5 Healthy Ways to Manage Frustration

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When things go wrong, they really go wrong.  In the span of two weeks, I lost my biggest contract job, my entire family came down with a stomach flu, my husband had to leave on a long business trip, and I barely missed getting into a traffic accident three times within 48 hours.  I tried to maintain a positive attitude, but with each setback, I felt my frustration mounting.  My anger came out in sarcastic bursts.  I lost motivation to get things done.  At the end of the two-week period, I could feel depression mounting, even though most aspects of my life were looking better again.

Depression runs in my family, and I’ve sought counseling a time or two at very low points in my life.  I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips to manage frustration, and I realized that I had not employed any of those techniques during this unfortunate series of events.  When my cloud didn’t lift, I tried these ways to manage my frustration:

1. Address the person(s) responsible for causing the frustration.

It’s easy to snap at family and friends when you’re going through a rough period, but what you’re really doing is transferring your anger onto a source that can’t solve the problem.  I scheduled a sit-down meeting with the company where I lost the job contract.  They assured me my work wasn’t the issue, but a matter of budget.  They would gladly hire me again once their business picked up.  Knowing this greatly eased my frustration.  I would have never known this had I not gone to the source.

It’s easy to snap at family and friends when you’re going through a rough period, but what you’re really doing is transferring your anger onto a source that can’t solve the problem.  I scheduled a sit-down meeting with the company where I lost the job contract.  They assured me my work wasn’t the issue, but a matter of budget.  They would gladly hire me again once their business picked up.  Knowing this greatly eased my frustration.  I would have never known this had I not gone to the source.

2. Acknowledge the good things in your life.

When life gets rough, it’s good assess all your advantages.   I make lists – mental and physical – of all the great things I have going for me: my family, my friends, my health.  Even during times of great stress and isolation, I’ve found something to hold onto: purpose in a job, hobbies I enjoy, or just calling distant friends who have no idea of my current troubles.  Knowing that I have a foundation of happiness, even when sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, helps me get through a particularly dark moment.

3. Plan something fun.

There’s nothing worse than having a terrible series of days, and you have nothing to look forward to but more drudgery.  My husband knew I was going through a rough patch and insisted that we do something I wanted once he returned from his business trip.  I spent his time away from home daydreaming about the fun things our family would do.  When you plan something fun, you not only get the satisfaction of doing it, you get the happy feeling of anticipation leading up to the event, taking the edge off of other things in your life.

4. Maintain your health and well-being.

When I got sick, the first thing I gave up was my exercise routine.  I didn’t pick it back up once I felt better again, justifying that I had other demands on my time.  I made compromises on maintaining my health, and it never works out.  Once I started working out and sleeping well again, my attitude improved tremendously.

5. Consider counseling if you can’t get out of a funk after a month or so.

Everyone feels down now and again.  It’s normal to have a week or two where things just blow up in your face and you wish you could just close your eyes and go back to sleep in the morning.  However, if that becomes the norm, you should consider outside help.  Thoughts of suicide and cutting yourself off completely from everything you love are also signals that you should get help.  Getting help doesn’t mean you’re weak or broken.  In fact, it’s a sign of maturity that you’re trying to acknowledge you have a problem and get better.

Life still isn’t 100% for me, given that I’m switching things up with my work life, but it’s much better than it was a few weeks ago.  I’m taking the time to appreciate what I have and make moments to look forward to.  And I always know, if the frustration gets to be too much, I can find someone who will listen.