Problem solving

If you’re worried about something, sometimes it becomes much less frightening if you can break that thing down into smaller, more manageable pieces. One way to do that is to start by listing all the possible outcomes, even the bad ones. For example, if you’re feeling worried because you don’t understand a subject or know how to prepare for the exam, you could write down these potential outcomes:

  • Don’t revise for the exam
  • Try to figure out the work alone
  • Ask a teacher or friend for help

The second step would be to list the pros and cons of each solution:

Don’t revise:

Pros: no need to do anything

Cons: might fail the exam

Figure it out alone:

Pros: can start right away

Cons: might be too difficult or make things worse

Ask a teacher or friend for help:

Pros: someone to explain it, so a better chance of passing

Cons: waiting for when they can help

The third step would be to choose the most practical solution. In this example, it looks like the last option has the best chances of success.

Once you’ve decided on a solution or a combination of the solutions, the fourth step is making a plan to carry it out – could you text or call your friend now? Could you ask your teacher for help when you next see them at school? Perhaps it would help to write yourself a reminder to do that.

The fifth step would involve recording your progress, reviewing your plans, and feeling good about your efforts. If you’ve put a plan in place, such as asking a teacher to help you study, it might help you to feel less worried about the exam, because you know that you have will have more support and resources available to you soon. These steps are based around BBC Health’s ‘structured problem solving’ worksheet, which you can use as a template:

In the following video, Cyra Neave, Senior Clinician for the Centre's Schools Outreach team, provides a structure for you to start problem solving:

There isn’t much academic research in the area of self-care for young people who are living with mental health issues. We are trying to find out more about what works for different people so we can better advise other young people what to try.

If you’ve tried this activity when you were struggling in relation to your mental health, please let us know if it helped you and how by clicking on the ‘Did this activity help you’ button.

Did this activity help your mental wellbeing?

If yes, why do you think it helped?

What would you say to other young people who are thinking of trying this?

Close

The Centre is taking action to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Our physical sites are now closed but we are still at work, with all staff working remotely. Find out more about our training and services and our support for children, young people, their families, and schools and colleges.  

Contact Us

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We’d also like to set optional analytics to help us improve it. We won’t set optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences.

For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page


Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.


Analytics cookies

We’d like to set non-essential cookies, such as Google Analytics, to help us to improve our website by collecting and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone. For more information on how these cookies work, please see our Cookies page. If you are 16 or under, please ask a parent or carer for consent before accepting.