Manage frustration with helpful strategies

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Robert Maurer
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Manage frustration with helpful strategies

Last update: July 08, 2018

Frustration is one of the most powerful emotions we have to come to terms with since childhood and that is why it is also one of the most dangerous. Learning to deal with frustration is no easy task.

In addition to its intensity, what makes it difficult to control this emotion is that no one usually teaches the little ones how to channel the energy associated with it.. On the other hand, many of the parents who care about theemotional intelligence dand their children are overprotective or unwittingly hinder them. We become adults without knowing how to handle frustration.



But… actually: what is frustration?

Frustration is an emotion of negative value (it is unpleasant to experience it), but, like all emotions, it fulfills a specific function. Frustration arises from not getting what we want or hope for; it indicates to us that there is a discrepancy between what we would like and what we have, and that it interests us and has an impact on us. There is implicit in it a difficulty that we have not known or are unable to face. In other words, the ultimate function of frustration is to awaken our attention and make us react.

However, when the frustration is very powerful and intense, it hardly fulfills its function. We get lost in the malaise it generates, so we just try it, without paying attention to what it wants to tell us. To avoid this, here are 5 helpful strategies for managing frustration in a positive way.

How to handle the frustration?

1. Distance yourself from events

Frustration can be very intense, and it is precisely this aspect that can lead us to see events as catastrophic and situations in a distorted way. To manage frustration correctly, you have to detach yourself from events, postpone decisions and observe the situation with an “aerial view”. This expression provides an excellent example of what you need to do when you get frustrated, look for the big picture, look at everything from the outside and globally.



One of the best ways to distance yourself from events is to focus on the global positives and negatives. You can also do a little exercise: compare what happened to you with something bad, very bad, and then ask yourself: "What is happening to me now is just as bad as what I experienced before?" These little "tricks" will make your mind distance itself from the events so as to analyze the situation from a more objective perspective.

2. Feel the frustration and let it go

When an emotion invades us, be it frustration, anger, sadness or joy, the best thing is to live it and then let it go. This does not mean expressing it and letting it explode, but rather feeling it deeply in order to let it go far away. In other words, the more you try not to feel frustrated, the more you will get the opposite effect, it is the paradox of the human mind. Precisely because of this paradox, they end up developing various obsessive disorders that lead the person who tries not to think about "X" to think about "X, Y and Z".

The mind works like this: the more you avoid thinking or feeling "something", the more it will be. Observing, feeling, feeling and letting go are fundamental skills that can greatly improve our emotional intelligence. If you want to be able to feel emotions and let them go, you can train, for example, with mindfulness or acceptance and commitment techniques. All of these approaches can help you reduce the negative impact of this emotion.


3. Take some time to calm down and then… take action

There is no worse advisor than frustration, despite being a very powerful emotion with a high proactive effect, it usually leads us to behaviors that are not correct and advantageous, and which are even self-destructive. Because it pushes us to attack or to cause damage to the object that causes said emotion. In other words, it is a not very reparative and if anything vindictive emotion, for this reason it is necessary to avoid acting under its effect.


When something or someone frustrates us, we need to take a moment to calm down. When we notice that the annoying feeling of frustration has diminished, we can think about the next steps to take or make practical decisions. On the other hand, we must listen to the message that this emotion, like all emotions, wants to convey to us. Frustration must serve us to act, or work to achieve internal changes or change the direction that pushes us towards what causes us frustration.

4. Distinguish between desires, needs and realities

It sounds very simple, but it's not: differing between what we want, what we need, and what can actually happen. Frustration often occurs because desires ("I want my boss to congratulate me on my job") are confused with personal needs, such as recognition, protection or acceptance ("I need the boss to appreciate me ”) Or with what can really happen taking into account current circumstances (reality: the boss has all kinds of things, he has no time and does not recognize anything to anyone).


What we want may or may not coincide with what we need, and all this will require certain circumstances that may be more or less adequate. So separate what you want from what you need and what the people around you can offer you. It is about adapting your needs to reality.

5. Evaluate whether it is a situation to accept or change

If the frustrating situation has no room for change, it is normal for the emotion to increase in intensity. Faced with these situations, the best thing is to train acceptance, before the capacity for frustration. We will explain the difference in more detail.


If it is a situation that can be changed, well-managed frustration can become your ally. because it will act as a kind of beacon that demands change. Once the frustration has passed, it is time to ask yourself the question of the need to change and how to do it. If the situation cannot be changed and you have no power to make changes, you will have to change the direction of the thoughts that feed the emotion and prevent it from flowing until it disappears.

Putting these five strategies into practice wisely will help manage frustration better. In this way, you will be able to make the most of one of the most unpleasant emotions, avoiding a direct confrontation with it, which only magnifies it exponentially.

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