How To Tackle Problems and Reduce Stress

By: Martin Grunburg

In the previous post, we reviewed 8 Keys to Problem Solving. Now, let’s see how we can feel less stress as we battle through both our big and small, daily problems.

First, recall from the prior post that any problem, by definition, equates to a “barrier.”

And, any barrier (problem) is something that pushes back on our efforts (energy), which creates pressure.

Therefore, before stress becomes stress, it is pressure.

Pressure is actually a NEUTRAL force. It’s neither good nor bad, and it’s important to know that the best goal achievers are problem solvers who are able to direct pressure positively.

So, how can we feel less stress in times of chaos and challenge as we fight to overcome our problems? Here are a few ideas and tips to keep in mind.

1) Equilibrium (balance), by definition, is the equal offset of pressure. Balance is not achieved in the absence of pressure. Those who tend to suffer the most in life are the ones who avoid pressures (problems, responsibility). They are the ones who, unfortunately, are off balance — out of harmony and equilibrium.

We idolize the great heroes throughout history: Lincoln, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Churchill, Jesus Christ, (name your personal hero). These great ones leaned into the pressure and challenges that faced them and did not avoid those forces. For their efforts, they came out stronger, wiser and yes, more balanced and peaceful.

2) Pressure Equals Force (divided by) Area.  P = F/A.  You may recall from eighth grade science that pressure has a formula. And, it just so happens to apply to our inner, mental world as well as the outer, physical world.

In fact, we see this formula in action all around us. By definition, a support group — whether it’s an AA meeting or any other type of support group — is an enhanced Area that helps members diminish the pressure they feel. By increasing the Area, additional resources (people, time, skills, experience sharing/expertise) we feel less pressure.

In fact, Entrepreneur Organization ( was founded for this very reason. The entrepreneur group was established after a business owner committed suicide. The idea was to provide a place (a greater Area) — a peer group — where entrepreneurs could feel safe and share the unique challenges (such as making payroll) that entrepreneurs face.

Anther example of enhancing an Area to mitigate pressure: If I tell you that your report is due in two days, the pressure you will feel is intense (due to the short time table). However, if I tell you that you have five years to complete the report, the pressure diminishes quickly. Additional time is another resource that adds to the Area.

Or, if the report is still due in two days, but I tell you that you have 20 other people helping you to complete it and they are all Harvard professors, you’re likely to feel less stressed immediately.  Additional knowledge, skills and personnel increase the resources/Area.

Video illustration: To see this physics formula in action, P = F /A:  Just watch this video.

2a) Diminish the Force. Rather than increase the Area, you might attempt to reduce the Force (problem) by breaking it into smaller pieces. What component parts can be removed? For instance, say the problem is you want to lose weight. You feel pressure to do so. Rather than focusing on the overall goal of losing 20 pounds, you might diminish the pressure by concentrating on just one component (behavior/habit), such as drinking one gallon of water a day.

3) Sphere of Influence. Incredibly, a lot of people actually create unnecessary stress in their life by creating barriers (problems) about things they cannot even directly solve. Are you wasting precious energy and resources fighting, arguing, and holding onto opinions that create friction, increase pressure and generate disharmony? Chances are good you know people who do this on social media. Hopefully, not too well. ; )

4) Present Tense. Are you stressing about something that might happen, or could happen in the future? There is an old adage that goes something like this, “Worrying is like paying interest on a loan that may never come due.” (Attributed to many different sources.)

Even a classic reggae song offers this sage advice: “In every life we have some trouble, but when you worry, you make it double. Don’t worry. Be Happy.” (Listen here… only 54Million views ; )

5) Remain Flexible: By remaining flexible you can adapt. Charles Darwin once proclaimed that, “It isn’t the strongest or the smartest of the species that survives, but the most adaptable to change.”

We can and should translate “survive” to the word “succeed.” And, here are a couple of recent “Habits 2 Goals” episodes that cover this important concept. (link)

7) Other People and Harmony:  Apparently, Jean Paul Sartre once commented, “Hell is other people.”

A bit dramatic and yet helpful to keep in mind. Perhaps a better way to appreciate the same sentiment is to follow Thomas Jefferson’s insight, “Always take things by the smooth handle.”

A majority of our problems tend to be “people problems” (relationships), and these are extremely draining upon our energy reserves, making problem solving and creativity far more difficult.

8) Accept rather than fight. This doesn’t mean surrender or even accept defeat. But, it does mean to accept the possibility of defeat so that you might envision what the alternatives look like. If you are immovable and set upon only one course of action, you are inflexible and susceptible to breakage (remember #5 above, Remain Flexible). Once you can be open to the possibility of acceptance and defeat, you are able to see possibilities you may not otherwise have recognized.

Once you can be open to the possibility of acceptance and defeat, you are able to see possibilities you may not otherwise have recognized.

Prolific Chinese author Lin Yutang once wrote, “Peace of mind is a mental condition in which you have accepted the worst.” If pressure is created by barriers or problems, then resisting the barrier only exacerbates the pressure and problem. Judo is an example of how going with the force of a problem yields new possibilities and solutions to the problem.

Next post – Olympians and goal setting


P.S.: If the subjects of pressure and/or problem-solving interest you, I have written extensively about pressure in The Pressure Paradox™. (Recently awarded Finalist in the Self-Help, Motivational category of the International Book Awards.)

The final section of the book focuses upon “Peace of Mind.” You can find more info here: The Pressure Paradox™


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