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  • Allison Ramsey, Asheville Grief Counselor

How To Solve a Problem


How to Solve a Problem

When we have a problem, life can get out of sorts, our anxiety increases, we stop sleeping well, and we become fixated on finding a solution. Like when I was in my senior year of college I became fixated on figuring out what I was going to do with the rest of my life upon graduation. It’s all I could think about, it’s all anyone talked about, and everyone seemed to have a great plan except for me. I was getting to the point where I didn’t care what the plan was, I just wanted to have one. But when we become fixated, we get tunnel vision. Eventually we can’t see anything except the problem itself. Solutions to difficult problems take creativity. (Or they wouldn’t be difficult problems). But increased anxiety and poor sleep inhibit creativity.

Try being mindful. Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment without judgment. When you can get some space from stressful thoughts: “If I don’t figure out what to do after graduation my life will be ruined.” and engage in the present moment: “Right now I can feel how warm my toes feel within my socks…(breathe)... the cushion of my shoes on my feet as I walk down the street…(breathe)...I can see a house with a blue door…(breathe)...I can smell a little car exhaust, and a scent of blooming lilac bush as I walk by…(breathe)...I can taste a little bit of the coffee I drank before leaving the house, and I can feel the rough fabric of my jeans between my fingers.” Slowly these nonjudgmental observations can help to put you into the present moment.How do you increase creativity during stressful times?

When you are in the present moment, there is no future, and no past, and you are allowed to be right where you are, everything is okay. This awareness allows your mind as well as your body to breathe and get some air. As your mind wanders in the present it may find the resources it needs to give you some ideas about solving your problem. Or it might not. But your mind will have had a much needed break, making it less stressed for the time being, letting go of the feeling of impending doom.

The impending doom of my graduation began at the beginning of my last semester in college. It really peaked about Spring Break time. I thought I should be touring the country, accepting job interviews like a lot of my friends. Instead, I took a real break, and did something I valued - I joined a volunteer group to help do trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail and camp out for a week. I decided to give myself a week off from worrying about it. And you know what? While I was there, I met some people that helped lead me to my next job - leading backpacking trips and building trail in Northern New Mexico. I never would have come up that answer on my own if I’d stayed home and stewed about it.

Next time you have a problem you can’t figure out the answer to despite thinking about it every waking hour for a week, take a break, find yourself in the present moment, and allow yourself to come back to the question, from a rested and creative place.

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