How To Deal With Frustration Head On: 11 Proven Strategies

How to deal with frustration? Frustration is an emotion that we experience when challenges impede on our goals. For instance, it can be a co-worker who refuses to take responsibility for their actions. It could be a demanding job at work or family issues. 

People deal with frustration differently. Most people feel like they are so frustrated that they could break at any moment, while others look for ways to get rid of the frustration. This can be done through healthy or unhealthy methods such as, going for a run, meditating, binge eating, taking drugs etc. 

When we experience frustrations, we feel justified in feeling that way because of the situation we are in. We fight the urge to control things, and as a result we feel frustrated when things spin out of control. 

Our ability to deal with frustration is known as frustration tolerance. People with high frustration tolerance can successfully deal with setbacks. On the other hand, people with low frustration tolerance may grow frustrated at seemingly minor, daily inconveniences such as traffic jams or a slow waiter at a restaurant. 

If you have a low tolerance level, you are likely to experience ongoing frustration issues throughout your life.

Thankfully, there are ways that you can deal with frustrations that arise. 

What Causes Frustration? 

Several factors can cause frustration. They include:

  • Personality: Our personalities determine how well we deal with frustrations. Some people naturally get frustrated easily, whereas others have a better ability to cope with frustration. 
  • Mental Illness: Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can decrease a person’s tolerance level. Studies also show that people with ADHD have lower tolerance levels as well. 
  • Belief System: A person’s beliefs also determine how well they are able to tolerate frustration. A person who feels that “life should be easy” or that “other people should meet their expectations” will be less tolerant than another person.  
  • The Perception Of Wasting Time: Psychologists point out that one of the biggest causes of frustration is the perception of wasting time. When we experience continual failure in pursuit of the desired goal and feel that time is against us, we quickly get frustrated. 
  • Physical factors: Physical factors like sleep deprivation, low blood sugar, ear infections, respiratory conditions, etc. can make a person easily frustrated. Similarly, medical conditions that affect your hormones like menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hyperthyroidism can also affect your mood. 

Overall, most people are frustrated easily when they feel that they have little or no sense of control. More often than not, situations of stress and anxiety are the likely culprit when it comes to frustration. 

cope with frustration, deal with frustration

Signs of Frustrations 

The signs of frustration are different for everyone. But some of the common signs include:

  • Thinking/insisting/or saying: “I can’t stand this.” 
  • Frequent procrastination due to the inability to tolerate the frustration resulting from a challenging or boring task. 
  • Exaggerating temporary discomfort 
  • A feeling of impatience and passive attempts to fix a situation instead of waiting for the issue to fix itself. 
  • Insisting on getting immediate gratification 
  • Being quick to give up whenever you’re presented with a challenge or obstacle. 
  • Avoiding tasks that lead to distress
  • Growing irritable or angry because of everyday stressors. 
  • Aggressive behavior 
  • Loss of confidence 
  • Some people engage in negative, destructive and addictive behaviors 
  • Feelings of sadness, uncertainty, depression, or anxiety 
  • Stress 

If not handled, our frustration impairs judgment and leads to unconscious defense. Sigmund Freud defined unconscious defense as a mechanism in which our minds substitute a new aim or object for goals that are perceived to be dangerous or unacceptable in their original form. This mechanism unconsciously operates in the mind with the transference of emotions, ideas, and wishes in the face of aggressive impulses. 

Snapping at your spouse or child is an example of a defense mechanism. Instead of managing the frustration, people tend to take the easier option and lash out at their loved ones. Later you may feel guilty, but you have unconsciously transferred your frustrations from work on to your family. 

How To Deal With Frustration

Life is full of frustrations. For example, the lock-down restrictions resulting from covid-19 caused a lot of disturbance in our lives and ultimately left a lot of people frustrated. Being stuck at home with the kids and transitioning from the office environment to a work from home lifestyle can be frustrating.

In life, things don’t always go as planned. Since this is the case, it is important for us to master how to manage frustration properly, to lead happy and healthy lives. 

Below are tips on how to deal with life’s frustrations. 

1. Recognize The Moment of Frustration 

Frustration is not a feeling that comes out of the blue. Instead, it builds up over time. Initially, you feel a little resistance, as you begin to perceive that you’re not in control of the situation. Next, you start feeling a little anxious as your sense of inadequacies and limitations begin to come to the surface. You have it all figured out in your mind on how the situation should be, but for one reason or another doubt sets in or things aren’t going the way you think that they should. Being mindful of these feelings will help you spot the precise moment of frustration and work towards avoiding it. 

dealing with frustration, understanding anger and frustration

2. Know Your Triggers 

An ancient Chinese Philosopher said, “Know yourself, and you’ll win all battles.” When you experience strong emotions of any kind, you should step back, take time to think about the situation, and acknowledge how you feel at that time. Keeping your emotions in check makes you resilient and puts you in charge of the situation instead of letting your emotions take the driver’s seat. 

By identifying the triggers that cause frustration at work or home, you can make the change from acting emotionally to acting with intent.

One technique that you can use is David Rock’s SCARF model from Your Brain At Work. This model helps you identify unconscious experiences that may be triggering the frustration. 

The model states that when you feel frustrated, you should ask yourself these questions:

S- Status: Do you feel that the situation threatens your status? 

C- Certainty: Are you uncertain about your future expectations? 

A- Autonomy: Do you feel powerless when it comes to making your own decisions? 

