Five Steps to Deal with Frustration

Suffering from frequent frustration may signal something profoundly wrong with one’s personal habits, schedule, or lifestyle. We all get frustrated from time to time. But we can take steps to limit frustration’s symptoms and get to the root of the problem.

Think of stress as the occasional stubbed toe or bruised elbow. It happens sometimes. That’s life.

Now, think of frustration as an infection. Bruises and scratches happen, but it’s not normal for them to become infected.

Living with occasional stress is unavoidable — but short and passing. Here are five steps we can take to keep our stress from infecting into frustration and hurting longer than it should.

1. Breathe.

Perhaps, this sounds pedantic. But when you’re perpetually frustrated about events, people, or tasks into your life, just stop. Breathe. Take a minute to calm down and then proceed with dealing with the causes of that frustration.

A common cause of frustration is anger. Slow, methodic breathing can allow your brain to get more oxygen and calm down. Breathing exercises are a good way to make this a habit. Mental Health America recommends the 4–7–8 breathing. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for seven, then breathe out for eight.

Harvard Health Publishing recommends the following as first steps to practicing breath focus:

Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down. First, take a normal breath. Then try a deep breath: Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).

2. Get. Outside.

The benefits of sunlight need no appeals to scientific authority. Humans aren’t meant to spend all day inside the confines of air-conditioned, artificially-lit buildings.

When you’re suffering from frustration, get outside. Enjoy the beauty of creation. Eventually, you’ll be too old to jog as fast, walk as far, or bike as long. Don’t waste your prime years in anger — driving up your blood pressure inside.

Enjoying good weather and experiencing sunlight causes our brains to produce serotonin and boosts our mood. It doesn’t eliminate the causes of stress or even cause us to forget it. But it helps us temporarily block it out while we briefly enjoy a sunny respite. Millions of stressed-out, frustrated workers flock to sunny beaches every year for this very reason.

No alcohol or drug in the world provides a healthier, more fulfilling number to frustration than the great outdoors during good weather.

3. Lower your expectations.

This gets more at the root causes of frustration.

Part of why so many people live lives of frustration owes to their trying to accomplish too much too fast. It’s good to have high goals and hold oneself to high expectations. But expecting more than one is capable of can create a miserable life.

Sometimes, you just have to realize that you bit off more than what you could chew. It’s okay to fail at some things in order to salvage your mental health and succeed at others.

Even if you’re highly productive if you’re miserable what good does it serve? Unrealistic expectations for yourself or others only breed disappointment, anger, and contempt if not properly checked.

4. Talk to a friend

Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer. -Edward Cunningham, author and entrepreneur

If you’re always frustrated with your life, don’t bottle it up. You shouldn’t — and, sometimes, can’t — solve this alone. Confide in someone you trust and talk through the reasons you’re constantly frustrated.

Good friends know us in ways we don’t know ourselves and can sometimes suggest ways to solve the roots of our frustrations. We may not always appreciate their advice. But good friends don’t always appreciate being used as a vent. Being a friend means listening when you’ve got other things to do and taking advice when you don’t like hearing it.

Even if we don’t use our friends as counselors, spending extra time with them whenever we’re stressed can clear our heads and allow us to tackle our problems later with a fresh perspective.

5. Eliminate the source of frustration

Finally, identify why you’re frustrated.

When we’re living frustrated lives, we often don’t even stop to figure out why we’re frustrated all the time.

It’s rarely the stressful work task, the paper that’s due, the relationship troubles, or family matters. It often stems from a long list of lifestyle choices that made everything we do seem stressful and every adversity enrage us.

Locating the source of our frustration can help us map out a way to rearrange our lives in ways that could actually add years to them from health benefits alone.

This may require sacrificing certain short-term goals to clear our schedules for more personal time. It may require rearranging lifetime goals and rethinking what we value in life. But people who feel on edge all the time can solve a lot by meditating on when they started feeling this way and the reasons for it.

Dealing with and eliminating chronic frustration is essential if we want to live lasting, fulfilling lives — and just want people to want to be around us.

Taking a break and getting outside can help calm us down and allow us to deal with frustration more clear-headedly.

But managing symptoms alone doesn’t fix frustration. Sometimes, we need to adjust expectations to reality. Talking to a friend and getting the opinion of someone we trust can also help. But, ultimately, identifying the root cause of frustration is the best way to proceed in tackling the problem.

Originally published on Medium

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