7 Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles
By: Other | March 18, 2022
Written by Stephanie Salo, Psy.D.
There are often many challenges encountered when trying to solve a problem and reach a goal. The process can be discouraging, and as more obstacles are encountered, frustration and exhaustion magnify. For example, I recently inherited a broken koi pond. I have been determined to either fix it or keep it covered. It sounds straightforward, but despite all my efforts, it has remained an ongoing challenge. This experience reminds me of how frustrating it can be to obtain mental health care. In this article, I share more of my experience along with strategies to convert negative experiences into success.
While assessing the backyard, I quickly realized I knew little about ponds and landscaping. I did online research but discovered that this koi pond was quite unique. I struggled to find the correct replacement pump; rainwater began to collect and stagnate. Not to be thwarted, I bailed and dried it out, and covered it as securely as I could. However, due to the odd shape and design, water kept leaking in. Acknowledging that I needed help, I called several professionals. The response I received was discouraging. Most people did not return my call, several told me that I was out of their service area, and one wanted to charge a consultation fee—just to look at it—but they didn’t follow through either. I then resorted to asking friends, family members, neighbors, and hardware store employees, but those suggestions (and parts) ultimately failed or did not quite fit right either. Every time I saw it, I thought, “this really can’t be that hard to fix.” I vacillated between feeling discouraged and stubborn.
If you are also struggling, particularly with anxiety, depression, or other mental health symptoms, consider these strategies for overcoming obstacles:
1. Transform Stubbornness into Determination
People generally want to fix problems on their own and stubbornly try to do so. We are encouraged from a young age to be independent, feel as though we “should” solve our problems, and typically do not have much practice asking for help. However, there are some challenges—no matter how hard you try—that are beyond grasp. Use that headstrong tendency to reach out for help. For mental health concerns, there is no shame in accepting that a problem is beyond your ability, affording the opportunity to receive help from a compassionate and skilled Psychologist.
2. Turn Apathy into Action
Mental health symptoms themselves are often barriers to reaching out. Anxiety can bring worries about the unknowns, lead to worst-case scenarios, and can preoccupy our thoughts. Low energy and motivation from depression can lead to apathy, which combined can be immobilizing. Remind yourself that you can choose to try even if you “don’t feel like it.” Start small and take a first step to get the momentum started.
3. Revamp Avoidance into Courage
While the “time heals all” adage sounds great, we know that underlying issues will persist if not addressed directly. Facing your challenges head on takes courage, and it tends to build hope as you realize new options available to you. Take a few minutes to make the call or start the search you have been avoiding.
4. Pivot from Discouragement to Fortitude
Sometimes when asking partners, family members, or friends for help, they may not know how to solve the issue either. Sharing your struggles with anyone can make you feel vulnerable, and it is discouraging to realize that others may not have the tools we need. For a different perspective and new solutions, you will likely benefit the most from working with a therapist that specializes in your unique areas of concern. You deserve to find the right person to help you. Ask a friend to assist with looking at your insurance benefits, or help in your search for a therapist, rather than asking them to solve the underlying problem.
5. Repurpose Phone Fatigue into Persistence
When we reach out and no one responds, it is easy to become frustrated or convinced that “no one can help me.” Be persistent. Ask therapists that are no longer taking clients for additional referrals. Suddenly, a list of five unsuccessful referrals can turn into 15 additional possibilities.
6. Forge Frustration into Tenacity
Therapy is not one-size fits all. If it doesn’t seem to be the right match, it probably isn’t. Although it might be easy to give up, thinking “I tried,” keep going. This type of experience can help clarify what you are looking for in a therapist. Maybe you want someone who is more direct, concrete, and practical, or maybe you prefer someone who is more nurturing, process-oriented, and insightful. To get a sense of what to ask for, read the article How Can I Tell If My Therapy Is Working?
7. Reframe Financial Drain to Return on Investment
Although therapy can seem expensive, it is an investment in yourself. Be realistic about what is financially feasible. Refer to our Know Your Mental Health Benefits guide to learn more about your insurance benefits and how to identify in-network providers. If you are having trouble finding therapists that accept your insurance, you can learn about your out-of-network benefits. The knowledge, skills, and tools you acquire will help you feel better and be useful addressing life’s inevitable challenges.
It takes diligence to find the right connection. Use the strategies above to choose to act by taking a breath, a first step, and forging ahead. Your ideal therapist might be on the other end of the next phone call, referral list, or Psychology Today search. For me, my persistence paid off with the help of Buck and Dan, who respectively, finally directed me to the appropriate solutions and helped me implement them. Persistence for the win!