Tip #94: Find solutions, not problems.
The why: When you have anxiety, there are problems-a-plenty.
Your brain seems to have developed the extraordinary ability to find something wrong in almost anything.
Fancy a tasty meal? What if you’re allergic to something in there?
Fancy a nice day trip? What if the train breaks down or crashes?
Fancy ringing your friend? What if you’ve done something horrible to them and they now hate you?
This is because people with anxiety have an overactive Amygdala – let’s call her Amy for short.
Amy has been around keeping us alive since the dawn of humanity. She is like a person on a watchtower, constantly on the lookout for trouble.
When you have anxiety, she seems to see a lot of trouble. Everywhere. So, to keep you safe she releases hormones like adrenaline from your autonomic system, which puts you into fight-or-flight mode.
Going into flight mode is what causes you to have the incredibly horrible physical and mental symptoms of anxiety.
So, part of overcoming anxiety is sitting down with Amy over a nice calming cup of tea, and telling her:
“Amy, we appreciate everything that you do, however, we feel it’s time for some retraining.”
So, how do you retrain a 2.5 million-year-old person to do things differently? It may sound like an impossible task, but think of it this way:
If she can develop the overactivity that led to you having anxiety, then she can redevelop the normal levels of activity. She is a moveable and trainable being.
Now, how do you do this? Carrot and stick method? The promise of a raise? Tasty treats?
The most effective method I have found is the difference in the way you approach issues.
So, instead of saying: “Brain, what’s the problem?”
Try instead saying: “Brain, what’s the solution/solutions?”
For instance, if you find yourself worrying about an exam, a deadline, a date, an argument with a friend, or anything else, ask not what the problem is, but rather what the solutions are.
This will show your mind, and Amy, that the majority of things you’re worried about have solutions, and are fixable. This has the effect of reducing your stress and anxiety levels, as you know how to solve the problems.
Instead of your brain finding a whole world of trouble, your brain will naturally begin to look for the solutions, making life a whole lot more manageable.
Amy may still find many issues, but the way your brain reacts when faced with those issues will become far more positive. In the long run, once she realises that the issues she does find are resolvable, she’ll learn not to sound the alarm at the first sign of trouble.
This also feeds into all areas of your life, and improves not only your mental health, but also your schoolwork, your job performance and your existence in general.
Problem-solving is a very valuable skill.
So, I think it’s time to put on the kettle, and have a little word with Amy.