List Your Problems Away

list stress relief

That stack of bills piles up. You worry about your work performance. There are errands to run. Schedules must be juggled.  You’re falling behind on practice for [insert competitive game of your choice]. The con is this weekend and your Tracer cosplay is half finished at best, and you have no idea what pose you’re supposed to strike as her. Life feels like a Zerg rush coming at you from all directions, and your defenses are falling. But, what if I told you there was a way to corral the chaos of your life? It’s a thing so simple you often carry it in your pocket to the grocery store. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it will cut them down to size: Making a list.

To the unorganized mind, the challenges of life can feel like a a cacophony of noises in one’s head that become louder and more infuriating with each new annoyance that joins this symphony of madness. Each little challenge piles on top of the others to form this ominous gray mass, and in the process, end up looking larger and more dangerous than they really are. If you’re not experiencing this unpleasant feeling now, you can probably remember a time like this, when it felt like everything was coming down on you at once. It felt like it was inescapable, until the problems either passed or were solved.

list zerg starcraft
Pictured: You versus life.

This is where listing out your problems comes in.

If you’re feeling like the inventory of your life is over-encumbered by worry, it’s time to sit down and examine the contents. Find some time to take a break from whatever it is you are doing. Grab a pen and paper. Don’t use a computer, because you risk the distractions of the Internet and more specifically social media dragging you back into the problems you’re trying to solve. For that matter, turn the phone off too. This needs to be personal time between you, your thoughts, and your emotions.

Next, look deep within yourself and reflect on the things that bother you. Write them out one by one as you think of them. List out every issue you can think of, from the minor to the major. They all matter, because they all detract from your happiness. At first it may sound counterproductive to compile all of your worries. After all, it’s assembling them together in one place like a supervillain team-up. What this actually does is distinctly identify each of these emotional antagonists as a distinct issue instead of a colossal, formless legion. This allows you to address each problem individually, to divide and conquer rather than cower in fear.

Now that each problem has been identified, each problem must be examined. Dedicate a sheet of paper to each one. First determine exactly why this issue bothers you, and what ‘threat’ it poses to your life. Problems at work can pose a threat to your livelihood. Unpaid bills can put living situation at risk. Unaddressed annoyances can threaten a relationship. Supervillains gaining knowledge of secret identities endangers love interests. Sometimes, this helps manage the stress of life’s difficulties, as our problems are often overblown within our own minds, and this technique allows you to logically examine each one. Those worries about your job may be vastly exaggerated. Rejection by your crush wouldn’t be as devastating as initially imagined. Trips to the dentist aren’t actually that bad. Sometimes the things that worry us are justified fears. An impending evection is a very real threat. So is an ambush by Gary Oak. But this step of the process still helps. By identifying and defining the threat and nature of the issue, it primes the problem for the solving. A detailed description can help identify the weak points on this boss monster, which prepares you for the next step of this process.

vulcan spock star trek stress relief
Go Vulcan on your life’s worries.

Regardless if the ‘danger’ these problems pose to your life are exaggerated or most certainly justified, the next step is to devise possible solutions. This not only helps to identify possible solutions, but also poke holes in the ‘threat’ of each issue by identifying its frailties. A conundrum is less frightening when you know where to strike the weak point for massive damage. You may very well have time to accomplish all of your errands when you determine some of that time spent playing mobile games on your lunch break at work can be traded for running to the bank, or that those bills stacking up can be paid with money diverted away from frivolous junk purchases. By devising and implementing these solutions, you take power over your worries, rather than the worries taking power over you.

What follows is an incredible feeling. One by one, you strike items off the list. With each line you cross out, that bogeyman that is your fears and anxieties grows a little smaller. Not only do you solve your problems, but you build self esteem in the process. You confidently affirm to yourself that you are powerful, capable, and in control of your own life. Relish that sweet taste of success as you go from victim to victor.

stress relief pacific rim
And shout this while you do it.

Will a journal of worries and solutions instantly solve all of your problems? No. It is simply a tool to not only make a plan of attack, but also put you in the right frame of mind to conquer the ills of your life. As they say, attitude is everything. You would be surprised that the first step to turning your life around begins with something as simple as a pencil and paper. Try it today. Start your quest towards peace of mind. Let me know how it turns out.

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