Understanding Frustration: Causes and Cures

We all experience frustration from time to time in our lives. It is a natural reaction when our efforts to attain a goal are thwarted in some way. The more important we deem the goal, or the more we are blocked, the more frustrated we can become. 

Causes and Effects of Frustration

Frustration can have both external and internal causes. Obvious external causes may be events, people, or places that block your goals. Traffic is an example of something simple that can cause frustration. A colleague at work who seems hell-bent on undermining you and making you look bad to the boss is a more serious external frustration. But internal frustrations may be caused by personality traits such as a controlling personality, emotional sensitivity, or feelings of low self-esteem. These personality traits can make simple life events more frustrating than they have to be.

Unfortunately, frustration is like a “gateway drug” in the sense that it can lead to a variety of worse negative responses. It can make you feel helpless and cause you to quit. It can lead to depression or lower self-esteem and self-confidence. Frustration can cause explosive anger that hurts your relationships or physically harms others (road rage is a classic example). Sometimes frustration leads to addictive, self-destructive behavior. Because of this, it’s critically important to learn how to manage frustration.

Overcoming Frustration

Your first step in overcoming frustration is to determine exactly why you’re frustrated. What is the root cause of the frustration, and what events/people/places trigger the emotion to flare up? When you determine what’s really causing it (which is not necessarily the superficial causes that you can easily see) you can then begin to address it. For instance, morning traffic may make you slam your fist on the steering wheel, but if you were already frustrated or stressed when you got into the car, look at what was causing that feeling to find the possible root cause of your frustration.

Frustration in itself can be looked at in a positive light; it’s an opportunity to step back, look at your goals and the strategies you’re using to attain your goals, and make appropriate changes to be more effective. You may decide to take a different route to work to avoid traffic or have a conversation with the person at work (who might not actually be purposely undermining you). This kind of flexibility is an important component of overcoming frustration. 

Evaluating the root causes and developing alternative strategies does not always happen quickly, so you should also develop coping mechanisms to help temper the negative emotions that frustration often triggers. Besides the necessities of good health, including sufficient sleep and good nutrition, consider some of these activities:

  • Deep breathing, yoga, meditation
  • Moderate physical exercise
  • Walking the dog/snuggling with the cat
  • Painting a soothing subject
  • Doing a hobby you love
  • Chatting with a friend or loved one about pleasant things 

Everyone is different, so find your own ways to get your mind off whatever has you frustrated. Being able to cope with and overcome frustration is directly correlated to being happy and having a positive outlook on life, so it’s important to find what works for you to get your feelings of frustration under control. If you need to, reach out to a counselor or therapist to help you get on the right path to developing your own strategies for overcoming frustration.

This entry was posted in General Self Help and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.