How to Overcome Frustration in 3 Easy Steps

“Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion . . .  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

I used to totally, utterly, absolutely, downright hate frustration. It was an emotional reaction, I just couldn’t help it. Whenever I got caught in its the subtle yet powerful chains I felt like crap. I think you know the feeling. Hands tied up, no possible solution to the current situation and a lot of mess to deal with. Yes, frustration can do that to you.

Being so keen on doing things, starting new projects all the time, entering new challenges almost daily, it was absolutely natural to face a lot of frustration. It was the expected behavior. Only I thought it wasn’t. I thought I didn’t deserve it. Why this is happening to me? Took me a long time to understand, but it really worth the wait.

Be a Friend of Frustration

The good news is that you can overcome frustration. I’m not talking about avoidance here, because, believe it or not, frustration is a key ingredient in your personal development, but rather about a friendship strategy. An alliance with frustration, an armistice. As any other emotional response, frustration leverages huge amounts of energy. And you can use that energy. In fact, it’s such a shame to let it slip away.

Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem

Accept it. Yes, you are frustrated. It’s already happened, can’t bring time back. You’re here and you’re frustrated. You’re not sad, angry or apathetic. You’re frustrated. Write it down on a piece of paper. Find a mirror (preferably in an isolated place) and say to you: “I’m looking at me and I’m frustrated”. Find a good friend, call him and say to him: “Buddy, I’m frustrated”.

This requires a little bit of courage and a little bit of exercise. You need courage to accept it, because frustration is often associated with being powerless. To some extent, you are powerless when you’re frustrated. You really lost your power over the specific events you were trying to control. But only on those events, not over your entire life. You still have enough power to move on. Yes, you lost power over what you’re trying to do, accept that.

Acknowledging the problem will stop your current flow of actions. Maybe you’re doing the same thing for weeks months or years, without any positive results. Acknowledging that you’re frustrated about that will stop you. And that’s a good thing. It’s good to stop when you’re doing stupid things.

Step 2: Change the Status Quo

Now that you know you’re frustrated, start working on the status quo. Start changing the current environment. Somehow. Accepting your frustration already did half of the job: it stopped your current flow of actions. You’re not doing stupid things anymore. That’s good. But that’s not enough. You have to move forward.


Changing the status quo involves reversing part of the actions you’ve done so far. If it’s possible. If there are persons involved, you can start by apologizing to them. If there are broken things, you can start fixing them. If there are damages, you can start covering the loss. Somehow.

Changing the status quo also means acting. Just do things again. Frustration is like a snake venom: paralyzes you, makes your muscles useless and you can’t speak anymore. Reverse that. Start moving around. Stretch your legs, start babbling even if you’re pathetic. Being pathetic means you’re no longer frustrated, you’re just pathetic.

Acting after accepting your situation will reorganize the odds around you. The mere fact of moving in a new direction will bring in some luck. Sometimes enough to put you on the right track again, sometimes much more than you can even imagine. I know for sure that some of my bigger breakthroughs were born out of some of my bigger frustrations.

Step 3: Enjoy your New Level

After you started to act on your status quo, your environment will look better. Sometimes you can completely reverse the situation which causes frustration, sometimes you’re just ameliorating things. Whatever the case, you’re out of the dead hole. You’re on a new track, trying something new. Stay there.

And, above all, enjoy it. There is this popular habit of mild sorrow after you overcome a huge obstacle. Man, it’s good to be here, but before wasn’t so bad after all. Don’t do this to you. Just fully enjoy your new level and leave the past tot the past.

Frustration is not a dead hole, unless you want to make a dead hole out of it. It’s an elevator, a way to quickly reach to a new level. You could take the stairs, of course, and have a leaner course to the top. But if you want to reach there faster, you’ll need more energy. A lot more energy. You’re going to make leaps instead of going step by step.

And what you call frustration, is in fact the manifestation of an elevator right at your fingertips. You asked for it, because you wanted to reach out faster, now you have it. Don’t reject it, don’t misuse it. An elevator can take you in a few seconds to the top of the world, or it could take you to the basement. Be careful what buttons you push.

After all, it’s just an elevator, you’re in command.

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27 Responses to How to Overcome Frustration in 3 Easy Steps

  • Good tips Dragos,

    I think there is a strong correlation between the first one and the other two. Until you can accept your frustration and your problem, it;s hard to approach it in a constructive way. Preparing yourself emotionally is one of my favourite advices in handling anything.

    Eduard
    .-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Sometimes forgiveness isn’t the answer =-.

    • Absolutely, the first step is the most important. One thing I learned for sure is that you cannot change something, whatever that might be, without first accepting it. Rejection doesn’t solve anything, it just perpetuates the status quo.

  • I like this idea – “As any other emotional response, frustration leverages huge amounts of energy. And you can use that energy. In fact, it’s such a shame to let it slip away.”

    What a fantastic point. It makes me feel empowered actually. The next time I’m feeling frustrated I’m going to figure out a way to put my energy to good use.
    .-= Monica O’Brien´s last blog ..Free content sells. We get it. What’s next? =-.

