Most of us get frustrated once in a while. It's a natural response to things not going our way. It's not a very pleasant feeling, as it is closely associated with anger, disappointment, and annoyance. It may cause you act out in quite embarrassing ways and it may even threaten your health. So you might wonder, how to get rid of frustration?
1. Stop right there and breathe
Being frustrated means being stressed-out and on a brink of losing control. Sometimes it is indeed healthy to shout it out loud and get the steam off of your chest. But we rarely have such freedom, do we? There is another way how to stop being frustrated.
Instead, why don't you take yourself from this maddening situation you found yourself in. If not physically, then mentally. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Take your time, take a long breath in and a long breath out for at least ten circles.
Try not to think about anything else than your breathing. Listen and hear the air coming in through yours nostrils and coming out whistling through your mouth. For this quiet moment nothing else exists only you and your breathing.
2. Recognize its origin
After pulling yourself together and coming back to this particular moment, you can now think about what's happened.
To handle your frustration you have to identify its origin first. Your frustration can be internal (cognitive dissonance, lack of skills, social phobia) or external (traffic jam, bad weather, boss yelling at you). Be honest with yourself and think if you can actually control the situation or if it is out of your hands.
To handle your frustration you have to identify its origin first.
The real cause of our irritation is sometimes hard to spot. If your outbursts are regular or rather extreme, chances are you've been living with a ticking bomb inside of you for a very long time. Even though something specific might trigger your flare-up, it is only a symptom of a deeper problem. If the reasons are not clear to you and you feel overwhelmed, go to the next step.
3. Dig out its cause by writing
Stream-of-consciousness longhand writing is a very effective way to shovel the mud out of your head. Give your inner editor a break and write non-stop for 10-30 minutes or until you feel calm again. Concentrate on writing about how you feel, what is happening to you physically and mentally when you are frustrated like this.
If you like things more structured than this, you can try this method, created by one of the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy developers Dr. David D. Burns. In a simplified version, you only have to divide a piece of paper into two columns. Write “automatic thoughts” in the top left corner and “rational thoughts” in the top right one.
In the left column write and number all the unedited thoughts that come to your mind. Write things you think about yourself and about others involved in this situation that irritated you so much. When you're finished, go to the right side of the paper and write down the rational responses to those negative thoughts. Try your hardest to find a way to protect yourself from your own critique that you've spilled in the left column.
If you'd like to overcome your frustrations even more efficiently with this method or if you're feeling your temper and your moods are out of control most of the time, I personally recommend reading “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David D. Burns.
4. Take action
Dealing with frustration can actually be a positive thing. Try to appreciate it as a tool to identify what really matters to you in this life and what is blocking your success from you. In other words, it gives you the energy and reason to take action.
After gaining some perspective through self-analysis, see what you can actually do. Stop procrastinating and ignoring your problems, even if you feel a lot better and have calmed yourself down. Identify the first small step you can take right now towards getting out of this situation or to prevent it from happening again.
It's crucial to recognize your triggers. Do you get upset every time your phone rings and distracts you during your working hours? Do you get all worked up every time your partner gives you a critical note? Is there something you can do about it? Let me tell you a secret – there always is!
5. Build your tolerance
Some people are more prone to suddenly getting anxious, annoyed, and angry than others. Yes, some people are simply calmer by nature but I'd say most of it is still in your hands. You need to start building your tolerance to your frustration triggers. Don't let them control you.
Don't forget to treat yourself regularly. Working too much and too hard for a long stretch of time will only burn you out.
Exercising and meditation do wonders in making you more resilient and feel more peaceful. They can also be your go-to activities when facing irritating situations.
Don't forget to treat yourself regularly. Working too much and too hard for a long stretch of time will only burn you out. Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning when everybody's still sleeping.
Reward yourself for dealing with your stress. This way you'll associate taking action with a pleasure that comes out of it. Try to think positively as much as you can. Dig into the best volumes on positive psychology or simply start expressing your gratitude for what you already have by writing it down in your journal every day.
Most importantly, remind yourself that you can and should control your own emotions and reactions. There's always something productive you can do about it, so just go on and do it.