relieved by solving a problem in their life. They may be fearful of solving the problem. Many people have a profound “fear of regret.” They are afraid that if they walk away from a bad situation, they will be sorry later.

Some people have problems that can be easily solved. For example:

Jack has been falling behind in his college classes because he’s been procrastinating with his reading assignments and term papers. He’s three assignments behind and his teachers are leaning on him. Jack is afraid that he will have to drop all of his classes. If this happens, the college may put him on academic probation or take away his scholarship money. Jack knows that he can solve the problem simply by catching up on his assignments and working harder. However, every time he sits down to study, he is too anxious to accomplish anything.  Jack could completely solve his problem by spending a week doing nothing, but catching up on his school work.

Susan is experiencing severe anxiety over her household budget.  She works full-time and has three children. Even though she makes a decent salary, she never manages to stay within her budget. Susan doesn’t realize that her financial stress is being caused by her inability to properly shop for, plan and cook meals. Susan never manages to effectively plan meals so her budget is overrun with take-out and restaurant expenses. She can never manage to prepare bagged lunches for her children to take to school. She spends a lot of money at the grocery store, but ends out throwing out most of the food when she fails to make meals with it.  Susan doesn’t know that many of her financial problems would go away if she just learned to make a meal plan and stick with it.

Sometimes the devil is in the details. Mary Hunt, an author of frugal books, wrote that if you think that you are spending $400 on food a month, you are probably really spending $800.

Others may have bigger problems that could be solved with more effort:

Tammy has been suffering from extreme anxiety and depression that worsens every day. She has to work two jobs and she still can’t pay her bills. She gets calls from collection companies daily. She’s fallen three payments behind on her mortgage and the bank is threatening to foreclose on her. Her credit cards are maxed out. Tammy is completely exhausted and feels like she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She recently visited a debt counselor who closely examined her finances. His observations were grim. Tammy is severely overextended. She cannot afford her expensive house. The interest rates on her credit cards are so high that there is no realistic way that she will ever be able to pay them off, even if she works 4 full-time jobs. He recommended that Tammy file for bankruptcy and let go of the house. If Tammy listened to his advice, her anxiety levels would be greatly reduced. She could get an affordable apartment and rebuild her credit. Tammy would be much happier if she would just let go of everything that is making her miserable. Her house is no longer giving her pleasure; it’s dragging her down. Tammy worries that if she gives up her house she’ll never be able to get another one. This is an irrational worry. Millions of people have been able to successfully buy another home after bankruptcy.

Jane has a difficult relationship with her husband, Thomas. Their marriage has been rough since the beginning. Thomas often flies into rages about the smallest of things. After a disagreement, Thomas “punishes” Jane by giving her the silent treatment for weeks and sometimes months. Thomas displays incredible stamina for abuse. They haven’t had sexual relations for over 5 years. Thomas claims that he can’t perform sexually because he is “so angry” with Jane.  Jane doesn’t want to give up her marriage, even though the marital tension has ruined her mental and physical health. Thomas refuses to see a marriage counselor and insists that the marital trouble is caused by Jane. Jane doesn’t want to believe that the marriage will never improve. She tries to do nice things for Thomas in an attempt to get him to love her. She holds onto the hope that Thomas will change and they’ll live happily ever after. Jane doesn’t realize how happy her life would be if she had the courage to leave Thomas and start a new life. She keeps hanging on to Thomas and her anxiety worsens by the day.

Look for Underlying Reasons for your Anxiety and Depression

Maybe you have anxiety because you have an expensive car payment you can’t afford. Maybe you are stressed out because you, like Tammy, have purchased a house that is out of your financial grasp. Maybe you have a friend who is draining you dry emotionally.  You need to find out what is making you anxious and correct it before you start suffering from physical symptoms.

Stress can have a huge impact on your physical health. You can develop high blood pressure, heart disease or even cancer. Your health is more important than any house, car, job or relationship. When you don’t have your health, nothing else matters.

If a house is making you nervous, get rid of it and find a more affordable apartment.  You can always buy another house later when your finances improve. If your marriage is irreparable, consider getting a divorce. Maybe you’ll end up meeting your true soul mate. A good paying job with a bullying manager won’t benefit you if it causes you to have a stroke.

An Anxiety or Depression Journal Can be Helpful

Keep an Anxiety or Depression Journal to explore reasons for your anxiety – Sometimes we’re too close to a situation and are unable to see it clearly. You may think you know what is causing your anxiety or depression, but your reasoning may be incorrect. It really helps to just write it all down in a notebook and examine your notes after a few weeks.

You don’t have to buy a fancy journal. A $1 notebook will do.

Many psychologists and mental health professionals recommend keeping a depression or anxiety journal to help you put things in perspective. Start your anxiety journal today. Write about anything that you want. Write about what makes you anxious, what makes you depressed, what makes you happy. Focus on the good things in your life as well as the bad. Sometimes it might seem that there is no good in your life. However, if you look closely, you’ll probably see many good things you should be happy about.

Explore and write about the reasons you are anxious and unhappy. How can you correct these things? Brainstorm for a resolution to your problems. Make sure you try hard to find a doable solution. Your life and happiness depends on it!

Make Sure your Life is Free of “Traps” and “Chain Reactions”

Is there something or someone in your life that is preventing you from being happy? Maybe your budget is out of whack because you are overburdened by high gas prices. Sure, you love your big truck, but if it’s costing you $500 in monthly gas expenses, it may be time to investigate buying a small, fuel-efficient car. It doesn’t have to be permanent. Maybe gas prices will go down in the future or maybe you’ll make more money and then gas prices won’t be an issue and then you can buy a big truck again. Be proactive.  Pull yourself out of these traps. Don’t just wait around for them to resolve themselves.

Take a Small Step Today to resolve your situation

You don’t have to start with big dramatic and scary steps to cure your anxiety and depression. Just stick one toe in the water and see how it feels. If your cluttered house is making you anxious, don’t immediately throw out everything. Find a small area to clean. See how it makes you feel to look at that one small and orderly area. If it feels good, do some more! If your house has a mountain of paperwork, try throwing out 20 pieces every day. It will take some time, but you’ll get there!

If you are suffering in a bad marriage, talk to a counselor. Or better yet, make an appointment with a divorce lawyer. You may be delaying the inevitable (and harming your health and happiness) because you think that obtaining a divorce will be extremely difficult and painful. Maybe it really won’t be. Maybe the divorce will make you a happier and healthier person.

If your job is a nightmare, send out a single resume today. It won’t be much work and you’ll feel like you are gaining control of your life, which will relieve your constant anxiety. Every day, send out another one and soon your situation will be better. People with constant anxiety often feel like their lives are out of control. Taking a small step towards improving your situation every day will put you back in control of your life.

Make a to-do list and stick with it – If you want to conquer your anxiety, you have to stop being a victim of your own procrastination. Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Listen to Yoda; he was very wise. If you are behind on your homework, make a list of what you want to get accomplished today. If your house is a mess, write down a few tasks to do. Make a realistic list. Making an overly ambitious list defeats the purpose, as you’ll probably be too overwhelmed to complete it. Do not deviate from that list. Even if you have to stay up to midnight, make sure the items on your list get accomplished. Avoid the internet, phone and television until everything is completed. The anxiety and depression relief you receive from getting things done will be incredible.

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