14 Ways To Deal With Frustration In A Positive Way

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Feeling frustrated is not a sensation that anyone would volunteer to experience.

Sure, it’s a natural human emotion that we’ll all feel at one time or another, but it’s not a pleasant one.

Frustration is something we experience when we’re in a situation that we’re powerless to change or when we are unable to achieve something.

We can also feel milder levels of frustration when we’ve not yet actually been defeated but the going gets tough and failure looks likely.

Somebody who’s frustrated might appear upset, annoyed, or angry, raging against what might seem like an unfair or impossible situation.

Do you remember that feeling when you were a child and an adult just wouldn’t believe that you didn’t pull your brother’s hair or that the dog really did eat your homework, even when you were (for once…) telling the truth, and there was absolutely nothing you could do to change their minds?

The situations you face in your adult life might be very different to these, but the frustration you feel is the same.

Whether it’s your professional or personal life, things are rarely straightforward, and we all come up against bumps in the road that make the journey difficult.

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, however, it’s that spending time feeling frustrated is time wasted.

After all, you’re worrying about something that you’re powerless to change, or perceive yourself to be powerless to change, and no amount of crying or raging is going to make a difference to that.

The 2 Types Of Frustration

There are two different types of frustration.

The first is internal. As the name might suggest, internal frustration comes from within.

It’s the result of challenges you might face with meeting the goals you’ve set yourself, fulfilling your desires, or even as a result of weak points that you perceive yourself to have, like anxiety in social situations or a phobia of something.

You might even experience internal frustration if your heart has various desires that don’t quite fit with one another, and you just can’t decide which to prioritize.

There is also external frustration. This is the kind of frustration you feel if you’re driving along a road and suddenly find it blocked.

But it is also what you experience when you’re facing a difficult task or are forced to wait around for something to happen.

Essentially, external frustration is caused by circumstances that are beyond your control but not related to the inner workings of your mind.

Of course, the two often go hand in hand, if you come up against an external factor that you can’t overcome due to some kind of internal limitation you perceive yourself to have.

14 Ways To Deal With Frustration

We’re all going to feel frustrated at one point or another, and we’re bound to feel angry or upset initially, but if you look at it in the right way, you can put a positive spin on many frustrating situations.

1. Take a minute to breathe.

When you can feel yourself getting frustrated with a situation, take a moment to sit back and breathe before you do anything else.

Don’t react immediately, but give yourself a chance to calm down so that you’re more able to make a rational decision about how best to move forwards.

You’ve probably heard this advice a million times, but don’t dismiss it. A few deep breaths can make a world of difference.

2. Talk about it.

Keeping your feelings bottled is not going to help. Find a sympathetic ear and express them.

Having to put your frustrations into words will help you understand what’s going on inside your head.

There are two kinds of people you can talk to, and both kinds will be able to give you a very different insight.

Someone who has no connection with, and little knowledge of, the situation can be great as they can look at the picture you paint more subjectively and come up with a fresh angle on it which might never have occurred to you.

On the flip side, somebody who knows exactly what’s going on and is very knowledgeable about whatever it is you’re up against can also be good to talk to, as they’ll understand the intricacies and may have knowledge or experience that can be of use to you. 

If in doubt, try speaking to someone from each category.

If you really don’t feel comfortable talking about it with anyone, try writing it down instead, so you are at least putting how you feel into words.

3. Get curious about it.

When those feelings of frustration arise, ask yourself why this particular situation has got you feeling the way it has.

Try to trace the cause of the frustration back to its root, and you might be surprised by what you discover.

For example, perhaps you are sitting in a traffic jam on your way home from work. Frustrating? Of course. But is your frustration actually related to the fact that you’ll miss your kid’s bedtime… again?

Or perhaps you are struggling to learn a musical instrument you’d like to be able to play. Is it a perceived lack of musical ability that’s got you irate, or are you annoyed at yourself for not practicing as much as you know you need to?

The better you can understand your frustration, the more you’ll be able to address it and cope with it.

Be honest with yourself about whether the way you’re approaching it really is the best way.

4. Release it.

Sometimes frustration just has to be let out.

Find somewhere secluded and scream and shout to your heart’s content. Or exercise until you think your heart might burst. Release all that pent-up energy.

If you want to, cry. You’ll feel much better afterwards, I can promise you that.

Once you’ve vented, you’ll be better placed to handle the frustration caused by the situation and to move on to a more positive or empowered state of mind.

5. Change your perspective on it.

You can put a different spin on pretty much anything in this life if you look at it from a different angle.

It’s easier said than done, but you can decide to view your frustrating situation as a chance to grow and learn, or a challenge to be relished.

Identify what’s gone right as well as what’s gone wrong and focus on the good bits, viewing the mistakes as merely essential and useful lessons you had to learn along the way.

6. Meditate on it.

Meditation can help in two ways. Firstly, a very short practice of just a few minutes can really help to calm you down in the moment.

But the real power comes from a more in-depth meditation at some point later on. By spending some time in quiet reflection about what happened and why you felt the way you did about it, you can prevent yourself from getting so worked up so easily should a similar situation occur again.

It’s good to perform this meditation on the same day as the thing that got you frustrated as you’ll be better able to tune into the feelings you experienced.

