Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Effective problem-solving increases confidence in your competence

Stress for Success

February 4, 2014

Here’s something that drives me nuts: When someone has something wrong with them, health-wise, and do nothing about it but go to a doctor for drugs. There are so many other tools that can be as effective, if not more so, and with no negative side effects.

Arthritis is an example. Arthritis, we know, involves inflammation. A strong immune system fights inflammation and infection better than a weak one. Regular meditation enhances and strengthens the immune system. If you have arthritis, why wouldn’t you commit to doing meditation daily for a month or two and see if it helps.

But why do so many people refuse to take such action even if only on a trial basis?

For some, it may be due to having low self-efficacy. Perhaps they don’t believe anything they do will have a positive effect on their condition. If they believe only doctors have the answers they won’t look beyond a medical option.

Better self-care is only one reason to develop strong self-efficacy: the belief that your actions can be effective.

Improving as a problem solver is an excellent way to raise self-efficacy. Even if you don’t trust your own problem-solving abilities in certain areas you can learn to improve. Consider the following characteristics inherent in you confronting your stressors. You have:
  •     The coping skills you have learned along the way;
  •       Your assessment of the situation;
  •       Your own general self-efficacy;

These traits are not part of the stressful situation but are part of you and greatly influence your ability to handle the situation.

Beyond these internal traits are characteristics inherent to the stressor itself, which have little or nothing to do with your internal characteristics. These external aspects also influence your ability to meet the stressful demand:
1.    Strength and context: How serious is the stressful event? The context in which the event occurs plays an important role in determining it. For example, the stress of your phone losing power during a meeting when you probably shouldn’t even notice it is of lower intensity than occurring after a car crash when calling 911 is imperative.
2.    Length speaks to how long the stressor lasts. A headache that lasts an evening is obviously shorter than caring for someone with a chronic disease.
3.    Stress landscape refers to how much stress you have going on in your life when the new one hits. “The straw that broke the camel’s back,” takes on new meaning when even a small stressor can cause overblown anxiety when it’s on top of many others.
4.    Self-efficacy points to how skilled you believe you are in handling the stressor. Handling the new stressor is typically easier if it’s familiar than unfamiliar.

To increase self-efficacy, you must approach stressors with a level head and take into consideration the previous four traits. If the stressor:
1.    . . . is of low strength because its context is less important, don’t catastrophize it. If the strength is high because the context is urgent, address the situation immediately and seek help if you are unable to cope.
2.    . . . is of significant length, handle it as well as you can while at the same time take better care of yourself to avoid running yourself down physically, emotionally and mentally inhibiting your ability to cope.
3.    . . . is piled on top of many other stressors, begin a methodical process of choosing perhaps the easiest stressors to solve immediately. Doing so effectively automatically raises your self-efficacy, which facilitates handling the tougher ones better, too.
4.    . . . is something you have handled successfully before then do so now. If it’s unfamiliar to you, figure out what you need to learn and who can help you learn.

Any and all progress you make in increasing self-efficacy will serve you very well in many ways, not the least of which is becoming a much better stress manager. It’s a wonderful cycle: improved problem-solving creates greater self-efficacy, which motivates you to problem-solve more stressors.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S. is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.  Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html.  Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com