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Managing Frustration

Do you start seeing red when someone cuts you off in traffic? Or does your blood pressure skyrocket when someone refuses to cooperate with you? Anger is an extremely common emotion and is even a healthy one. There are benefits to feeling the emotion of anger. It can help clarify relationship problems, fuel political agendas, and it tells us where our boundaries are. Anger can even inspire an entire culture to change for the better. However, it is important that we manage our experience with anger and deal with it in a healthy way. Uncontrolled anger can cause arguments, physical fights, assaults, etc., which only worsens the problem and often results in people being pushed away. Ongoing unmanaged anger can eventually lead to short-term and long-term health problems such as headaches, digestion issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, skin problems, heart attack, and stroke. Because of this, it is important to learn how to manage your experience with frustration in a healthy way. Below are some tips for how to become more in control of the emotion anger.

  • Focus on the Primary Emotion - Emotions are incredibly complicated and we can experience a bunch of different emotions within a span of a few seconds. Primary emotions are what we feel initially during any given event. Primary emotions can be uncomfortable to experience and often require us to be vulnerable. Secondary emotions are the emotions we feel after. These emotions mask other painful emotions and protect us from having to face an emotion that may be difficult to share. Anger is a secondary emotion that is triggered after feeling a primary emotion like sadness, anxiety, powerlessness, fear, loneliness, shame, guilt, etc. When you start to notice yourself becoming frustrated, take a moment to assess what else you may be feeling and why. Oftentimes, if you address the primary emotion the anger will fade as well. 

  • Relaxation- Engaging in relaxing activities on a regular basis is extremely helpful when it comes to managing frustration. Regular relaxation helps you to cope with everyday stress, slows your heart rate, and reduces muscle tension. Relaxation may also help by reducing any primary emotions that may be causing you to feel frustration such as the feeling of being overwhelmed or stressed. You could do anything to help you unwind as long as you find it to be relaxing. Although if you are looking for some ideas, I recommend trying an activity like yoga because it relaxes both the body and the mind.

  • Self-Care - It's a lot easier to feel more in control of your emotions when your physical and social needs have been met. Self-care allows you to create a stable foundation in order to be able to effectively manage the emotions you feel. Make time in your daily schedule to be able to engage in self-care and ensure that all your basic needs are met. This may look like getting adequate sleep, getting good nutrition, making time to spend with friends or other people in your community, taking that extra-long shower, or by carving out a few moments to engage in your favorite hobby. 

  • Exercise - Exercise is a great way to reduce the stress that may lead you to become angry and it helps to improve your overall mood. Physical activity lowers your blood pressure and changes the levels of various chemicals in your brain such as serotonin and endorphins. It is also a great way to release some of the energy that anger creates.

  • Self-Reflection - When you are in a calm state, take some time to reflect on your experience with anger. Once you understand your relationship with frustration you can make more conscious choices about how to express it. Keeping an anger log is one way to start noticing common triggers and patterns. Take the time to consider what triggered the anger, what thoughts you were having during the time, what emotions and physical sensations you were feeling at the time, and how you reacted to those feelings and sensations. The goal is to be able to start anticipating challenging situations and take the necessary steps to avoid the habitual response.  

  • Rethink the situation - Once you have learned to recognize your triggers, the thoughts and beliefs that go with it, and the way you typically respond, you can start thinking about possible alternative responses. In order to do that you might imagine the triggering event from someone else's perspective, challenge the accuracy of your own thoughts and beliefs, think of other ways to release the energy of anger, visualize how your response may be different if your thoughts about the event were different, and rehearse different scenarios for how to resolve the situation. 

  • Healthy Self -Expression - As mentioned before, anger is not always a bad thing. It can help us understand who we are, our beliefs, our values, and it can help us identify what is missing in our lives. While anger can be beneficial, it is important to express the emotion in a way that is healthy. Using anger as a subject for creative expression can be an extremely powerful tool and it brings people together. Some forms of healthy self-expression include poetry, songwriting, visual art, storytelling, journaling, or playing an instrument.

  • Take time outs - If you notice that there are parts of your day that tend to be more stressful than others, try to take a break around that time. Even a few moments of quiet time can help you feel more prepared to handle what's about to happen. 

  • Don't hold a grudge - This is not for the sake of the other person; this is for you. Allowing yourself to hold on to the negative emotions can cause you to become swallowed up in your own bitterness. Deciding to let go of a grudge is an extremely powerful way to feel more in control of your emotions and it leaves room for you to be able to experience positive feelings in its place.


All of these things can help you feel more in control of anger. However, there may still be times where you feel irritable. If you find yourself becoming frustrated…

  • Think before you speak - It is easy to say things that you will regret later when your caught up in the moment. If you are in a situation where you start to feel anger stirring inside you, take some time to process your emotions and collect your thoughts before speaking. And allow others to do the same. This would be a great time to start reflecting on the situation and consider what primary emotions you may be feeling. Feel free to take as long as you need whether it's a couple moments or a couple of days. It's okay to walk away and return to a discussion at a later time when you are in a clearer headspace. 

  • Self- Soothe - When your temper begins to flare, utilize relaxation skills such as deep-breathing exercises, repeating calming phrases, spending time with pets, listening to music, meditation, or imagining your happy place. Finding a way to regulate your emotions during the heat of the moment helps you return to a calm state and allows the opportunity for a more productive interaction.

  • Identify Possible Solutions - Instead of focusing on what made you mad, consider what could help resolve the issue. For example, if a messy room is causing you to feel upset, close the door. Is your family constantly late to dinner? Schedule meals for a later time. Try to be realistic about what you can change and what you can't. Remember that some things may be simply out of your control. 

  • Use Healthy Communication Strategies - It can be easy in the heat of the moment to blame the other person for your frustration or say that they ALWAYS do something you don't like or that they NEVER do something that you expect them to. However, criticizing and placing blame will only increase the tension of the situation. Finding healthy ways to communicate your thoughts and feelings such as using “I statements” can allow you to feel heard by the other person and it can help the other person understand where you are coming from without them becoming defensive. For example, instead of saying “you never do the dishes” you can say “I’m upset that you put your dish in the sink without offering to help.” 

We are all human and anger and frustration is a normal part of the human experience. It helps us understand who we are, what we like, and what we need. Learning how to be in control of anger can improve your relationships with others, with yourself, and improve your overall health.

Written by,

Tierney Puig, Intern



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