Dealing with unexpected and persistent frustrations

How to anticipate and accept what cannot be changed.

Sometimes, frustration catches us by surprise. For example, a slight wrong turn, layered on top of pressure, suddenly causes a lot more irritability than it usually would.

In other situations, a sense of frustration can build pretty quickly when we feel we’ve expressed ourselves, but the source of the frustration has not gone away.

As we learn more about what causes us frustration, we are able to anticipate the work situations that act as triggers. Seeing what’s coming over the horizon helps us prepare – for example, we can make decisions about how much we are going to let a work situation affect us. In trying to walk the line between achieving goals and accepting set-backs it can be useful to differentiate between:

  • What you hope will happen
  • What will probably happen
  • What actually happened

Sorting our hopes from probabilities and actualities helps us set realistic expectations about what will improve – and it provides a useful framework for expressing ongoing frustration with a situation that hasn’t been resolved.

And sometimes, the best response is to accept things the way they are. Although this is a life skill very few of us master to true proficiency! Acceptance is tough, but if the situation can’t be changed then it really is our best defence against stress and anxiety.

We’ve probably all encountered situations that are undeniably frustrating, although we haven’t really let ourselves feel frustrated. Whether a delay going on holiday, a broken washing machine or a child creatively testing their boundaries, we can let things wash over us – in the interests of our moment-to-moment happiness and longer-term wellbeing!

Another good trick is to surround your frustration with gratitude. You may be grateful you have a holiday at all, thankful for how long the washing machine has lasted and appreciate your child’s ingenuity. Similarly, taking a step back from our frustrations at work to appreciate the wider mission, our efforts and the support of colleagues can help temper the impact frustrations have on our health and happiness.