    • That’s the idea, to find resources in the worst situations to get the best out of you. I’m amazed about the quantity of energy we allocate to our negative emotions. That indicates huge reserves and it’s such a shame we cannot find other ways to dwell for these resources.

      • I really don’t understand what you guys talking about. How could I move my negative energy to good use? Give me an example please.

        • when you’re angry, just go ahead and clean up your house. When you’re angry, you like smashing somebody else face. That’s energy release. Re-channel it to something else. Cleaning your house it’s – allegedly ;-) – a good thing.

  • Super cool, and enjoyed this very much. I am sure many can relate.
    For myself it’s a breakdown which as frustration is a vital part of the equation, but after a breakdown comes a breakthrough and boy do these feel good every time they shine. Thanks for the post.

  • This is an interesting article. It made me realize that I experience almost no frustration in my life now. There were times when I was younger that I did, but not now. Reading this made me stop and consciously see why. If I even begin to feel frustrated, I stop what I’m doing sit down and look at the situation and ask what action (or non-action sometimes) I can take to alleviate the frustration. Frustration is more often than not linked with a feeling of helplessness and in most cases we are VERY far from helpless. Even if we can’t change a situation (or not immediately – like certain things happening in the world) we can often do things for others that make us feel we’re changing the world. EG: we may not be able to end all homelessness in America, but we could go out and get involved with a homeless shelter and offer a bit of time each week (even as little as an hour). This can give us the sense that we are taking control of our lives, our world and surprisingly DOES make a different. AND it makes us feel better.
    .-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..When I Die I Want… =-.

    • That’s touching and you’ve been – again – on a place I’ve never been until now. Reaching out and alleviate OTHER people frustration is certainly the best cure for our frustrations too.

      Thanks for that, Robin :-)

  • When frustration’s energy is being re-channeled, then it ceases to feel like frustration. This was a very unique and insightful perspective. I loved it.
    .-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..11 Simple Steps to Greater Happiness Now =-.

    • Every emotion is at its core pure energy. Frustration is an emotion, primarily, hence, it’s just an emotion. Which can be transcended. :-)

  • Frustration is had to overcome and usually takes someone to tell you to get over it!
    It is all a matter of training yourself to overcome the anxiety and know the frustration wont allow you to find an easy fix to the problem. You need a clear mind in order to make good judgments and decisions.
    Like the other night,Thumper was so frustrated over his computer being so slow, he was jumping all over the place looking for a new one.Then trying to figure out the best way to ship it.
    He settled down but we were up until 7am or shall I say it took that long to get him off the computer rampage.
    Great article. Frustration is evil.
    .-= Bunnygotblog´s last blog ..12 On Blogging: Katie Clemons, “Making This Home” =-.

    • Wow, that’s a strong desire for a computer :-) Glad you overcome this. I sense it though it will be only temporarily. Computers do get old, you know. You have to change them every once in a while :-)

  • A good swearing session usually clears the air for me :)

    Time seems to be my biggest frustration, when I don’t have enough time to do everything I need to be doing, I get flustered, stressed and frustrated. I stop in the middle of the frustration response and usually say, out loud, ‘I can only do so much in the time allowed’ and that calms me right down.

    Great post on dealing with frustration and I love point number 3: Enjoy your new level.
    .-= Steven Aitchison´s last blog ..Sunday Siesta – Bloggers Who Have Quit Their Day Job =-.

  • I totally agree, you have to accept frustration first. I think very often people are frustrated and then they get even more frustrated because they are frustrated, and then even more frustrated because they are frustrated that they are frustrated….and on and on and on. Acceptance stops that vicious cycle.
    .-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Relationships Advice – Other People Are Just Mirror Images Of You =-.

    • Yeap, great point. Sometimes you enter this cycle and end up days or weeks after the initial event not knowing what was the trigger for your frustration. That’s horrible :-)

  • Hi Dragos. Good job on this. I think your advice can be generalized to other emotions. “Acknowledge the Problem” – accepting and acknowledging any emotion such as anger, sadness, etc. is the first step in not letting it control you.
    .-= Stephen – Rat Race Trap´s last blog ..1 Plus 1 Make Eight Hundred and Eighty Six Thousand – 3 Things Necessary For Success That The School System Neglected To Teach You =-.

  • [...] you hear or touch. You are designed for this specific experience, not for worrying and stacking frustration over frustration until you crack [...]

  • [...] family trait: it will dry you up and puts you in a no man’s land territory. Don’t be frustrated it went wrong, be happy it [...]

  • Dear,
    I feel like I don’t have any energy when I get frustrated. I do all things with great lethargy. In such a case how to get energy.

  • Thanks Dragos,
    You gave great advice. Especially when you said, “As any other emotional response, frustration leverages huge amounts of energy. And you can use that energy. In fact, it’s such a shame to let it slip away.” Now, that’s life changing!

  • I am having a lot of frustrations everyday of the lousy week, and I am sick of them! People talking and walking over me, How can I get over that?

  • I often feel frustrated… sometimes I’m depressed too… when I am, I want to keep it like that! Like I want to stay depressed, I want to continue cry forever. When I’m not depressed any more, I can’t understand why I wanted it to be like that.
    Am I the only one experiencing this, or is it something natural?

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