7. Distract yourself from it.

If the source of your anger and annoyance is ongoing, you’ll want to take your mind off it if possible. The less mental energy you give to something, the less it affects you.

So ask yourself if there is something you could do that would distract you from whatever is going on?

Could you listen to some music at high volume? Could you read a book? Could you watch some stand-up comedy? Could you get out and do some gardening?

Of course, this all depends on where you happen to be at the time. It’s much easier to distract yourself at home than it is, for example, at work or when you’re driving. 

8. Manage your expectations.

It’s easy to get frustrated when your reality doesn’t match your expectations. If you have a vision of how things are or were supposed to go, and they actually go very differently, it can make your emotions run high.

So to stop feeling frustrated to begin with, you can try to have more realistic expectations. That goes for people as much as it does for events. You can neither dictate how someone will act or how something will pan out.

In fact, it’s often better to approach life with as few expectations as possible. They are very rarely helpful in any way, and can often be detrimental to our emotional well-being when they are unreasonable.

9. Accept your limitations.

If your frustration is internal, it may relate to your inability to do something. This relates to the expectations we just spoke of in that you are raging against the unrealistic expectation that you could do a particular thing.

You might see it as a failure, or that you are lacking in some way. But you have to give yourself a break. No one can do everything, and no one has all the answers.

If you don’t want to get frustrated with yourself, you must accept that your abilities are limited. It doesn’t help to bang your head against the wall trying to find a way to do something that is beyond your expertise.

If it’s getting you this riled up, you’d be better off hiring someone else to do the thing for you. That way, it gets done, and it gets done right.

Even when it comes to your hobbies or your physical capabilities, you need to know where to draw the line in terms of what you can do. Perhaps you’ve reached your peak in terms of performance. Maybe you need to take a step back and try to simply enjoy a thing for what it is rather than being too competitive with others or yourself.

10. Write about it.

It can be difficult to let go of something that has you all worked up. Anger and frustration have a way of fuelling thoughts so that they circle around and around in your mind, rather than allowing them to drift away.

This rumination can be prevented by getting all of your thoughts and feelings out of your head. And a good way to do that is by writing them down on paper.

Quite often we can’t let go of a thought because we think we’ll forget about it – whether that’s a possible future solution to our woes, or an opinion you’d like to express to someone. But once you’ve written those things down, you give your mind permission to forget them.

Performing a brain dump is also a good way to organize your thoughts. If there are lots of moving pieces to the irritating situation, you might not be able to stop thinking about it because your thoughts are a jumbled mess. If you can write everything out, you can better link things together and gain clarity of mind, not to mention peace of mind.

11. Let go of control.

Your sphere of influence – the things you have some level of control over – is far smaller than you think. It pales in comparison to everything that sits outside of that sphere.

This is important because you can rage against the world all you like, but it’s not going to give a crap. It doesn’t bend to your will or play your game. Most of the time, stuff just happens to us and around us, and we have to react to it. We don’t get to decide how it goes.

If there’s something you can’t change, you have to make a conscious decision to accept it – at least at the current time. Perhaps you can do something in the future, but you can think about that in the future.

Right now, you have to release the grip you have on it, or rather, the grip you think you have on it.

In Japanese, there’s the phrase “Shouganai” which translates as “It cannot be helped.” It’s a nice little phrase worth remembering in those times where you have zero power to change things.

12. Focus on the big picture.

Sometimes, we find it hard not to feel frustrated because our minds are inflexible in the moment that feeling arises. We are pig-headedly stuck in a very specific way of thinking. We might try to force something which has no real chance of happening.

Instead, we need to step back and find a different way to do or see things.

What was the original goal that you had in mind when you set out on the journey that led you to this roadblock, or dead end?

Refocus your energies on getting there in a different way, rather than continuing to bang your head against a brick wall.

Ask yourself what you need to happen differently so that you reach that goal this time, and make a new plan to get yourself there.

Or, if it wasn’t a missed goal that led to your frustration, but a situation that didn’t go as you hoped, ask whether it will really matter in 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, or 1 month.

Chances are, at some point soon, you’ll look back and wonder why you got so worked up over it in the first place.

13. Take action.

If there’s one thing that’s for sure, there’s absolutely no sense procrastinating, as it will only make you feel worse.

Once you’ve calmed down and got a rational head on your shoulders, make sure you take the first step on the new path you’ve planned out sooner rather than later so that you don’t stagnate.

The more you put it off, the more daunting it will seem.

Spending your time worrying is essentially another form of procrastination. You can’t take any steps forward whilst you’re worrying about the steps you’ve taken that have got you to that point.

There’s an old Irish proverb that goes “You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind,” and never a truer word was spoken.

Take the lessons you’ve learned and move forwards a wiser person.

14. Avoid lashing out at others.

When you’re frustrated or angry, it can disable both your reasoning and your compassion. This makes it more likely that you’ll turn those feelings toward the people around you.

So you must try with all of your might to stop your temper from getting the better of you.

Even if it is other people you are annoyed at because they have done something (or not done something) that has caused you problems, you should try to cool down before you approach them.

If you don’t, you run the risk of heated conflict and upset feelings, both of which will likely prolong the situation that’s frustrating you.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.