Question: Have you ever found yourself in a situation, conversation, or environment that has left you feeling highly frustrated and annoyed? If so, please know that you are not alone.
Truth is, no matter how poised, grounded, groomed, or chilled we may be on most days, at any given time, we can find ourselves challenged by the people, places, or things around us. One of the most challenging things about this dilemma, is that we are cautioned to respond well and to resist the urge to act out our frustration. “Okay (thumbs up). But how exactly are we supposed to do that when the world around us seems bent on making us scream?”
Well, to get us started, here are 6 terrific tips to help kick frustration to the curb:
1. Just Breathe. Although this strategy may sound too “simple” to be true, the fact of the matter is that deep breathing actually activates a very complex system (the parasympathetic nervous system) that triggers our body to relax. Our autonomic nervous system (which, among other things, controls heartbeat and breathing) is made up of the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls the “fight-or-flight” (adrenaline) sensation we get when we feel threatened or nervous. The parasympathetic nervous system controls our “rest-and-relax” response. When we take slow deep breaths, it triggers our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and sends the signal to our bodies that it is okay to relax.
2. Disengage. It doesn’t make us stronger or tougher to stay engaged in a stressful, and anxiety producing dialogue or environment; so, we have to exercise the strength to respectfully walk away. Leaving the room or excusing ourselves from the situation gives us the opportunity to calm down and gather your thoughts. Physically disengaging from the frustrating event (like going to the restroom or for a quick walk) will nearly always help to decrease frustration levels.
3. Accept the challenge to say nothing. In all my years, I have found that futile debates and tangential arguments are the quickest way to send my stress levels through the roof. From that, I have also gained the understanding that many times, silence truly is golden. In silence, we are able to re-center ourselves and reestablish our peace. Choosing silence lessens the chance that we will say something that adds to the development of frustration and tension. Silence also safeguards us from engaging in an unproductive conversation that is sure to leave us annoyed.
4. Get Prepared. I once heard a saying that goes, “proper preparation prevents poor performance.” If this is true (which I have found that it is), then the same said quote would be applicable in this scenario as well. For example, if disengaging from, or avoiding a situation is absolutely out of the question, then make a plan for how to manage what might occur. Planning ahead of time will helps to “prevent poor performance.”
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself, “Does this annoying situation really matter in the big scheme of my life and things? Will it seem as important (or as big of a deal) 5-10 years from now? Does this situation really deserve my energy? Is there something else more productive that I could be doing?” If you find that the situation is “small potatoes,” then save your emotional energy for something that’s truly important. Learning the difference between what really matters and the “small stuff,” will help tremendously in deciding what’s a worthwhile battle versus a fight that’s not really worth the war.
6. Shift your focus. Any time you find yourself irritated with situations, circumstances, people, places, or things, shift your focus to thoughts that are more pleasant, positive, and productive. Try remembering a fun vacation or think of something you would love to do in the future. If there is a project you would like to complete, begin making plans of how to go about it. You can also use objects as a distraction. Choose your favorite color and begin looking for things of that color around the room. Think of your favorite song and begin to hum it (or sing it aloud in your head). By shifting our focus, we can now give our energy to what matters, something more soothing and pleasant.
Learning to manage our emotions, particularly our frustration, isn’t an overnight process. But like with everything else, practice makes perfect. So, remember to: 1) take deep breaths; 2) disengage from what may be bothering you; 3) be a man (or woman) of few words; 4) predict and prepare; 5) don’t fret the small stuff, and 6) shift your focus.
So, the next time you find yourself feeling frustrated, try giving these tips a go. And for those of you who have already tried some of these before, do me a favor and leave us a comment sharing how it all worked out for you. Hope to hear from you soon.