10 Ways to Deal With Frustration

Rachel Sharpe
Rachel Sharpe

Today, most of the world is being asked to stay home and avoid going out. The self-isolation is enough to make people go stir crazy. And for some, being stuck at home with the family can be a frustrating experience. In life, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, things go wrong. Other times, people frustrate or annoy us. And when you’re forced to deal with all of these feelings while isolated from the world around you, the challenge of frustration grows. In this article, we’ll break down 10 ways to deal with frustration during this difficult time.

What is frustration?

Frustration is a feeling people experience when they are upset or annoyed. It’s a normal reaction when dealing with situations outside of your control. 

Causes of frustration

1. Poor communication

One of the causes of frustration stems from poor communication. Often, we fail to communicate in a way that other people understand. Have you ever found yourself saying, “You’re not listening to me?” That’s an example of poor communication. In this instance, the other person will typically say that they are listening to you. That’s because they’re listening but they don’t understand what you want because you haven’t articulated the need in a way that the listener understands.

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You need to be more explicit when describing your needs to another person. For example, “When you say x, I feel y. What I need right now is q to resolve this issue.” But that’s not even the most important part of communication, listening is the most important part actually. And most people underperform at communicating their thoughts, so you’ll need to try to pick up the subtext and explicitly call it out to determine if you understand the subtext of what someone else is saying. No wonder it’s so hard to deal with frustration, communication is a lot more than just speaking words.  

2. Different experiences

If you’re trying to understand the causes of frustration, just take a look at the different sets of experiences we all go through. We all see the world through our own unique lens. From the way we were raised to the economic hardship our families face to traumatic experiences, we’ve all experienced life in a different way than those around us. It’s what helps make our experiences so unique. And it’s what makes us unique. Two people can go through a similar event and perceive the event in completely different ways. For example, say you grew up in a family where everyone smokes, you might find that you too became a smoker or maybe you were so repulsed by it that you decided to never smoke. You can’t blame someone else for making you become a certain way because there are countless cases of people reacting in completely different ways. There’s so much that shapes who we become. And that can lead to frustration because you never see the full picture of what makes someone who they are. 

3. Lack of progress

A brick wall, dimly lit at night

The last cause of frustration comes from a lack of progress. Humans are ambitious. We want to grow, change, and evolve. We pursue relationships so we can go down the path of getting married and having children because we see that as progress, and of course, it’s how we were evolved to keep our species alive. When a relationship falls apart, often we fall apart.

Progress is how we feel better about ourselves, instead of feeling like our life is falling apart.

10 Ways to deal with frustration

1. Meditate

The first step to dealing with frustration is to notice that you’re feeling. Believe it or not, but it’s not always easy to notice frustration arising. Sometimes, we blow up at loved ones not realizing that we were pent up with frustration. Fortunately, there is a way to get better at noticing frustration: meditation. With meditation, you simply become more attuned to feelings and sensations in your body. That way, when you notice that frustration is coming up for you, you can take action to lower it instead of taking it out on those you care about. One of the benefits of meditation is that it helps you become more self-aware in the present moment. If you find that you regularly have fits of rage or if you’ve gotten in trouble at work over anger issues, you may find that meditation is helpful to prevent the buildup of frustration within you.

Right now, most people are in self-isolation at home. And on the one hand, you’re spending time with the people you love the most. How wonderful! But on the other hand, you’re stuck with the people who can annoy or frustrate you better than anyone else. Uh oh. Usually, we can get by with a little frustration or annoyance from loved ones. But when you’re stuck at home for weeks on end things can unravel pretty quickly. That’s why it’s so important to practice meditation for at least ten minutes a day. You can check out the Declutter The Mind meditation app on the App Store or in Google Play. You can also find some of our guided meditations on our website. 

2. Get some fresh air

View from inside a tent, looking at the scenic outdoors

While some parks, stores, and public places may be closed in specific cities around the world, in most countries, no one is stopping you from getting some fresh air. Whether you spend some time in your backyard or on your balcony, getting some of that fresh air can do your body good. If you own a pet, you might enjoy taking some time to walk it a few more times a day than usual to get some of that warm sunshine glowing upon you. While outdoors, be sure to mindfully breathe. Being out in nature is one of the best places you can ever be. While you shouldn’t be hitting up your local beach, going for a casual stroll by the water or in a forest can be a relaxing activity. But remember to practice social distancing at this time. You never know who may be contagious.

3. Exercise

Exercise is one of the healthiest ways to deal with frustration. Instead of carrying all that pent up energy inside of you, you can release it through your physical movements. During your most frustrated moments, go for a run. If you’re feel really angry, you can gently punch the air as you move forward. You’ll notice that it actually feels good. Even those who don’t like running will find relief in a run when it comes to their frustration. You can also do other cardio such as dance if you want to transition from a mood of frustration to one of happiness. And if you’ve really built up a ton of pent up frustration, maybe you’ll find some solace in weight lifting. You can grunt every time you lift your weight up. And in all of these cases, you’re improving your physical health and dealing with frustration in a way that makes you stronger. 

