In this article, we provide four simple steps to handle challenging situations when you feel stressed, anxious and fearful.

Some challenges are welcomed such as moving to a new state, getting a big promotion, or welcoming a new baby. Challenges that are usually not welcomed are losing a job, being diagnosed with a chronic illness, or losing a valued relationship.

When unexpected and serious challenges arise, our stress, fear and anxiety can flair up. Navigating the situation in this state can be very difficult and unproductive. It’s important to calm our emotions so we can make decisions with a clear head. When you feel stressed, anxious or fearful…





Take a moment to journal or think about how the problem is impacting you and where you are with it. Get is all out. All the negative emotions that come up, write it down. Now take a figurative step back and try to be as objective as possible, without allowing fear and other negative emotions to take over again. Acknowledge that this is where you are and, if you are able, realize that this is okay.

To illustrate this step, let’s use losing a job as an example. This can be incredibly stressful and scary. But letting fear take control will make you feel worse and won’t improve your present circumstances. An objective journal reflection might include:

“I lost my job today. It’s a bummer because ___(insert reasons)_______ and I am __(insert emotions)_____. I have money in the bank to cover expenses for the next 3 months. I want / need to find a new job within the next 2 months.”

Though it is easier said than done, coming to terms with the problem will help you move to the next step.



Because dwelling on the negative can greatly impair your ability to solve the problem, take a moment to write down three or more positive things you see in the problem.

This article talks more about the benefits of finding silver linings when confronted with negative circumstances.

What might be some positives about losing a job?

  • “I get to spend more time with family and friends while I look for a new job.”
  • “I just eliminated a long daily commute and can save money on gas.”
  • “I have unexpected free time to work on my (hobby).”
  • “I have an opportunity to find a job I really enjoy.”
  • “I can find a remote job, working from home.”
  • “I can find a job with a better pay.”

No matter how small, focusing on the positives helps change your perspective about the situation and allows you greater ability to move forward with a clear head.



Problem-solving amidst stress, fear, and anxiety can result in making snap decisions you may later regret. Steps 1 and 2 are meant to ground you and bring a small amount of peace to your present circumstance.

Now that you’re here, let’s see what can be done to fix the problem.

List as many tasks or action items as possible that would help you solve the problem. For the lost job example, what might you be able to do to improve your situation?

  • Rework my budget to stretch my savings
  • Ask a colleague for a letter of recommendation
  • Update my resume
  • Set up accounts on job sites and upload resume
  • Browse job sites and apply
  • Ask friends, family, colleagues if they know of any companies hiring
  • Rest and hang out with friends and family

The more tasks you identify, the better. No matter how small. In fact, including easy items is a good idea. Some days you will want to work on your list, other days you won’t. Some days, you’ll complete one hard task, other days you’ll scratch 5 tasks off the list. You get the idea.



Most people inherently feel better when they step into action. Maybe you can relate to this. The more tasks you cross of your list as completed, the better you may feel.

This framework is simple yet incredibly effective when applied to big and small problems encountered in daily life. Even with the littlest of life’s frustrations, like getting stuck in traffic or your Wi-Fi cutting out, following these steps may bring much needed peace of mind.


A related article you may find useful: A Key to Building Resilience.

If mindfulness is up your alley, you might enjoy this article: 4 Ways to Overcome a Professional Setback





Do you struggle with stress, fear, or anxiety when challenges arise? You’re not alone. Sometimes a little support from a licensed therapist is all you need to navigate rough waters. You can request a FREE Phone Consultation by completing the brief form below. A member of our team will reach out and help you determine if our practice and which therapist might be a good fit for you. If our practice happens to not be a good fit, we are happy to offer recommendations to providers in the Denver metro area.