Your husband attacks his plate of food like a starving hyena, complete with slurps and growls. That slowpoke driver in front of you won't move out of the fast lane — and you're nearly late for work. Your daughter refuses to make her bed, even though it would take her less than one minute. Grrrr!
We all experience everyday annoyances like these. What transforms an irksome situation or event into frustration? It's our expectations, our "shoulds" that cause aggravation. Your husband should have an awareness about his eating habits. Drivers should be considerate of other drivers' needs. Your daughter should learn how to develop tidy habits.
But if we dig deeper, the underlying emotion behind our frustration is anger. And that unexpressed anger has a way of coming out in distorted ways — frustration — with expressions of disgust, with road rage, and with a short temper around loved ones.
So rather than continuing to stew and fume, here are five simple but effective techniques for dealing with frustration.
1. Express your anger constructively.
Emotions are just pure sensations in our bodies. Emotion = E (energy) + motion. Expressing anger entails releasing that pent-up emotional energy in a safe place and a constructive way. Kick leaves in your yard, stomp through the house when no one is home, push against a doorjamb, or scream and shout into a pillow. If you use words, yell something like, "I feel SO frustrated!" Actions such as these move the energy out of your body. Do it hard, fast and with abandon, and notice how afterwards you instantly feel calm and relieved.
2. Accept that you're not in control.
Accept what is. The best way to do this is to remind yourself, over and over, that: People and things are the way they are, not the way you want them to be. It's even more powerful if you repeat it to yourself out loud. You can also say, "This is the way it is." So, "My husband is a loud eater — this is the way he is. My daughter will make her bed when she's ready to, not because I want her to. This is the way it is." After repeating these words for a few minutes, they became a fact, instead of a big deal.
3. Don't react, but do act.
Acceptance of "what is" doesn't mean being passive. First accept, and then figure out what, if anything, you need to do about the situation. It's important to honor yourself. Perhaps it's best if you say nothing. Or maybe you decide it's best for everyone concerned if you take a stand and initiate a discussion. You might decide, for example, that you and the daughter need to talk and agree on some reasonable consequences when she doesn't make her bed. Make sure the conversation is about what's true for you, and not laced with finger-pointing, name calling, and generalizations about the other person's character.
4. Practice letting go and enjoying what is.
When it's appropriate, take the path of least resistance, even though in your perfect world, you'd do it differently. Remind yourself of the larger perspective. If your husband weren't around, you'd miss having meals with him. Getting to work 10 minutes later, relaxed and ready to go, isn't a bad way to start the day. In fact, as long as you're tardy, you might as well stop for a box of bagels to share with your coworkers as a peace offering. And an unmade bed never really hurt anyone. Close your daughter's bedroom door so you can walk past it with a smile and shake of your head.
5. Appreciate the benefits.
Rather than believing the world should conform to our view, we have the ability to focus on other things, such as counting our blessings, enjoying the beautiful day, or marveling at what wonderful people we have in our lives. If you defuse frustration, you'll enjoy more positive thinking and feel more loving and lighthearted. You'll suspend your unrealistic expectations of others, which sets the stage for better communication and more meaningful conversations and connections.
Want to find out which destructive attitudes and emotions dominate your character? Take a quick survey here, then try the suggested strategies designed to address them.