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Learning to Deal with Frustration Productively

Updated on November 23, 2012

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Frustration and Reality

As painful as it may be to admit, frustration is a part of life. It creeps in when we least expect it, and often takes us completely by surprise. Learning how to handle frustration when it rears its ugly head is often a difficult proposition - especially when anxiety is involved. Frustration in the workplace especially can result in lowered moral, which in turn leads to negativity, decrease in production and an overwhelming sense of displeasure in your office environment.

The first key to handling frustration is to learn how to identify it properly. When stress is combined with frustration, it is often mistaken for a simple side effect, instead of the underlying issue that it really is. Frustration can impact every facet of life and if it's not recognized or handled appropriately, it can have potentially dangerous results. When you start feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to calm yourself before continuing in any given task. Practice a brief moment of deep breathing. Sometimes taking a few deep breaths and releasing them slowly is enough to keep the frustration at bay. More frequently, however, frustration has to be dealt with proactively in order to keep its negativity at bay. It is easier to deal with any type of negative emotion when it is properly identified. While you're practicing your deep breathing techniques, as yourself a few questions.
1) Are you angry or merely frustrated?
2) Is your frustration linked to something specific, or is it a general feeling?
3) What are your possible options for handling the frustration as its happening?
4) What are your immediate concerns?
5) What is your overall ideal result?
Once these questions are answered, it's time to move on to the next step. Instead of going in blindly, you now have a basis for the root cause of your feelings, and you're able to tailor your responses to match the current situation precisely. These techniques are designed to be specific. The more honest and specific you are with yourself, the better your overall chances are of nipping the feeling in the bud and channeling that energy into something more positive, productive and calming, overall.

The Frustration Worksheet Challenge:
If you're at work when the frustration hits, it may not be possible to drop what you're doing in order to complete a lengthy worksheet that requires a lot of introspection. Instead of trying to complete a whole sheet, start with jotting down a few notes when you go on break. By gathering your thoughts in an organized manner, you'll be able to revisit this specific time later one, when you are more able to devote your attention to the task at hand. It's important to deal with this type of negativity as soon as possible. Frustration, like anger or other emotions rated on the negative scale, only grows when it is put off or pushed aside. This can often make a bad situation even worse, and can leave you feeling unfulfilled and even more unhappy.

If you're at home or on break, filling out a frustration worksheet can be a highly profitable and fulfilling experience. It involves looking deep into your own head to come up with some answers to some very general questions. Again, the more specific you are with yourself, the more likely you are to come up with a solution that can be effective for you and your situation as a whole.

1) What is causing your current frustration?
2) What would your ideal solution to the problem be?
3) Do you feel frustrated because of a feeling of being overwhelmed, or is it even more specific?
4) What can be done to calm yourself down on an immediate scale? What can be done over time to prevent the problem from reoccurring?
5) Are there other people involved? What is your relationship with them, and can discussing the problem lead to some long-standing solutions?
6) What do you want to get out of this experience, and what can you do in the present to make those desires come to life?
7) Do you feel better or worse after completing the worksheet challenge?

Other Tools and Methods:
- When possible, one of the most valuable tools in dealing with frustration is to step away from the situation - even temporarily. Obviously, if you're trapped at work, leaving for a nice, relaxing walk is not always possible. If it is possible, however, step away from your desk for a few minutes, even if it's just to go to the restroom. Removing yourself from the immediate vicinity can go a long way in calming your nerves and getting you back to a place where you're able to refocus and reevaluate the situation.
- If you're prone to frustration frequently, as many of us in the corporate world are, being prepared can go a long way in curbing the frustration before it's able to get out of hand. For example, if you know that a big project is coming up, and you're dreading how your work week is going to progress, try to plan accordingly. Decide how you're going to handle upcoming situations before they're right in front of you, and stick to the plan whenever possible. Talk it over prior to going into work with your significant other or a friend. Get their take on the situation, and recognize the reality that you're not alone - you have a support network that is behind you, and they're willing to pick you up if you stumble.
- Practicing regular deep breathing techniques at home and off of the clock can go a long way when it comes to handling frustration. Meditation is another tool that can be useful ahead of time to keep your nerves calm, no matter what the next day brings.

The Aftermath:
Sometimes frustration is caused by no more than an overwhelming feeling. If you have too many tasks on your plate and another one is added, it could possibly feel like the straw that broke the camel's back. As you work through the process of turning your frustration into a more productive and positive feeling, these sensations of discomfort can be eased significantly. Frustration is never going to be a simple distant memory. It crops up unannounced at the most unexpected (and often inconvenient) times. It's not easily controlled or managed, which is why it's so vitally important to your own mental well-being to learn how to handle it effectively, and not let it take over. When frustration runs amok unbound, it can lead to a lot more negativity and can cause you to act in a manner that you'll later come to regret. Frustration leads to impulsive behavior, and acting impulsively leads to a lot of irreversible mistakes that can not simply be undone.

If your frustration is over a simple matter, no matter how anxiety-provoking it feels at the same time, completing the worksheet may be enough to calm your nerves and get you into a more peaceful state. If frustration continues, however, it can often become a root problem that affects your mental state, your personality, your performance and your life. If filling out the worksheet begins to be ineffective in managing your feelings of frustration, it may be time to seek further help. That doesn't mean that you have to go see a shrink, although talking to someone is often helpful. It could mean that simply sitting down with a trusted friend or co-worker and voicing your feelings can help overcome the emotion itself. The most important thing is to get your feelings out into the open, and not leave them to remain inside, festering and building into a feeling that is ultimately out of your control. While emotions are a normal and healthy part of life, and they're never "wrong", they can lead down a dangerous and harmful path when left unchecked.


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    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Great hub JM, walking away is the best advice and has worked for me for a very long time. I have learned not to be such a perfectionist, as anyone who knows me will attest to, I have learned to manage my frustration better as I've gotten older. Very interesting JM and voted up!