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10 Steps to Overcoming Frustration

shutterstock_327877394Frustration. It happens to everyone at one time or another. It can make you angry, feel anxious, and be very overwhelming.

When you’re frustrated, it can feel like nothing is under your control and everything is chaos. It’s hard to know where to begin. When you’re flooded with emotion, it’s difficult to think straight.

How do you calm down and begin to tame those feelings when they come up? Where do you begin?

Here are ten steps to help you manage your frustration in a productive and enriching manner. Believe it or not, frustration can teach you a lot about your problem and when it’s dealt with, it can help you can you gain the skills for managing other intense feelings.

Remember, like all feelings or emotions, frustration isn’t bad. It’s a strong emotion that can serve as a red flag that something needs attention and tending to. This feeling can encompass and contain other strong emotions as well. Some of these feelings are anger, anxiety, confusion, discouragement, and feeling defeated.

Here are 10 steps:

  1. Calm down. This will help stop your mind from racing, which is something that happens at the start of an anxiety producing situation. There are several ways to do this. One is to work on your breathing. Take five deep breaths. Slowly breathe air in through your nose, hold it for five seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Another way to calm down is to close your eyes and focus on a place that relaxes you, such as a beach or a forest.
  2. Clear your mind. Everyone does this differently. Some people stand and stretch. Others pet an animal, or step outside for a moment. There are many more examples you can try. Find one or two that work best for you. What’s important is that it’s something that you can focus on for a couple of minutes that is not what’s bothering you. Clearing your mind is taking a quick mental break.
  3. Come back to your problem or stressor, but this time do it in a calm manner. Look at it in a new way. Imagine how a friend would see it if they just came across it. Try to see it differently.
  4. Describe the problem in one sentence. For example, “I’m frustrated that I spilled coffee on my paper and I am not going to have time to print off a clean copy.”
  5. Define why this frustrating thing concerns or worries you.  It could be something simple like “I’m worried I’m going to be late again to work” or as complex as “My marriage is falling apart and I’m afraid our relationship will end in divorce.”
  6. Think through realistic options. It could be making a phone call, agreeing to begin therapy, start walking with a friend.
  7. Make a decision, and stick to it. If you waffle back and forth, you’ll fall back into frustration again. This is one of the most difficult steps and one of the most important steps.
  8. Act on your decision. Once you’ve made the commitment to decide on a way to reduce your frustrating situation, take action.
  9. Get it out of your mind. Don’t spend any time or energy thinking through it. It’s done and whatever will happen will happen.
  10. Allow yourself to enjoy being done with what was frustrating you. Think about what you want to do now that the stress is gone.

Frustration happens to everyone. The key to managing it is to understand your feelings and emotions before they get out of control and you lose the ability to think clearly.

You can’t avoid frustration in life, but you can learn to effectively manage it in the beginning. Like so many other things, managing feelings of frustration may not be easy at times, but it is definitely worth it in the end.

10 Steps to Overcoming Frustration

Jenise Harmon, MSW, LISW-S

Jenise Harmon, LISW-S, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Columbus, Ohio. She works with individuals and couples, and specializes in relationship counseling. She's now offering online counseling for residents of Ohio. Stay Connected . Follow her on twitter; and connect with her on Facebook.

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APA Reference
Harmon, J. (2016). 10 Steps to Overcoming Frustration. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 May 2016
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