3 tips to handle small unexpected problems in a calm, positive way

[2 minute read] (ESL learners – click on the bolded words to see explanations and notes. Try the exercise at the bottom after! πŸ™‚ )

Have you ever met a couple with this sort of contrast?

I do know a couple like this. And here’s the interesting thing.

Most of the time things end up working out just fine for them. But even though they have both been through the exact same events, they come out of it with wholly different experiences:

The Chill Champ has an unexpected but ultimately interesting turn of events liven up their day, and they approaches it with the fascination of someone working through a challenge in a fun video game.

On the other hand, the Worrywart sees their carefully thought out plan crumble before their eyes and tries desperately to hold it together, their stress making it all the more difficult to do so.

I’ve experienced both of these approaches β€” and you probably have too. You may have noticed, then, that things never go better in the latter mindset. In fact, normally they go much worse.

I think it’s because being in a negative or tense state of mind makes you more prone to making a situation even more negative β€” usually not on purpose, but subconsciously.

So if worrying doesn’t help, you might as well tackle the situation with a positive mindset and at least come out of it with a more pleasant memory.

Now, I know this is much easier said than done. It’s not like we can flip a switch and make ourselves stop worrying.

It takes time, and you might need to do a bit of searching to find a thought, affirmation, or practice that helps you stay in a positive mindset in difficult situations.

Here are 3 things you might find helpful:

  1. Remember that feeling strong negative feelings doesn’t necessarily mean the situation is strongly negative. Our feelings can be blown out of proportion and not necessarily reflect reality.
  2. Likewise, notice how experiencing events in the present is like seeing things through a looking glass. They always feel like a much bigger deal in the moment than when we look back at them later. Ask yourself: in five years, would you still consider this to be a big deal? Will it be something that will drastically affect your life in the long run? The answer is usually no. And therefore, it’s probably not even worth so much stress.
  3. Do a body scan and notice the physical reactions in your body. Bring your attention to the sensations, as if you needed to memorize how they felt. The feeling often melts away or at least lessens after you hold your attention on it for a while.

I hope you don’t encounter any unexpected problems soon β€” even small ones. But if you do, see if you can try one of these tips out.

Do you have any other advice that could help? Help others just like you and share it in the comments below!

ESL Notes (27 words / expressions)

Definitions written with reference to Cambridge Dictionary

Worrywart: a person who often worries, especially about things that are not important. This word is quite informal. (Back to the text)

Veer: to change direction. To veer off a road, or to veer off course, means to not go on the intended path, but turn in a different direction. In this case, I said “veer off script”, which means to say or do things that are not “in the script” β€” in other words, things that are not planned. (Back to the text)

Crafted: made, especially in a skilled way. In this case, “crafted” means “written”. (Back to the text)

Fret: to be nervous and worried. (Back to the text)

To no end: a lot. Often people say just “no end” but “to no end” is a variation especially in North American English. For example, “he annoys me no end” or “he annoys me to no end” means “he annoys me a lot”. (Back to the text)

Chill: relaxed. (Back to the text)

Champ: short for “champion.” I used this instead of “person” to create an alliteration with “chill.” (Back to the text)

Unfazed: not surprised or worried. This also has a verb form, “to faze someone” = to surprise or worry someone. For example, “this doesn’t faze me” means “this doesn’t surprise/worry me.” (Back to the text)

Tackle: to try to deal with something or someone. (Back to the text)

Warranted: if something is warranted, there is a good reason for it. (Back to the text)

End up: we use this phrasal verb to talk about the result of something. This is often a surprising or unplanned result. For example, “I planned to study this weekend, but I ended up just watching TV all day.” I had a plan, but this plan changed, and the result is that I watched TV. You always need to use the “-ing” form after “end up”. (Back to the text)

Been through: to “go through” something means to experience something. In the present perfect, we often use “I have been through” instead of “I have gone through”. (Back to the text)

