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Shelley Bassett

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Herbal tea next to a laptop

Dealing with Frustration


May 18, 2018

I struggle with dealing with frustration every day. And while I'm not always very good at it, there are some methods I find that have regular success for me.

I struggle a lot with just… Stuff. Sometimes, life just gets to me. I get stuck, angry and hurt by my own actions. And I’m really bad at dealing with frustration. It makes me overwhelmed and emotional and just generally useless at getting things done. It might be that I’m not so great at coping with my depression, or it might be that this is just never going to be one of my strengths. Either way, I have some do’s and don’ts for when it all gets a little too much.Full disclaimer, these don’t always work. Sometimes I try the wrong one, sometimes I don’t complete the method properly. Sometimes I’m just not in a position to do the thing. Dealing with frustration while you’re frustrated is an almost impossible task.

It’s also worth noting that the things I use to get myself out of this place will be very different from the things you might use. We’re all different, and something that relaxes me might bring you anxiety. My list isn’t a catch-all. It’s a list of things that work for me. Experiment with it, and create your own. Dealing with frustration is an important part of life, but not one that many master.

The Don’ts

Before looking at what works, lets looks at what doesn’t. These are the things I have to actively remind myself to avoid. And yes. I do all of these regularly instead of the helpful things that will ease the problem.

Binge Eating

Yep. Like so many of us, I use food to “help” in dealing with frustration. It’s not great, and I’m not proud of it, but I can scoff a family sized block in one sitting. It doesn’t even have to be sweet. Sometimes I’ll order a bunch of Chinese food and just go to town. This is bad for a few reasons. The obvious one being my waistline. Doing this continually is going stack on the kilos, especially if you’re regularly frustrated. But it also has the sneaky side-effect of creating a carb- or sugar-crash. That “down” feeling at the end of a food binge? That’s what makes this so bad. Cravings for more junk, and the inability to think through any problem makes binge eating one of the worst ways to deal with an irritating problem.

Picture of baked goods including bread, pastries and muffins

All the unhealthy, carb-loaded things I like to eat when I’m frustrated

Getting snippy

Being short with others or yourself is a common side effect of frustration. Anger at a problem is often misdirected as anger towards a person. And like most people, I’m guilty of getting short with others when things aren’t going my way. But this is one I’m actually improving on. I’m far better at controlling how I speak to people than I used to be. With the exception being incredibly dumb humans in tech support who don’t have a basic understanding of their own systems. They drive me up the wall. Especially when I hang up with them and still have to find my own solution.

Crying

I do this. A lot. It’s the result of being overly invested in the issue, and then being overwhelmed when there’s no solution. It’s letting the problem hurt me personally rather than seeing a way to try and break it down into a solution. And it’s trying to explain to the fifth tech-support guy that “yes, I changed that setting”. I don’t know how you stop this. It’s not a productive use of energy, but it is one way to release that pent-up emotion. And I guess it’s better than punching something.

If you do need to have a cry, let it out. But then wash your face, drink a big glass of water, and do something. Crying is only on the don’t list because it’s not productive. However, when it’s limited and can be bounced back from, it can be a helpful tool. Be careful though. I struggle to bounce back, and once I’ve had a cry I’m useless for the rest of the day.

Over-planning and Over-thinking

Planning and thinking are good. Over-planning and over-thinking are not. Dealing with frustration is going to require some thought towards the problem. But not to the theoretical knock-on effects. Not to what you could have done to avoid the problem. There’s a time and place for this deeper thought, but while you have an issue is not that time. Focus on the task at hand. And if you can’t do that, try something form the ‘do’ list, then come back and think about the problem an appropriate amount.

Giving up, quitting or throwing in the towel

Whatever you do, don’t give in. Change direction, take a break, approach from a different angle. But don’t give up. Sometimes the solution is to do nothing, and that’s okay provided you can acknowledge it as a solution. Doing nothing because something’s too hard isn’t going to help your anguish. I’m learning to keep going. The only times I quit now is when I can’t justify the cost to the outcome. I used to be very good at throwing in the towel, but part of learning to deal with problems means persevering until there’s a solution somewhere. The project might change direction, but I’m still working at it.

The Do’s

Now we’ve probably done half of the don’t list, it’s time to stop that nonsense and try something productive. These are the things that work for me. And it seems they also work for a lot of people. But if you have a different system, feel free to share it in a comment.

Remove Yourself

This really should be the first thing anyone does as soon as they start feeling overwhelmed. Just get up and change scenery. Go for a walk or work in a different spot. Just get away from the place that the problem is located. Sometimes just the act of getting up and walking around is enough to no longer feel like I’m drowning. Think about something unrelated for a little while. Removing yourself from the problem can drastically help when dealing with frustration.

Shower

My favourite way to end the negative cycle of defeat that comes with a difficult problem is to have a shower. Just wash all those troubles away. It dosen’t even need to be long provided it’s hot. The warm water relaxes muscles, and then your whole body can release the tension a little. It’s by far the easiest way to reset and create a fresh mind to reattempt the task.

Hot Drinks

Being relaxed is key to dealing with frustration. I use temperature to achieve this. Getting up and making a cup of tea brings both warmth and a short change of scenery. Just not coffee, because the high caffeine is guaranteed to make the stress and anxiety worse. Chamomile is meant to be soothing, but I also personally enjoy lemon and ginger.

Herbal tea next to a laptop

Tea can calm any situation

Different Task

If taking a break hasn’t worked, try doing something unrelated. Pick a task that’s as far removed from the overarching issue as possible, and focus on that for a bit. This has the benefits of using time that was just making you more frustrated in a positive way. It also clears the mind, and allows the brain to process what you were thinking of. They say the best ideas come when working on menial tasks, well, find your menial task!

Sleep it off

This is the human equivalent of “have you turned it off and on again?” And it works. Let your brain rest, and you’ll return feeling renewed and full of energy to find a working solution. Just be careful not to lie in bed fretting over the problem. That’s overthinking and is a hard no. Turn off completely and have a proper sleep. The problem will be there waiting to be solved when you wake, so there’s no need to worry about it in bed.

The Reality of Dealing with Frustration

The harsh reality of life is that we don’t have access to all of our resources at once. For instance, I can’t skip out on work to have a shower. Boy do I wish I could. Some days I want to be dealing with the frustration by washing it all away. But I’m stuck at my desk and need to finish the task that’s causing the grievance, so I rely on the heater and hot tea to get me through.

Frustration can come from anywhere. I get frustrated at a problem I can’t solve, an art piece that isn’t working, and people. Yes, just people in general. But these aren’t an excuse to stop. I try my best to find a way through or around it. I’ll talk it through with someone I trust, then hopefully I’ll find a different solution. Take a deep breath, keep going, and good luck.

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