Managing Frustration Positively: 5 Essential Tips

· August 19, 2018

Frustration is one of the worst feelings that we have to deal with since childhood. Managing frustration is difficult, despite having the ability to feel it a very young age.

The feeling is intense, and nobody teaches our little ones how to channel this emotion. On the other hand, many parents who worry about their children‘s emotional intelligence overprotect them. In adulthood, many of us still don’t know how to manage frustration, and this can harm us.

But what really is frustration?

Frustration is a negative emotion. But, just like any emotion, it fulfills a function. Frustration is the result of not getting what we want or expect. In fact, it means there’s a difference between what we want and what we have. In other words, the ultimate function of frustration is to direct our attention and to make us react.

“Frustration is one of the earliest and most powerful emotions that we experience since childhood and one of the most dangerous ones.”

However, oftentimes, when frustration becomes very powerful or intense, it can’t fulfill its function. We become more attuned to the uneasiness that we feel than what it wants to tell us. So, let’s talk about 5 essential tips in managing frustration positively.

A sad-looking child experiencing frustration.


How to manage frustration

1. Distance yourself from events

As we said, frustration can be very intense, which may lead you to exaggerate events and see the situation in a distorted way. So, managing frustration positively involves distancing yourself from the events, postponing decisions that you have to make, and trying to look at the situation with a bird’s eye view. When you’re feeling frustrated, look at “the big picture” and see everything as an outsider.

Assess all the positive and negative aspects of the frustrating situation and analyze them. You can also compare it with something worse that has happened to you before. Tell yourself that what has happened now is not as bad as what you have lived before. These little “tricks” will distance your mind from events and allow you to see the situation objectively.

2. Feel the frustration and let it go

When an emotion overwhelms you, be it frustration, anger, sadness, or joy, it’s best to feel it and let it go. This means feeling them in depth and then letting them go. The more you don’t feel the frustration, the more you’ll feel it. It’s the paradox of the human mind. Later on, you can end up developing obsessive disorders where you make an effort not to think about “X”, but end up thinking about “X”, “Y”, and “Z” all day long.

Therefore, the mind works like this: the more you avoid thinking or feeling “something”, the more you actually feel it. Observing, feeling, and letting go is a basic skill that may greatly improve your emotional intelligence. If you want to feel the emotion and then let it go, train yourself in mindfulness skills or in acceptance and commitment techniques. All of these approaches may help you lessen the negative effects of this emotion.

3. Be calm and then take action

Frustration is the worst adviser. It usually directs us towards behaviors that aren’t correct or beneficial, even self-destructive. However, it’s a very powerful emotion with a high proactive effect. This is because frustration makes us attack or hurt the object that causes this emotion. It’s an emotion that makes us vengeful rather than forgiving. For this reason, it’s important to avoid acting under its effects.

“Managing frustration positively involves distancing yourself from the events, postponing decisions that you have to make, and trying to look at the situation with a bird’s eye view.”

A woman experiencing emotional pain from her frustrations.

It’s very important you take a moment to calm down when something or someone frustrates you. When you feel better, you can start thinking about the next steps to take or make practical decisions. On the other hand, it’s also important to listen to your emotion’s message, what it wants to tell you. Frustration makes you act either by making changes inside yourself or changing the way you do things.

4. Managing frustration by distinguishing between wants, needs, and reality

Differentiating between what you want, what you need, and what may actually happen seems to be simple. However, it’s not. Oftentimes, frustration happens because desires are confused with personal needs (“I want my boss to congratulate me for the work I did”), protection or acceptance (“I need my boss to value me”), or what may really happen taking into account the circumstances of the moment (Reality: My boss ignores everything, doesn’t have time, and doesn’t recognize anything).

In other  words, what you want may or may not be what you really need. All these may require things that may be more or less sufficient. So, separate what you want (after all, you can want what you want), what you need, and what you could provide for the people around you. It’s about how you adjust your needs to reality. You may want as much as you want while still knowing that you don’t need many of those things. They’re merely opportunities or challenges.

5. Assess if you need to accept your situation or change it

If you can’t change your frustrating situation, it’s normal for your feelings to intensify. When there’s no more room to manage the situation, acceptance is the key. Let’s explain in more detail the difference between when frustration is worth it and when it’s not.

Managing frustration involves assessing situations like the woman thinking on what to do.

If you’re in a situation that can be changed, frustration can be your friend and may serve as your beacon for change. As soon as your frustration subsides, it’s time to consider what needs to be changed and how. If the situation is impossible to change, then deviate from the thoughts that cause your emotions until it subsides.

These 5 essential tips, when properly exercised, will help you manage your frustration positively. This way, you may benefit from managing one of the most unpleasant emotions while avoiding direct confrontation with it.