Someone I know (I am sworn to confidentiality) can take a "Pebble of a Problem" and create a "Desert of Despair".
To me it is all about putting the size of the problem in perspective - if it is a pebble, don't let it grow beyond that size and start problem solving immediately. Problem solving is a discipline and a learned skill. There are four easy steps:
(1) Understand the Problem (see my blog on "Seek first to Understand") - Can you state the problem in your own words - or write it down succinctly? What information do you need about the problem? Who would be helpful in the understanding of this problem?
(2) Devise a Plan - Look for a pattern; Make a table or diagram; Write down an equation; Work backward; Develop a matrix (my personal favorite) of facts; Break the plan into manageable steps and sub goals;
(3) Carry out the Plan - Implement the steps above or "plug into the equation" the variables. Check EACH STEP along the way. Record the data; keep an accurate record of your work.
(4) Look Back - Check the results in the original problem; Do a reasonableness test; Is there another method of finding the solution; If possible, determine other related or more general problems for which the techniques will work.
So drop the pebbles along the way. You will reach home without crossing a desert of despair.