4. Practice nonviolent communication

Two people sitting and having a conversation

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said something you shouldn’t have when frustrated. Okay, don’t worry, me too. When we’re frustrated, we sometimes use our words to hurt people we care about to get back at them for causing the frustration. However, verbally attacking someone doesn’t solve the problem, it only magnifies it. There’s an actionable book by Marshall Rosenberg called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life that breaks down how to communicate your needs to other people. A cause of frustration may stem from not having our needs met. However, if we fail to know how to communicate those needs to others, we end up having to deal with frustration for years. If you can invest some time to reading, this book may help push you in the right direction.

5. Focus on positive visualization

Now we don’t want to be woo-woo about positive visualization. Imagining yourself as a billionaire on a beach with zero cares in the world can be a wild dream but deep down you know it’s not possible. Most billionaires have more stress, not less. Kidding aside, positive visualization can help calm your frustrations. You can use Declutter The Mind’s Visualization for Anxiety meditation on the app to help you visualize a ball of light flowing through you to help you ease the tension in your body. The aim of the visualization is to shift your focus on something else to help you deal with frustration. 

6. Change the tone of your thoughts

Positive thinking alone won’t cure your frustration. However, it can help you transition your thought process to a new path. Have you ever found yourself thinking a negative thought and going down a rabbit hole. And somehow this one thought magnifies into something so big you can’t control it? How frustrating! Now you can recite every positive mantra in the world but that’s not going to help you.

When a negative thought enters your mind, think of a piece of evidence that counters it. For example, you might think to yourself,  “I forgot to buy eggs at the grocery store, I’m so forgetful.” However, telling yourself that you’re a forgetful person is a permanent way to describe yourself for making a tiny mistake. Instead, think to yourself, “I forgot to buy eggs because I didn’t include it on the grocery list due to being busier than usual today. I can pick some up tomorrow.” That way, you include a reason for not buying eggs and you also include a solution proving that the problem is fixable. 

7. Look for solutions, not problems

Person solving a Rubik's cube

When we deal with frustration, we often put all of our focus on the problem instead of the solution. When you find that a problem is growing bigger, create a list of all the solutions. That way, you remind yourself that the problem is fixable. Frustration is fixable too.

However, frustration goes away when we block the negativity in our thoughts so that they don’t take something that makes us feel bad and turn it into something that makes us raging mad, upset, or hurt. For instance, say you feel frustrated being stuck at home. Right now, you might not be allowed to leave your house so that won’t work as a solution. However, what can you do to turn your home into a place you want to be? Maybe you can sign-up for an online fitness class to release the tension. Or you can play an online game to help entertain you. Or you can write ‘thinking of you’ cards to friends and family to help make other people happy when they get a surprise in their mailbox. 

8. This too shall pass

Experiencing frustration is part of being human. However, here’s some good news for you: frustration passes. When you find that burning ball is in your chest, taking a deep breath, and remembering that this isn’t a permanent state can help you deal with frustration. Obstacles and challenges don’t last forever. They can be a huge pain in the butt as you deal with the problem. However, nothing is permanent. Eventually, as time passes, you’ll notice your frustrations do. Avoid making permanent decisions to solve temporary problems. In this present moment, you’re in full control of how you feel and react to your frustration. Choose your next step wisely.

9. Distract yourself

There are two types of frustrated people in the world: those who ruminate on their thoughts and those who take action. Those who ruminate on their thoughts tend to make a small problem an impossible one. And those who take action usually by distracting themselves eventually move on. If you find that something is frustrating you, it’s important to distract yourself with a different task. Maybe you play anxiety relief games, exercise, or watch a show. Avoid calling a friend to talk about your problem because that may cause the rumination to escalate. You don’t need someone to agree with your frustrations, you need someone who will help you let go of your frustrations. Not every problem deserves a battle. And that doesn’t just include a battle with other people, but also a battle in your mind. 

10. Add a journal entry about it

Woman writing diary into her notebook

Sometimes when you’re dealing with frustration, you want to get a million things off of your chest. But the problem is, once the words come out, they stay out. It can add tension to relationships and make bad situations worse. Now, you probably don’t want to write your negative thoughts about people or situations on paper. Paper can be found and accidentally read by others. The best strategy is to type it all out and immediately deleting it without sending it. If you think sharing your thoughts needs to be heard to help you come to a solution, give yourself a few hours to cool down. And when you do write something out be sure to include actions that you and others can take to help resolve your frustrations.

You can also keep a mindfulness journal where you can keep tabs on your daily emotions and ensure you’re seeing progress.

Dealing with frustration summary

Frustration is a temporary emotion. Using some of the strategies above you can take actions to deal with frustration. Keep in mind that you will experience this feeling again in a new context down the road. Using meditation, you can become more aware of the feelings before they fully surface. It can help you manage your frustration on a long-term basis so that frustrations impact on your mood or even your day becomes minimal. Releasing your frustration through exercise can also be beneficial to help you cope with it. Whether you decide to write your frustrations out, focus on solutions, distract yourself, or try any of the other ideas on this list, you’ll be well on your way to managing your frustrations in a safe and healthy manner. May you be at peace.

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