Well-Being//

10 Things to Do When You Feel Frustrated

We can’t avoid life’s irritations, but how we react can change the course of our day.

Photoroyalty/ Shutterstock
Photoroyalty/ Shutterstock

We all experience moments that irritate us. And although we can’t avoid life’s frustrations, how we react can completely change our mood, perspective, and the course of our day after something annoying or frustrating happens. When it comes to finding tips and tools to reframe in a frustrating moment, it helps to hear what works for other people. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the tips that help them stay calm and reframe when they feel frustrated. Which of these will you try?

List five things you’re grateful for

“I find that practicing gratitude helps me when I feel bothered or frustrated. Quickly think of five things you are super grateful for. This exercise can truly shift you into a more positive mindset, giving you the opportunity to separate from any yuckiness. It really helps in shifting out of the not-so-great emotional place of frustration.”

—Sara K, alignment and mindset coach, Detroit MI

Step away for a walk

“When I get to the point of frustration during the day, I remind myself to pause, take a deep breath, and walk away from the situation. When I change my physical environment, I can allow my mind some space to look at the situation from a different perspective. It is important not to react immediately, but to try to find a lesson or improvement I can make. That little bit of physical space really helps.” 

—Laurie Jonas, author and blogger, Red Wing, MN 

Put on a “feel good” playlist

“When I feel frustrated, I dance to the sound of my ‘feel good’ playlist. I find that shaking my body, letting go of any tension, and helping my body to release some good hormones, really helps me put things in perspective. The problem always seems smaller afterwards.”

—Sara Midões, positive psychology practitioner, Lisbon, Portugal

Try a 10-count breathing exercise

“When I feel frustrated or out of sorts, I consciously stop myself, recount what I am thinking about, and start to take deep breaths. As I breathe, I count to ten and visualize the light going from my feet through my body and out of the top of my head. I repeat this exercise five times, and always end up in a better place.”

—Victor Imbimbo, family caregiver advocate, Greenwich, CT

Focus on what you can control

“My dad would always remind me that I may not be able to control the situation, but I can control my reaction to the situation. He would help me see how petty feelings of frustration were coloring the other aspects of my day. Hearing his words helps me gain perspective when I am giving frustration too much agency.”

—Donna Peters, executive coach, retired senior partner, Atlanta, GA

Keep a “frustration list”

“To deal with feelings of frustration, I set aside time each day to write a list of the things that are driving me nuts. Whether it’s the dog barking next door or the not-so-great conversation I’ve had, it all goes on there. Simply putting my irritations on paper makes me feel like I am having a good vent session to a neutral source. It also means the thoughts aren’t running wild in my head any more. When I have more than fifteen minutes, I unpack my list a little further, trying to get to the core of why these things may be bothering me and what I could potentially do about them.”

—Rochelle Jane, customer care manager and life coach, Cape Town, South Africa

Stick a note on your desk that helps you reframe

“A few weeks ago, I was in a fairly deep funk, feeling frustrated and low in self-confidence.  After a good vent with a dear friend, she shared a Bob Newhart video called ‘STOP IT.’  After laughing through it three times, I created a poster of my smiling face with the words in bold red: ‘STOP IT.’  I keep this note next to my monitor where I cannot miss it. Not only do I stop feeling frustrated, but I always start laughing when I read it.”

—Marguerite Orane, leadership coach, Toronto, ON, Canada

Think of one positive thing

“It is easy for your thoughts to shift to being negative when stressful situations occur. I find it helpful to try and stop yourself from letting your mind wander in that direction. Try to let go of negative thoughts and focus on something positive, despite how small.”

—Dana Kay, ADHD specialist board certified holistic health practitioner, Seattle, WA

Consider the “3 D’s”

“When frustration hits, I realize that communication is the antidote. I write out all of the things that feel overwhelming, between my business, marriage, parenting, and home life. Then, I put each frustration into one of the three D’s: Do, Ditch, or Delegate. Seeing what I actually get to, and don’t have to do is a game-changer each day.”

—Lisa Pezik, business strategist, Toronto, ON, Canada

Repeat an affirmation that resonates

“Last year, I made plans to start a new business, visit my friends, and go to concerts — but instead, I self-quarantined in my apartment, apart from my family for months. I was frustrated about the pandemic, and then I found out about Louise Hay’s morning affirmations. Her words and her warm voice immediately calmed me down, and I felt a little bit positive again. I found myself listening to her affirmations when I woke up, while doing my dishes, or walking down the street. I repeated, ‘I am healthy, I am strong, and I am safe and secure’ after her. These short, simple words empower me and make me feel grateful, so I repeat them whenever I feel frustrated.”

—Julie Z, marketing strategist, New York, N.Y. 

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