Managing your frustrations (or how to appear calm and rational when the world is out to get you)

We all get frustrated from time to time, but we need to express our frustration constructively and effectively, otherwise we may unintentionally cause hurt or offence to our loved ones, friends or colleagues.

Frustration is a normal reaction to being hurt, threatened, or being unable to meet our current needs or desires.

It is how we express our frustration that can cause additional stress in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Most often, the way we deal with frustration is formed at a very young age. For example, we may mirror our parent’s reaction, or we may respond in the way we were conditioned because of our life experiences. If the typical way you handle frustration causes problems in your life, then it’s time to change how you think and react to frustrating situations.

Unhealthy methods of processing frustration can lead to health problems and even inhibit our relationships with others.

How to Deal with Frustration Effectively

Many people respond to frustration by getting angry, giving up, or indulging in self-medicating and self-destructive behaviours, such as inappropriate use of food, alcohol, drugs or cigarettes. Expressing and dealing with frustration constructively requires several key components.

The ideas discussed below can help reduce the frustration in your day-to-day life as well as help you react patiently and peacefully:

Establish mutual respect. You should have a mutual respect for all people involved, even those with differing opinions than your own. Everyone is entitled to his or her own voice and you’ll waste precious time if you’re frustrated by every differing opinion.

Have a clear awareness of your own needs, thoughts, and feelings. Discover who you are as a person rather than mimicking someone else’s opinions and thoughts.

Learn the difference between surface and primary needs. In other words, is this frustration about one of your basic needs (e.g. food, shelter, warmth, social contact) not being met, or is it merely due to a less significant, secondary need, (e.g. lack of money, not being able to complete a task, not being able to go the party) going unfulfilled? What’s preventing you from meeting this need?

Be aware of what you can and cannot control. Some causes of frustration are beyond your control and therefore there’s no purpose in wasting energy on them. Instead, use that energy to cope with the situation and move on.

Communicate constructively. Be able to communicate your own personal boundaries and needs calmly and respectfully without guilt or shame. This should not involve raising your voice or swearing. Rather, learn to speak up so your personal needs are met. Try to develop more assertive behaviours.

Avoid feeling responsible for the behaviour of others. Everyone has his or her own free will and you can’t force someone to do something. They make their own decisions and a reasonable adult will take responsibility for their own actions. Remember: only you can control your actions and no one can make you do something against your will, (well –  unless they are holding a gun to your head!).

Determine the cause. By identifying the cause of your hurt or frustration without placing blame, you’ll loosen the grips of frustration.

Realise that frustration isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes frustration can serve as a motivator to change if certain problems in your life are keeping you from reaching your goals. Regularly evaluate if you’re on track to meet your life goals. Where do you want to be in 5 or 10 years?

Sometimes you need to create a new goal and make some life changes to reduce your frustration and make your goal become a reality.

Accept reality. When frustration is aimed at a circumstance beyond our control, it’s time to change your viewpoint or adopt a different strategy. Learning to adapt and go with the flow will make you a happier and more content person. When the frustrating situation is something you can’t control, such as getting stuck in traffic, then practising relaxation and deep-breathing techniques can be effective.

Frustration can turn a normally peaceful person into an irrational, angry one. If you allow it, frustration can hinder your progress and immobilize you. The goals you’re trying to attain will all of a sudden be out of reach.

Remember that, while you can’t completely eliminate frustration from your life, you can manage how you let it affect you.