Healthy Coping with Frustration

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Life would be so much easier if everything would go the way it was supposed to go. But unfortunately, the reality is different; people forget appointments, the internet is slow, pandemics happen, and traffic is heavy again. The result may be feeling irritated and frustrated, which can be hurtful to ourselves and others. Especially during times when things are constantly going differently than expected, people with low frustration tolerance might experience more of this negative emotion. Fortunately, some things can be done about it. 

What is frustration? 

Frustration is related to one’s expectations of themselves, life and others. Frustration results from not getting what we want or expect; there is a difference between what we want and what we have. In short, the function of frustration is to focus our attention and react. Frustration is a challenging feeling experienced first in early childhood, yet we are not often taught how to cope with it. In adulthood, many of us still don’t know how to deal with frustration.

Not everyone cares or reacts the same so one’s reaction depends on their personal frustration tolerance. It is frequently assumed that everything should be easy, and setbacks are rare. This way of thinking can lead to low frustration tolerance, resulting in complaining, anger, aggression, and procrastination. In other words, aside from the fact that it can hurt others, these feelings of irritation cost us tons of energy. 

1. Find the root cause of the frustration 

If you feel easily frustrated, consider why you are angry. Try not to take out your emotions on crew scheduling, loved ones or on situations, but reflect on what the anger is really about. Remember that taking it out on others is not necessarily constructive. It is mainly a projection of your irritation that may have been caused by something else. For example, if you feel angry at other drivers when driving to work, observe and analyze why you think this way. Maybe you left home too late this morning? 

Additionally, even though a lower or higher frustration tolerance is a character trait based on nature, nurture, and significant life events, it can vary per situation. Other factors can play a role in frustration levels and coping. For example, feeling tired or stressed can lead to a shorter fuse, whereas simply getting enough sleep can improve frustration tolerance. Check-in with yourself to ascertain where you are and what you can do to improve or reduce the stress levels in the short and long terms. 

2. Distance 

Frustration can be an intense feeling. Eventually, frustration can lead to exaggerating events and viewing situations in a distorted way. Therefore, distancing yourself from the frustration-causing circumstance can have a positive effect on the frustration. When feeling frustrated, try a different perspective by looking at “the bigger picture” from an outsider’s view. It can also provide insight to ponder how other loved ones would respond to the same situation. 

Analyze and assess the positive and negative aspects of the frustrating circumstance. Comparing a particular situation to a previous one that was worse can also be helpful. Remind yourself that this situation is not as bad as what you experienced before. These ways of thinking help distract the frustrated mind from the event and allow you to observe the situation more objectively. 

3. Feel the frustration

Before being able to reduce or completely exclude certain emotions, it is crucial to feeling the emotion. In other words, the more you try to avoid or ignore the feelings of frustration, the more present they will be, which is the paradox of the human mind. Thus, observing, feeling and letting go is a fundamental skill that can significantly improve emotional intelligence and reduce the adverse effects of strong emotions. In addition, these steps will help you make a conscious decision of whether it is important for you to share your frustrations or keep them to yourself. 

Mindfulness, acceptance and commitment training and techniques can help regulate your emotions and help you let go of them. These approaches can aid you in reducing the harmful effects of feeling frustrated or other negative emotions. 

4. Change or accept the situation

It is crucial to question whether the annoying situation is changeable. We think we have control over our lives, which we do not. Consider whether the issue can be changed. If so, the frustration can help you figure out what aspect to change. Once the frustration subsides, think about what needs to be changed and how. However, if the situation is impossible to change, it is normal for frustrated feelings to intensify, and eventually, acceptance is essential. Let go of the urge to control the situation and accept what is happening. When doing so, you will find yourself less frustrated and able to move on faster. Additionally, distract yourself from the thoughts that trigger the strong emotions. Often, life simply does not go the way we expect or hope. 

Final Note

Life is not always easy, and not everything will go as expected. However, research has shown that people with better frustration tolerance can handle setbacks and even use perceived negative emotions to their advantage. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help one gain insight into ingrained habits, thoughts and reactions and provide tools to improve tolerance and build constructive behaviors. 

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