R- Relatedness: Do you have difficulty connecting with others because you struggle to relate or they feel inauthentic? 

F- Fairness: Is the issue because you feel that you are not treated as fairly as others? 

These five categories of social experience help you to understand your personal experience, rather than letting your subconscious react to the issue at hand. 

3. Immediately Get Curious

Instead of reacting whenever you feel frustrated, stop yourself and instead become curious. Get curious about the situation and try to figure out why exactly you’re so worked up. Next, try to distinguish what’s working from what’s not working.

Step back and look at how you are approaching the situation and ask yourself whether that’s the best approach to take. Approach your frustration as a puzzle or problem that must be solved. For example, you know that you can complete the task before you-but failure to do so would discourage you. Rather than get frustrated, you can motivate yourself to forge ahead. 

4. Gain Some Clarity 

When you experience frustration, that’s the best time to have a sit-down with yourself and clarify your goals. What are you trying to accomplish, and what outcome are you after? Your frustrations may be because you don’t understand what you’re working towards. You don’t have clear goals, and as a result, the methods you’ve chosen to work through have instead led to frustration. However, once you have clarity of mind, you can see clearly and move in optimal ways. 

how to deal with frustration

5. Shift Your Perspective 

What does it mean to shift your perspective? This refers to your ability to identify what is actually working for you and what isn’t working for you. In the areas that have frustrated you, you can choose to see them as opportunities or challenges to do better. 

Some studies support shifting your perspective as a way to improve your wellbeing. Shifting your perspective means reframing your problem. This means that you identify what’s working for you. Next, identify the mistakes you’ve made along the way and view those mistakes as opportunities to make a positive change. 

One way to shift your perspective includes changing your input. It is important to change your emotional and mental input by spending time with sources of positive influence. You can read uplifting books, check out blogs or listen to spiritual leaders. Instead of relying solely on negative sources of information, you can engage with positive information. You can also employ positive affirmations and be mindful of your self-talk. 

6. Practice Nonviolent Communication 

Most of us are guilty of using violent or aggressive words when frustrated. We find ourselves using words to attack people we care about to get back at them for provoking us. However, verbally attacking people doesn’t solve the problem but only magnifies it.

The book by Marshall Rosenberg, dubbed “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” gives you actionable steps on how to communicate your needs to people. A cause of frustration for you, may be from not having your needs met. However, if we communicate poorly our needs, we prolong and exacerbate the frustration.

7. Work With Purpose 

We all experience frustrations. However, some people manage frustration better than others. Some see frustration as a creative fuel that helps them become better. Such people turn the frustration into a game and commit themselves to take procreative and purposeful actions until they solve the cause of their frustration. When you reframe your frustration into a powerful technique, you can learn from it and move forward with purpose. More so, it stimulates your imagination and encourages you to take a light-hearted, playful approach to solve the problem. It also challenges you to try out new things, take chances, and risk pursuing goals. 

relieve stress by working with someone else to relieve the tension

8. Look For Solutions, Not Problems 

The biggest mistake we make when dealing with frustration is focussing on the problem and not the solution. However, we overcome the frustration when we block negativity from our thoughts and remind ourselves that the problem can be fixed.

For example, when lock-down restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic, it left many people stuck in their homes. In this situation, leaving the house for some fresh air when frustrated is not always possible. However, you could turn your home into a place you want to be, an oasis of sorts. Perhaps you register for an online fitness class to release the tension. Or, you could set up an area to write notes to your friends and family when you think of them.

9. Exercise 

Exercise is a great way to deal with stress, anger, and frustration. It allows you to release all the pent-up emotions that you are feeling. You can run, go for a walk, swim, or join a gym and engage in all manner of activities. If you feel angry, you could try boxing or take a martial arts class. Overall, exercise can help you find relief, as you look for ways to solve the issue. You’ll be improving your physical health, which makes you stronger and at the same time dealing with your frustration. 

10. This Too Shall Pass 

Everyone experiences frustration at some point in life. When you are in that season of frustration, it is worthwhile remembering that “this too shall pass.” When you find all that negative energy pent up inside of you, just take a deep breath and remember that the situation is not a permanent. 

Obstacles and challenges don’t last forever. Yes, the situation can cause sleepless nights and endless headaches. But as time passes, you’ll notice your frustrations dissipate. Avoid making permanent decisions when dealing with temporary issues. Remember that in this present moment, you’re in control of how you feel and react to the issue and don’t forget that the frustration will pass.

cope with frustration

11. Journal 

Keeping a mindfulness journal is a great way to keep tabs on your daily emotions and progress. When we are frustrated, we immediately want to get a million things off of our chest. But the issue is once we react badly to others, we can’t take those words back. 

Words can add tension in relationships if we are not careful. Some people struggle with writing what they actually feel when faced with a situation. One way to combat this issue it to type out exactly how you feel and delete it immediately. Alternatively, you can give yourself time to cool off, and when you do, you can write down actionable steps that will take you forward in your mindfulness journal. 

The Bottom Line

Handling frustration is never easy. However, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Making some changes in how you handle yourself during the situation can make all the difference in the end. 

You now have all the tips you need to deal with frustration effectively. Remember that frustration is an opportunity. You have the opportunity to deal with the frustration and not allow it to get the better of you. 

It is important to remember that you have the ability to influence the outcome of your experience. It’s up to you. It is essential to deal with frustration and not allow it to get the better if you.

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