Friday, June 10, 2011

Problem-Solving Thinking as a Stress Management Technique

I wrote last Friday about problem-solving thinking and am continuing this Friday — because I'm hooked! It's a useful skill in a variety of situations and one that men use to cope effectively with stress. According to research, it works. Men experience less stress than women, because they use more successful coping mechanisms. e.g. problem-solving. Women may use p-s in lots of situations, but apparently not routinely as a stress management technique.

Richard E. Mayer, a pscyhologist at U of Cal Santa Barbara says in his book, Thinking, ProblemSolving, Cognition, that problem-solving thinking is the "hallmark of human survival." In recent years, positive thinkers have preferred to use the word "challenge" for problem, which is OK with me. Three ideas need to be considered:
• the current state of a situation is not OK
• an end or goal state of improvement is desired
• there's no obvious way to get from the current challenge state to the desired end state.

Here's an example: Someone that I work with on a volunteer basis unexpectedly became angry at me and labeled me "mean and nasty."
I had no idea what caused that response. We previously had a pleasant, although not close, relationship. I am not happy with the current state. The goal state is a return to our previous pleasant everyday relationship. It's not obvious to me how to solve the problem. I have made no attempts to solve the problem — neither has the "someone". But fortunately, once I identified the problem, I'm no longer stressed.

But, I have identified the problem/challenge, which is the key to moving on to solutions, or to letting it go, or to coming up with a solution while sleeping, day-dreaming, running or staring into space in an intuitive way. So, I'm recommending that in the next few days if there's a problem/challenge opportunity you identify it clearly, then back away from it for a day or hour and see what happens. You have plenty of time to solve it, unless it's a crisis, plus you'll get better at challenge identification, which is the first step in effective problem-solving of any kind.

Then, we'll talk more about how to use problem-solving for stress management.
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