Tag: frustration

My Best Ways to Deal with Frustration

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

 

“Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success.” – Bo Bennett

 

Like most people, I’ve experienced many instances of frustration. Some of them proved exceedingly trying and I found it nearly impossible to get past the episodes, replaying in my head what happened and how badly it made me feel. While I tried different methods to cope, including tipping back a few too many cocktails after a rough day at work, most were ineffective, at best. Worse, some had lingering consequences, such as a reprimand from my boss (after coming in late due to the imbibing). Over the years, however, I’ve made it a point to determine what works best for me to deal with frustration.

First, though, here’s some research frustration, how to recognize it, typical symptoms, frustration’s relationship to anger and stress and other interesting science.

Frustration often leads to recurring nightmares.

Ever wake up in the middle of a nightmare shivering in fear or with a feeling of dread and impending doom? If so, says science, there’s a likely correlation between the frustrations you’ve experienced during the day and the vivid and frightening dreams you have at night. I know that I’ve had dreams where I’m falling from a height and, luckily, wake up before I hit the ground. Dreaming of failure and being physically attacked were also part of my nightmare portfolio. As such, I found fascinating the research of the team at the University of Cardiff that waking-life psychological experiences, particularly frustration, directly tie in to the dream state in the form of nightmares. When study participants were frustrated, they reported having more frightening dreams and described those dreams in negative terms. According to the researchers, the nightmares represent the psyche attempting to process and make some sense of the experiences that were psychologically distressing while awake.

Frustrated people tend to smile more when they’re experiencing frustration.

This finding by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology caught me off guard. I thought people who smiled a lot were generally optimistic and cheerful. Indeed, smiling is typically a characteristic of someone who’s happy. Yet, as careful analysis of smiles shows, not all smiles are indicative of the emotion of happiness. There’s the fake smile, the polite smile, the nervous smile, and so on. According to the MIT researchers, most people don’t believe they smile a lot when they’re frustrated, yet they do, as proven by facial scans in the study. To prove their hypothesis, the researchers had study participants complete two types of task, one designed to frustrate and one not, and scanned their faces after they completed the task and hit the submit button (which deleted the frustrating task but accepted the control task). While the smiles that appeared looked similar, the frustrated smiles disappeared quickly compared to the genuine smiles. Frustration is a fundamental human experience, so it will be interesting to see where this research leads.

Men and women express anger and frustration differently.

In terms of biology, there’s no denying differences between men and women. As it turns out, findings from researchers at Southwest Missouri State University reveal there are even some differences in how the two sexes tend to show they’re angry or frustrated. Both feel anger and frustration, yet men tend to accept and embrace the emotions, using them to their advantage. Women, on the other hand, view anger and frustration as counter-productive. In the study, men felt ineffective when told to hold their emotions in, while women did not feel constricted when asked to do so. Similarly, researchers found a correlation between men being assertive and expressing anger outwardly, but not in women. Furthermore, women viewed their anger negatively, generally calling it frustration, while still using that anger to help bring about change. Due to social expectations, women tend to camouflage their anger and frustration, yet find alternative routes to get results they want.

Frustration stems from stress.

What causes the buildup of physiological and psychological response that results in emotions such as anxiety, overwork, despair, distress, frustration and more? According to the literature, the medical term for the origin of much emotional buildup, which often has physical components as well, is stress. Repeated stress that is not effectively dealt with can cause serious physical consequences. Like a machine that eventually wears down, continual stressors on the body’s activation of the nervous system (chronic stress) results in release of the stress hormones of cortisol and epinephrine and precipitates problems with the heart and other vital organs, along with the potential development of mental health issues.

To better handle frustration and stress, change your perception.

An article in Harvard Business Review discussed the concept of resilience and how everyday stressors and frustration can be more effectively dealt with by reframing perception. In short, change how you perceive frustration and stress. Authors cited two studies, one by researchers at the University of Buffalo that day-to-day stressors help people cultivate necessary skills to tackle difficult future situations, and anther by Harvard University researchers who found that participants told physiological signs of stress helped them better cope with it then viewed stress as helpful. The key takeaway here is to modify the perception of stress and frustration to promote the development of resilience, the ability to handle whatever comes your way in the most effective manner.

TIPS TO COPE WITH FRUSTRATION

Now, as to how I’ve learned to deal with frustration – and what works well for me, here are a few general tips:

  • Take some deep breaths. This will allow you to calm your pent-up emotions and restore a sense of calm. Likely, the frustration you’ve felt has caused you to hold your breath or breathe shallowly. In either case, your body is oxygen-depleted and it’s hard to think clearly. Deep breathing can help slow heartbeat and lower blood pressure, diminishing the negative effects of the stressful emotion.
  • Figure out the source of the frustration. Now that you’re thinking more clearly, use this clarity to focus on what may be the probable cause that you’re experiencing frustration. Without being caught up in the immediate effects of the frustration, you’ll be more prone to identify the source, so you can devise constructive ways to deal with it.
  • Remind yourself that this will pass. Frustration shouldn’t be an ongoing experience. Like the weather, it’s bound to change. By recognizing that emotions are generally fleeting, you rob them of their power and hold on you. Envision yourself in a happier state and recall that things that frustrated you in the past generally didn’t last long. You found ways to get past it, or the experiences causing the frustration weren’t consequential enough to have lasting effect.
  • Work on something else. Distraction is a great method to get past a roadblock. It works in problem-solving, getting past anger and other emotions – including frustration. If you’re stuck in a sour mood due to something frustrating, go out and dig in the garden, pound some nails in wood, demolish cardboard boxes to put in the recycle bin. Involve yourself in a task requiring close concentration. These techniques get your mind off what’s frustrating you.
  • Do something pleasant. Instead of beating yourself up mentally over your frustrating day, do something enjoyable. Take a soaking bath. Read a book. Watch a comedy. Go for coffee with friends. Indulge yourself a little yet be sensible in your choice. Hobbies are also effective for helping dispel frustration.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related Posts:

Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

How to Keep Frustration From Blocking Your Goals

How to Manage Your Anger

How to Overcome Laziness and Get Things Done

10 Ways Nature Helps Your Well-Being

10 Ways Stress Harms You

Best Way to Effect Change

15 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

10 Tips on Reaching Your Life Goals

How to Tap Into Your Capabilities

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How to Keep Frustration from Blocking Your Goals

Photo by Joe Gardner

Photo by Joe Gardner

You get up each day and have in mind a list of things you want to accomplish. Some are short-term projects, others works-in-progress, and still others part of long-term goals. But what happens when you become frustrated, have to deviate from your task, or are forced to stop completely?

While everyone experiences frustration from time to time, it’s never pleasant. Often, it’s difficult to know what to do to overcome it. Here are some suggestions.

Always Have a Plan

Think of any goal as a kind of journey. Before setting out on a trip, the wise course of action is to have a plan. Without knowing what route you’ll take, where to stop for gas, a bite to eat, side trips you’d like to take or alternate means of getting where you want to go if you encounter road construction, bad weather or snarled traffic, the journey could be haphazard or worse.

Working toward any goal could become problematic when any powerful emotion gets in the way. And frustration certainly counts as a roadblock to goal achievement. That’s why it’s important to make a plan and commit to sticking to it, even if some parts of the plan cause frustration.

Even daily schedules can sometimes wreak havoc. Things happen that interrupt your flow. The point is to always have a plan. Then have a backup plan in case the original plan doesn’t work out. With more than one plan, you have options. You’re not stuck wondering what to do next. No longer powerless, your self-confidence increases at the same time your frustration level decreases.

Stay Flexible

It’s great that you have one or more plans, but don’t be so rigid that you’re unwilling to deviate from the plan when something goes haywire. In other words, don’t cast your plans in stone.

When you try to force your plan to work – and it doesn’t – this adds to your frustration. The more frustrated you feel, the more your stress builds, along with anxiety and a sense of failure.

But by staying flexible, you might come into contact with other solutions that will get you past this impasse. You could do things a little differently, rearrange tasks and reassign priorities. The key is to keep your options open by remaining as flexible as possible. As with most other good habits, you’ll get better at this with practice.

Set Expectations That Are Reasonable

If you’re too hard on yourself, always demanding perfection, you’re bound to amp up your frustration. While you want to achieve your goals as quickly as possible, when you take on challenges you’re not yet ready for or try to force a result that requires more time, effort or resources, you’re going to add to your frustration at the same time as you defeat your goals.

The workaround here is to take the time to set reasonable expectations for yourself. The most difficult task or project may not be the best one to tackle at this point. Perhaps it’s better to work on the easier ones first. This helps establish a track record of success, makes you feel good about your accomplishments, and reduces the frustration you feel from putting too much on your plate at one time.

Lighten Up

The recommendation here is to avoid taking life so seriously. Granted, life does deal some unexpected challenges and not everything you get involved in is light-hearted, easily accomplished or without difficulty. Still, the frustrations you experience today probably will be a distant memory six months from now.

When you lighten up and learn to take things in stride, you’ll greatly decrease the frustration that keeps you from your goals.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s a given. It isn’t the mistakes you make that matter, however, but what you learn from them that counts.

Granted, no one likes to fail. There’s something distinctly unsettling about falling down or obtaining results less than you’d hoped. It stings, no question about it. Yet there’s still something you can glean from the experience that will serve you well the next time you’re in a similar situation. You can also extrapolate lessons you can adapt to other circumstances.

Timing is also important. Maybe you rushed into things without proper preparation or tried to speed through a project when it required more time. In any case, looking back you’ll probably see how you could have done things differently. If you pay attention, this is a lesson well learned. This makes you smarter the next time.

Keep It Positive

It’s easy to see how frustration leads to negative thinking. But that won’t turn things around. What will help is to keep it positive. An attitude that’s positive in nature helps you see solutions that might otherwise remain elusive. When you do feel frustrated, a positive attitude will help ratchet down the frustration and motivate you to get back to work on your goals.

Evaluate Your Accomplishments

When you’re stuck, feeling frustrated, you need some motivational self-talk. You can do this by taking stock of the accomplishments you have already achieved. This helps remind you that you have what it takes to get the job done, notwithstanding any frustration you experienced along the way.

The fact that you have a supply of effective strategies that worked well in other situations adds to your self-confidence and self-esteem – especially when you’re thinking about or tackling something new.

Start Over

Stopping frustration from derailing your goals will be a unique approach to each person. It may also turn out to involve adapting techniques you’ve used before, adding to them with suggestions you’ve learned from others, or taking a completely different route.

The only way you’re going to reach your goals is to start over, begin again, try something new. This means regularly revising your goals, adding new ones, modifying or eliminating those that no longer apply. It also means striving to learn something new each day, applying what you know works to new situations, networking with others who may have good ideas on how to best deal with recurring problems, and maintaining a positive attitude.

You want your life to be as happy, healthy, productive and fulfilling as possible. In essence, then, when you are frustrated over not being able to complete your goals, you simply need to start over. Eventually, you will succeed in reaching your goal or determine that another one takes precedence.

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