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Do you somedays find yourself dealing with problems all day? And when you reflect on your day sometimes thinking ‘I’ve done no work all day today, just dealt with problems.’

I used to work as a civil servant many years ago and there seemed to be so many problems. I’d walk into the office and a colleague would rush up to me saying “there’s a problem! Tony has phoned in sick and there’s nobody free to go to his meeting!”

That seemed to set the tone for the day. Everywhere I looked there were problems, as if things were going wrong all the time. I’d even get swept up in it and find myself dealing with problems all day until it came time to go home when I’d reflect on my day thinking I’ve done no work all day today, just dealt with problems.

But what is work and what are ‘problems’?

Why do changes in original plans transform from just events occurring in the day to problems that require us to ramp up our blood pressure, breath faster, flood our bodies with cortisol, tense our necks and foreheads and make our hearts beat faster?

Things happen, plans change. How is that a problem? We have in our skulls a brain which is connected, via our nerves, to the rest of our bodies and it is through this complex system of energy and information flow that our minds create problems. It seems that our minds are problem-making mechanisms scanning constantly for threats. It makes biological sense really, as an evolutionary species it would have been the timid ones, which survived, not the bold, arrogant ones. We learned to stay away from perceived danger whenever possible. So, we continue to monitor and evaluate threats today, constantly checking the outer world of people and events for threats to our safety and security. We have thoughts such as –

  • Who’s to blame?
  • What am I going to do?
  • What will they think of me?
  • Why did I get it wrong?

But, what if any event in our day was quite simply just that? An event. After all, if an event occurs such as the internet has gone down and there’s nothing we can do, and it needs the server techy guys to fix it, then how is our fretting and shouting going to help fix it? However much we wish bad thoughts on the Internet providers, it won’t speed up the solution. And as far as I know, thinking evil thoughts about people has yet to be found to do them any harm at all. In fact health wise it probably harms us far more in the long term.

As events arise which require action, if you can do something do it; if you can’t then do something else and avoid magnifying what might already be a challenge by calling it a ‘problem’. Simply starting to rephrase problems as events requiring action, or occurrences or challenges can really help.

Neurons in the brain that fire together, wire together, which is to say that the more we dramatise day-to-day events with the added texture of anxiety, worry, stress and threat the more we will tend to do this. We know that our brains are capable of an infinite amount of re-shaping and rewiring so whatever tendencies you have to discover and create problems will only get worse if that’s what you practice.

So, practice noticing events not problems.