Frustration is a very common emotion. When all of our efforts and desires appear useless against the current outcome, we can easily become frustrated. Life challenges are real and arise often as we feel pressed with completing life goals, stress with having and maintaining healthy relationships, anxiety surrounding other areas of our life where we feel unsuccessful, and in our desire to have a sense of fulfillment. We can feel tested as if we are running out of time. In some instances we are running short on time and may feel like we haven’t done the very best we could do with our lives so far, and other times frustration is completely unjustified and is the result of negative thinking about our life experiences and circumstances. Either way, frustration can creep up on us and ruin perfectly good days (and nights) while stealing our motivation to continue pressing through feelings of defeat and into the successful lives we desire.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines frustration as: a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something and/or the fact of being prevented from succeeding or doing something. How often do we experience this? If you think about it, you may find yourself frustrated more than you realize or want to experience. This frustration can be the result of procrastination or choices we have made, or can be due to circumstances completely outside of our control. But when frustration rears up, one thing is certain: it often distracts us away from our goals instead of helping us to persevere and feel confident that we will beat the challenges or obstacles in our way.
Frustration can feel debilitating. We can feel like time has run out and that we failed. Age and relationships are common sources of frustration. We can get thoughts stuck in our minds about how old we are and how many things we still have not accomplished. The same is true for relationships of any kind, as we can struggle with repairing or building a relationship and feel hopeless and desperate in our attempts to interact with others the way we want to. These aspects of life are important to us and can cause us to think in negative ways if we are not careful. Time goes by quickly, so age is a real factor in our ability to achieve our goals, however, it is not the only factor at all. Many people exceed their own expectations in life despite their age. We see people in excellent physical shape even at the young age of 80, women who give birth to their first child at the age of 50, and many working adults with families start their own business or return to school despite the traditional expectation that they should have done this years ago. There are many examples of people who defeat all the social expectations and succeed at their goals and dreams, despite the frustrations they might experience along the way.
Since frustration will impact all of us in one way or another, how do we deal with it? How can we work through defeating thoughts and still succeed?
- Acknowledge frustrating emotions. When you feel frustrated, do not ignore it, but also do not give into the feelings associated with it. Frustration is an emotion that we should simply allow to pass, and we can do this by acknowledging its presence but not by entertaining it. So when you feel frustrated, try saying out loud that you are frustrated and then begin to let it go. Take a deep breath and attempt to let it pass by as you exhale. When we ignore frustration and try to convince ourselves that we should never be frustrated and that something is wrong with us if we are, the frustration tends to build up into even more tension and negative thoughts.
- Identify the source of frustration. What are you currently working on that may have caused some irritation or anxiety? Are you under a deadline to complete something, and that date or time is rapidly approaching? Are you tired or hungry? Frustration often has a source that we can identify if we take a moment to process it. Instead of reacting negatively while frustrated, once again take some deep breaths and try to locate the source. Once located, take a break away from it and then come back to work on it. If you are frustrated in general about something that you cannot control or unrealistic expectations, writing can be a good tool to reflect on your feelings and begin to realize different ways to accomplish your goal.
- Practice meaningful silence when frustrated. Frustration is often connected to spontaneous and inappropriate behavior. Try to keep silent until the frustration passes, as much as possible. Do not make any immediate decisions or address any pressing issues when you are feeling frustrated. If you do, you will not present yourself in your best light, and will likely regret ever reacting in the first place. We also want to be careful not to take out our frustration on others. Whatever is requiring your attention can wait a few minutes, or even until the next day, in most cases. If you step away and refuse to engage when you are frustrated, you will be able to come back with a clear mind and an even better way to address your concern or meet your goal.
Frustration does not have to control your life anymore than any other emotion. Often times when we are connected to our feelings, we can begin to slow ourselves down a bit and just allow negative emotions and thoughts to pass. It is when we try to ignore our current feelings, (pretending that they aren’t there although every part of us feels it) that we get stuck in the negative space and even spiral out of control with our thinking or actions. It is similar to identifying when we may have a cold and do not feel well. Once we acknowledge the virus, then we are able to rest, increase our fluids, take medicine if necessary, and get better faster. If we ignore the cold and act as if we are just fine, the cold often gets worse and takes even longer to pass through our immune system, making us miserable (and everyone around us too). Negative thoughts, such as frustration, can have the same impact on us if not addressed properly at the onset.
Conquering frustration involves being mindful when it is present. Begin to acknowledge its presence and allow it to pass by. Take a deep look at areas of your life that may be causing frustration, or defeating thoughts contributing to it. Make changes as necessary.
Once you start to become more aware of frustrating emotions, you may find that your instances and levels of frustration diminish altogether.