Learning how to deal with frustration can take time, but there are healthy ways to overcome feeling overwhelmed. Allowing your frustration to build up can lead to repressed anger, so releasing pent-up stress benefits your mental health. Developing coping skills, engaging in physical activity, and speaking with a professional are all tools that can help you better manage frustration.
What Causes Frustration?
Frustration is considered a secondary emotion of anger. Emotions tell us things about a current situation, and anger typically means that action needs to be taken or something needs to be corrected. When things don’t go our way or the way that we expect, we get worked up, and when we’re worked up and have nowhere to put that energy, frustration builds and becomes repressed anger.
How to Deal With Frustration: 10 Helpful Tips
Generally, frustration comes in the wake of unmet goals or expectations. It could be related to something you’ve put a great deal of time and effort into, such as a promotion or learning a new skill. It may also stem from something that you assumed or expected would work out in your favor. Regardless of its source, dealing with your frustration is important when working to live a healthy, positive life.
Here are 10 tips for dealing with frustration in your life:
1. Get Active!
One of the most effective ways to mitigate frustration is to get active.1 Try taking a run, doing some yard work, shooting hoops, or going for a swim. Whatever activity gets your heart rate up can help you work out your frustration and pent-up energy. Not only is this healthy, unless you have a health condition that discourages exercise, but it can also get your mind off of what is making you feel overwhelmed.
2. Write It Down
Write down what you’re feeling and dealing with. This is especially useful when you have no idea why you are so worked up! Many times, people find themselves experiencing emotional difficulty as a result of overlooked thoughts. Your frustration might be a build-up of many seemingly inconsequential factors.
Writing about your situation, physical symptoms, and emotional experiences can go a long way toward relieving feelings of frustration. Don’t stop at just the surface, though. Process any and all of your thoughts as they arise with pen and paper.2,3
3. Talk With a Trusted Friend
Your friends can be a powerful support system. Consider reaching out to them when you need a safe place to process or vent your frustration. Be mindful that not all friends are appropriate for this. Some people will simply agree with you and perpetuate feelings of frustration. While it’s nice to be validated, you’ll benefit more from a friend who offers a unique, level-headed perspective.
4. Practice Meditation
There are many ways to meditate. This may include reading religious texts, seeking to ground oneself with the earth, or focusing on one’s breath. However you choose to practice, meditation for anger and frustration has many benefits. When you’re feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, mediation allows you to re-center and avoid acting impulsively. Plus, it reduces physical symptoms that sometimes accompany anger.4
5. Do Belly Breathing
Mindfulness includes slowing down to focus on the present moment and physical sensations around you. Belly breathing is a particularly helpful mindfulness practice.5 To get started, sit or stand in a relaxed, stable position. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on only expanding your belly to breathe in and out for the first few breaths, keeping your chest still. It may help to put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Later, integrate breathing with your chest after your belly. Fully inhale and exhale a few times.
6. Do Something That Brings You Joy
When frustration seems too intense to address directly, a distraction can help in the short term. Do something you enjoy, such as listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book. This can help distance you from feelings of stress and overwhelm, allowing you to come back to that situation later with a more level head. Be careful though, as constantly distracting yourself from uncomfortable situations creates a habit of avoidance, which can lead to negative outcomes.
7. Pet an Animal
Petting or playing with a furry friend can often alleviate immediate feelings of frustration. Interacting with animals decreases levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lowers blood pressure, helping you to feel more relaxed and at peace.6 Spend some time with your dog, cat, lizard, or other pet. If you don’t have an animal companion at home, ask a friend who does if you can stop by.
8. Look for Solutions
When frustration hits, our tendency can be to fixate on the unfairness or injustice of it all. It’s easy to wallow in frustration, anger, and upset. Try reframing the situation as a learning experience or an opportunity to solve a problem. Instead of looking at the issues at hand, look for their solutions. You may uncover the reason why things didn’t work out, and identify better ways to succeed in the future. You may even find a way to remedy the situation you’re dealing with now.
9. Check Your Expectations (Are They Realistic?)
Sometimes things don’t go the way you thought they should. That doesn’t mean the world is working against you. It probably means your expectations were unrealistic. Checking on what unrealistic expectations you had in the first place can be one of the best ways to deal with frustration. Look at a situation and ask yourself, “What can I reasonably expect to happen here?” For example, if a promotional opportunity comes up at work, you may want to base your expectations on your annual performance, overall experience, and education.
10. Talk to a Therapist
Therapy can be extremely beneficial when dealing with frustration. It can teach you effective coping skills and help you understand some of the underlying reasons for frustration, as well as why it can have such an impact on your life. Many people who feel overwhelmed by or unable to control feelings of frustration wonder, “Do I really need therapy?” Therapy can lead to long-term beneficial changes that reduce frustration and other stressful emotions. Often, people will benefit from working with a therapist, even if they don’t have a diagnosable mental illness. The long-term advantages vastly outweigh the short-term financial costs.
Can Therapy Help Someone Deal With Frustration?
Therapy not only helps you manage and overcome frustrations, but it also helps you pinpoint the underlying reasons for these feelings. Everyone can potentially benefit from therapy because it equips them with the tools needed to cope with uncomfortable emotions and promotes well-being. If you’re ready to choose a therapist, start by browsing an online therapist directory.
Frustration can be difficult to cope with, but there are many positive ways to handle this emotion and move forward. Focus on the things that allow you to level your head and address the situation rationally. Of course, talk to a professional if frustration becomes overwhelming or happens more often than you would like.