How to Deal With Frustration : A Short Guide​

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla – M. Phil (Psychology)

Last updated date : March 11, 2023

During our lifetime, we face various situations in which we do not get to achieve our goals and needs. Feeling frustration and dissatisfaction because of unfulfilled goals is very common. It could be something trivial like spilling juice on your favourite shirt or something big like continued failure to achieve a certain goal. Life is full of frustrating events! And all the things that influence our responses, sometimes we are left wondering why are we feeling frustrated.

But what do we even mean by frustration? for most people it is related to anger. Is frustration just another name for anger? psychologists beg to differ. Frustration is a feeling experienced when we face multiple difficulties in achieving our goals or needs. But we know that all infuriating situations don’t always lead to frustration. So what really gives rise to frustration? the answer is consistent disappointment. We are goal seeking people who desire the fulfilment of our needs and goals. When we feel that our actions are not helping us achieve our goals our brain signals the emotion of frustration. It is just our brain’s way of telling us to change our strategy. But this a very brief understanding of frustration. This article will help you better understand this emotion and how to deal with frustration.

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Chapter 1:


1. Situational Factors

Imagine that your boss screams at you for something that is not your fault or you are getting late for office and cannot find your keys. These examples can give a fair idea that some situations or people can cause frustration. Situational factor can be any characteristic of the environment which makes you feel frustrated.

2. Relationship Related Factors

Relationships are important to make us feel loved, cared for and supported. But discord in relationship can also cause a lot of distress. It is important to talk about frustration in relationships because this has the potential to spill onto other areas of life. This can lead to a general feeling of discomfort and frequent anger outbursts.

3. Personal Characteristics

We do know that people don’t get angry on the same issues. People with certain characteristics might experience frustration more than others. Psychologists found that organised people might experience more frustration during a difficult task. This is because orderly people are more likely to think of run of the mill solutions. And when their tried and tested method does not work, they do not try to find newer ways of completing the task. This can leave them feeling frustrated.

Chapter 2:

Frustration and Other Factors

1. Stress – In our daily conversations, we conveniently use stress and frustration interchangeably. Stress is a term for the body’s adaptation to any challenge you face in your life. Frustration is the feeling you experience when you are stressed. People know that stress is not good for health. A stressed person can suffer from many medical problems later in life. Similarly, people who have unaddressed frustrated might suffer from extreme stress and it might also lead to incidents of aggression and violence.

2. Helplessness – Frustration can be seen as the beginning phase of helplessness. When a person fails to accomplish what they want then they may feel frustrated but if they believe there’s nothing that can be done about it, then they also feel helpless.

3. Flexibility – It is can be beneficial to flexibly change your methods when you are unable to fulfill your goals. Being flexible simply means believing that there is always another way to do a thing. People who are more creative are less likely to feel frustrated.

Chapter 3:

Common Responses

People display their frustration in different ways. Here are some common ways

  1. A frustrated person might become aggressive and violent.
  2. Burnout is a common side effect of long term frustration. The person might feel fatigued and unable to concentrate on work.
  3. Frustration built from failing repeatedly at a task can lower self esteem and confidence.
  4. A frustrated person might not enjoy mingling with people and can become socially isolated.
  5. Mood disturbance like depression and anxiety can also affect a person who experiences frustration.

Chapter 4:

How to Deal With Frustration

1. Improving Social Support Network

Talking to people you trust can reduce the distress significantly. You can also manage your frustration and anger by maintaining a journal. This might help you understand why you feel frustrated and help to deal with frustration.

2. Engaging in Hobbies

Exercise helps to blow off some steam. Listening to some music or playing a musical instrument can help center the mind and reduce the feelings of distress. Take up any interesting hobby and try to take out sometime to unwind from a stressful day.

3. Using Humour to Cope

People with a great sense of humour can make themselves and others feel at ease. No wonder laughter is called a social lubricant! People who talk about annoying situations in a humorous way feel less stressed by it. The idea here is not to laugh off your problems but to use humour to undercut the fury and see the problem more constructively.

4. Changing the Situation

Sometimes distracting ourselves from a frustrating situation can be helpful. We can cool off by leaving the place or person in question. It also gives time to think about what made us angry and how to deal with this frustration. We can avoid getting preoccupied by our problems by talking or thinking about them at a certain allotted time of the day. It helps to deal with frustration better.

5. Take a Break!

It takes a lot of energy to work on a difficult problem. We might end up feeling drained if we keep working without a break. Taking breaks to helps to relax and start afresh.

Chapter 5:

When to Seek Professional Help?

One can consider seeking professional help when the feelings of frustration start affecting important areas of life like work, relationships and overall wellbeing.

It is helpful to see a mental health professional to understand reasons behind your frustration. We get frustrated when we are unable to accept some outcomes in our lives and are stressed because of them. Understanding deeper issues can be the first step in opening up to change.

Most people are unaware of the difference between aggression and assertiveness. You are being assertive when you are able to speak up for yourself in a firm but respectful way. Most cultures are very disapproving of aggression. People who react violently are seen as dangerous which makes people maintain their distance. So, it is important to state our needs in an assertive way so that people can pay attention to them without being frightened. A mental health professional can help people change their reactions to those which are more acceptable by others.

Some people are able to put up with frustration longer than others while others need help to improve their frustration tolerance. Therapists can help with this by teaching relaxation strategies which can slow the development of these feelings. These strategies include distracting yourself and doing breathing exercises to calm down.

If you found this article interesting and would like to learn more about ways to deal with frustration and anger please browse through our course on anger management.

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