Come out of it: If you “come out of” an experience, it’s like saying you “finish” that experience. We often use this phrasal verb to talk about the result of something. (Back to the text)

Turn of events: a change in a situation. (Back to the text)

Liven up: to make something more interesting and exciting. (Back to the text)

Approach: deal with. (Back to the text)

Thought out: planned. (Back to the text)

Crumble: to break or fall apart into small pieces. (Back to the text)

All the more: even more; much more. (Back to the text)

The latter: the last thing mentioned. For example, “I had a burger and also a pizza on the weekend. The former was very good, but the latter tasted awful.” The former = the burger. The latter = the pizza. (Back to the text)

Prone to: likely to have a certain characteristic, usually a negative one. For example, “I’m prone to getting a cold in the winter.” Meaning, this negative thing often happens to me. (Back to the text)

Tackle: to try to deal with something or someone. (Back to the text)

Come out of it: If you “come out of” an experience, it’s like saying you “finish” that experience. We often use this phrasal verb to talk about the result of something. (Back to the text)

Blown out of proportion: to seem much bigger or more serious than it actually is. (Back to the text)

In the long run: in the long-term future. (Back to the text)

Melt away: “melt” is what happens to snow or ice in warm temperatures. They turn from snow or ice into water. “Melt away” can mean “disappear” or “go away” in a metaphorical sense. (Back to the text)

Lessen: become weaker or smaller. (Back to the text)

Encounter: meet; find. In this case, it means something like “experience.” (Back to the text)

Try out: to try something for a short period, to see if it’s a good idea for you. (Back to the text)


Want to start using these words and make sure you don’t forget them? Try this exercise! Think about these questions (discuss them with someone) or write down your answers, using the word or expression in your discussion or answer.

  • Who in your life is a worrywart? What do they often worry about?
  • Have you ever seen a car veer off the road? Why do you think it happened?
  • Do you have any beautiful handmade objects in your home? Who crafted them?
  • Do you spend more time fretting over the past, or the future? Why do you think?
  • What makes you happy no end?
  • Have you met a person who can stay chill even during stressful situations? How do you think they do it?
  • Do you remember any event, piece of news, or information that a lot of people around you found very surprising, but that didn’t faze you? What do you think explains this difference in your reactions?
  • If you could help solve one major problem in society, what problem would you want to tackle? Why?
  • Do you think security checks at crowded public places like train stations or big shopping centers are warranted?
  • What were your plans for last weekend? Did you follow your plans, or did you end up doing something different?
  • What’s a good way to support someone who is going through a difficult time?
  • When has your life had an unexpected turn of events?
  • Do you know someone who can liven up any meeting or party they join? How do they do it?
  • Do you think optimism is the best way to approach any problem?
  • Would you ever try starting a new business if everything wasn’t carefully thought out β€” just trying to follow your intuition and learn as you go?
  • Do you believe historic castles that have started to crumble are still just as beautiful as when they were new and whole?
  • For some people, hearing criticism or doubt from others makes them demotivated. For others, it makes them all the more determined to succeed. Do you know anyone who is like the latter?
  • Do you know anyone who’s prone to exaggerating any story they tell? Does it make talking to them more interesting?
  • Can you remember an experience that was stressful or frustrating? Can you say you came out of it with a valuable lesson?
  • Do you think the press blows everything they write about out of proportion?
  • Is there anything that you hate doing, but you do it anyways because you know it will be useful or beneficial for your life in the long run?
  • Think about times when you were angry or upset. Can thinking about something in particular make your anger melt away?
  • What is a simple way to lessen your stress in daily life?
  • What’s the last minor problem that you encountered?
  • Do you try out new technology such as a new phone or a new computer before you buy it?

Feel free to try writing some more sentences, or a text, of your own to practice some more.

Thank you for reading! These ESL notes, links and exercises each take several hours to make, so if you found this useful, the kindest thing you can do is to like the post, leave a comment, or share with anyone who needs it. Have questions about any other words? Leave a comment and I’ll be happy to reply!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s