What to do when you’re feeling frustrated

I asked the members of the LinkedIn group how they were feeling this week. Every single reply said frustrated, fed up, angry. I thanked them for sharing and I said I was feeling frustrated too. It got me thinking about what to do when you’re feeling frustrated. 

What is frustration? 

One of my daughters is my mini-me, prone to wearing her heart on her sleeve. She can be heard yelling ‘I’m just frustrated’ at the top of her lungs as big fat tears roll down her cheeks as she stomps off to calm herself. 

Frustration is an emotion that occurs in situations where a person is blocked from reaching the desired outcome. Frustration can be a powerful motivator for change but it can also be destructive, leading you down a path to depression, anxiety, stress or giving up. 

What causes us to feel frustrated?

Caused by a mismatch between what you’re expecting to happen given the amount of effort you’re putting in and what is actually happening. 

There are two types of frustration – internal and external. The internal could be the feelings of disappointment we get when we feel we get when we don’t achieve what we want. It could be due to real or imagined barriers such as a gap in our knowledge or feelings of imposter syndrome

The external feelings of frustration are caused, in short, by things outside of our control. It could be people or circumstances, sometimes both! It can sometimes be solved by taking another route (when stuck in traffic) or talking with the other person but sometimes, there’s nothing we can do. It’s times like these that the Serenity Prayer comes in handy: 

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”

Dealing with frustration

Whilst we cannot get rid of frustration forever, that would be unrealistic, we can minimise it and we can set intentions to engage in healthy responses towards it. The key is acceptance though managing your own expectations and building your resilience. Life is cyclical, full of ups and downs – that is the reality. We cannot be happy forever and neither will be frustrated/sad/angry forever either. 

When you are feeling hopeless, anxious and/or frustrated you are living in your head – reminding yourself of all of the doom and gloom over and over. In our mind even small barriers feel huge, especially in the middle of the night.  If you are worrying in your head one of the best ways to solve the problem is to take some time and write them down. This takes them from out of your mind where they don’t really exist and makes them physical. We can feel them on the paper, we can destroy them or keep them.

When we look at the barriers we’re facing, we will either be able to solve them or not. It will come down to whether it’s within your control or not and separating all of that from the confusion we feel if we can’t even pinpoint the issue. Once we know if a problem can be solved, or not, then we can assess and make a plan. 


Now I could tell you that mindfulness, yoga, meditation might help. Getting outside or breathing. They *will* help but they won’t work if you are using them to suppress the emotion. When we become so wound up in frustration we cannot think or act rationally. This creates a vicious circle where we believe that our actions e.g. meditation aren’t working and so we get more frustrated. 

Remember that you cannot eliminate frustration, merely limit its effects. Life is filled with things we’d rather avoid – pain, loss, frustration, uncertainty to name a few. You cannot change them, only how they affect you. 

If you are feeling frustrated, sad, hopeless right now don’t force yourself to feel otherwise. There’s no need to stop it, but we can get curious about it – notice it, acknowledge it (like my daughter yelling how she’s feeling). 

Forcing yourself to do anything could lead to more frustration

That’s not to say we should dwell on the feelings but in the same way we might notice that it’s raining we would acknowledge it and then get on with our day. We probably wouldn’t stand out in it just to feel cold and miserable but we might change our plans and do something indoors until it stops or we might choose to go out anyway and feel it for a period of time (I love running in the rain!) or wear appropriate clothing. It’s the same with frustration – we can acknowledge it, choose to have some time really feeling it and then do something else.

The antidote to frustration is to do something we love, that relaxes us, that we find fun. But not to suppress the frustration but just because we like doing it. Forcing oneself to do anything because we should is likely to lead to more frustration. When my daughter gets frustrated, shouts and notices her emotions – sometimes we dance and release all of that anger. Make healthy choices for your own wellbeing. I don’t need to tell you what they are; you already know. 

This is a process, everything you’re feeling is totally normal and it will pass so don’t worry, or worry about trying not to worry! Ignore the urges to fight the feelings and focus instead on accepting the feelings and finding some balance between action and self-care. Trust yourself and your intuition and know that it will pass. 


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