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Everyone will have to overcome setbacks and problems. Sickness, the death of a loved one, a difficult exam, job related stress, anything that disrupts life in a negative way, is annoying. Some problems can be solved, some problems you'll have to learn to live with. Some problems are huge, but sometimes we have a tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill. Solving problems and dealing with stress, starts with you. Being able to deal with stress is important for both one's mental and physical well being.
Most people react indignantly when confronted with a serious setback, like disease or dismissal: why does this happen to ME ? It's very human to feel rebellious: if you've lived 'by the rules' you don't deserve misery. But unfortunately bad things happen to good people as well. If there's little you can change about the event, like the death of a loved one, or adultery by your spouse, you'd better accept this is happening to you. Accepting an event, doesn't mean you can't try to improve the situation, it means no longer fighting reality. It is what it is. The sooner you can accept this, the sooner you'll be able to deal with the situation in the best possible way. Accepting a situation might be easier if you ask why not ? instead of why me ? Each and every day thousands of people have to deal with accidents, diseases and other setbacks, so why wouldn't you be one of them ?
Scientific research shows that people who manage to put a positive spin on a negative event are quickly bouncing back: they're less prone to stress and are more optimistic. When a bad thing happens, putting a negative spin on it only makes it worse. Putting a positive spin on the event means deciding the meaning of events in your life. You either help yourself or harm yourself by the choice you make. When you choose a positive meaning, your life improves. When you choose a negative meaning, your life becomes worse.
You have to become your own personal spin doctor. The term spin doctor became a common addition to our language in the 1980s. Its exact origin is uncertain, but spin doctor is often used to describe public relations experts as well as political or corporate representatives whose job it is to put a 'positive spin' on events or situations. The verb spin doctoring is also commonly used to describe the work of a spin doctor. If we control the spin, or direction, of an object, we are showing sides of it we want to show while not shedding light on the rest. A spin doctor uses spin control to emphasize or exaggerate the most positive aspect of something. We can do the same in our personal lives. When confronted with disease, perhaps you started to live more consciously, enjoying the little things in life. Or maybe the relationship with your partner has become more intense.
Learning to be positive requires a deliberate shift in thinking. You can't just will yourself into a different emotional state, the first step starts with changing your interpretation of events. Step back and see things from a bigger perspective. Instead of focusing on the negative, look for the positive in a stressful event. Being temporarily unemployed, for example, could prompt you to find a more satisfying job or line of work. The end of a love affair can signal a new beginning in another part of your life. Every time you handle a challenge successfully, no matter how small it is, you gain a sense of mastery and control that will help you be a better problem-solver or a more positive thinker. It is really possible to spin any event into some type of positive, it may not completely overshadow the entire circumstance but it does feel good to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the only positive you can come up with is the fact that something bad happened but now it is over with. Being thankful for a bad situation or occurrence to being over with is a surefire way of always having something positive to say after every event in your life.
Make a conscious and determined decision to drop all of your negative self-talk and thinking immediately. Unproductive thoughts and highly charged feeling serve to fuel the emotional fire. Dropping the doom-and-gloom thinking will help prevent you from going into panic mode or depression. Roll with the punches and focus on what you can learn from this negative experience. A positive spin can be put on it by reframing it. We must keep in mind that it is not the events that shape our lives but our response to them.
Ask yourself questions like What's gotten better since this happened ?, Which positive effects did this have on my relationships ? or To which extent have I developed myself since this event ? and What did I start to appreciate more ?
Daily problems, irritations and stress, such as a high work load, or problems with the neighbors, have a higher impact on mental and physical health than major setbacks such as divorce or dismissal, exactly because they influence our well being on a daily basis. People differ in the way they deal with these daily events. The same event might freak out one person, while it hardly influences someone else. Some people are utterly annoyed when they drive to work and are held up in traffic, while others put on some music and relax.
Research shows that people with a tendency to avoid problem solving, experience more stress and are not in good health. If the neighbors' yelling disturbs you, but you don't dare to talk to them about it, the yelling won't stop. If you don't have enough money, and escape in dreaming about winning the lottery, nothing will change. If you postpone solving a problem, it's a short time 'solution' but it won't help you in the long run. It's better to face and solve your daily problems. If you're annoyed because you're held up in traffic, try to find an alternative route, or an alternative means of transport, or decide not to be annoyed. Do some relaxation exercise and enjoy the quiet moment. If the neighbors bother you, talk to them in a friendly yet determined way. If you've got money problems, don't dream about a luxury vacation on the white beaches of some exotic island, but look into ways of making more money.
All of this sounds very logical, yet many people avoid solving their problems. Lots of people aren't assertive, and afraid to hurt others. Furthermore, lots of people have a tendency to avoid negative situations and emotions, because those are simply 'no fun'.
If you have a tendency to postpone working on solving your daily problems, it might help to work on building self esteem (see 14 steps: Self Esteem). If you believe in yourself, you'll also believe you've got the power to solve your problems and to give a positive spin on your life. Of course, not all problems can be solved. Some things, like unannounced visitors on your doorstep, or a burned meal, have to be accepted. Try to relax and ask yourself: how much of a problem is this anyway ? Try to make the best of it. For these small problems it's the same as for major setbacks, try to see the positive. Maybe you burned the potatoes, but when you quickly go out to buy French fries, the children might be delighted.
Think back to the last time you had to deal with a major problem or a difficult situation. What did you do? For each of the following, indicate the degree to which you responded that way: not at all, a little, moderately, strongly.
- You blamed yourself
- You accepted the situation: it is what it is
- You tried not to think about the situation
- You worried about the problem
- You escaped in daydreaming
- You tried to see the advantages of the situation
- You blamed others
- You downplayed the problem: it wasn't that bad
- You prayed to God
- You felt helpless
- You talked to others about it
- You made a plan to solve the problem
- Something else, more specifically ...
Look back and think about whether you chose a constructive way to deal with the problem or situation. What could you have done differently ?
Can you, in hindsight, put a positive spin on the situation ? What are the advantages ? What has become better since that situation ? Did you encounter new changes and possibilities since then ?