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How to Self-Manage Our Frustration

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In the throes of madness, I have found some form of peace to hold on to, like an anchor, to keep me healthy enough to be safe with myself and others.

Suppose you cannot maintain safety with yourself or with others. In that case, I recommend heading to your local ER or following through with the crisis plan you’ve already discussed and reviewed with your mental health provider. 

Defining ‘frustration’ tolerance throttle

Self-managing our ‘frustration‘ is somewhat vague. Firstly, what do I mean by ‘frustration’? When a person is frustrated, they are agitated, upset, and irritable. I’m choosing to use the term ‘frustrate’ because it is somewhat generic and will be referred to with more latitude as this article unfolds. In therapy, we sometimes refer to a person’s frustration tolerance or ability to deal with being upset or levels of agitation without totally unravelling or losing self-control. Self-awareness of our tolerance throttle, the ‘up’ and ‘down’ direction of where our frustration moves, can be complex but mastered. 

Regulating frustration

To successfully regulate our tolerance throttle requires a certain amount of time spent on the day-to-day thinking and all the feelings that come with into play during life – no simple task. When I mean thinking about feelings during your life, I mean a complete inventory of your bad day, good day, typical day, every sort of day in between living well and not living at all.

Getting to know your baseline

I have always been a guru when it comes to relaxation and recreation. It seems to be a unique talent to find nothing to do when the world was lighting up with opportunities to insert myself and begin when all I was interested in doing was sitting down to a glass of iced tea and the newspaper. I’m sure my co-workers can vouch for this unique phenomenon and endorse me for this do-nothing talent.

Control and chaos: Righting the ship

Conversely, sometimes a situation calls upon people to ‘right the ship’ and be more authoritative and directive in their approach to self-managing their lives and particular problems. I suggest starting here to locate your internal barometer – a little more involved than tuning into your gut and doing what feels right.

During a looming personal crisis, tuning into your feelings is only the beginning. If it is a situation that needs fixing, it should capture more than just your feelings on the subject. There should be some ethical, or at the very least, the problem of energy flow, and the mechanics involved to complete the task should be jeopardised or requiring re-tooling for future projects.

My point is that your ‘feeling’ world and your ‘rational’ need to be inter-linked if you are to truly tune into your moment and decipher or filter out a better way ahead. Accurate for most situations, not just work projects or tasks you are involved with, requiring your attention and focus on completing without incident. Therefore, when managing agitation, be prepared to look at your entire situation before coming up with a new plan.

Agitation can go deep

It can hit a nerve in the very heart of our dilemma and harken back years in your psychological landscape for creating additional frustrations in your life. So, be prepared to dig deep, and once you have successfully bridged your rationality with your feeling world, begin to play around with your frustration tolerance at times when you aren’t nervous. Prepare yourself to be more relaxed and comfortable with the skill in the throes of seeming disaster ahead when you are already anxious.

Normalising stress

There are a few additional caveats to remember. First, when dealing with the interpersonal world, no calm and serenity level can prepare you for what someone will throw at you when they are in crisis and mishandling a situation. In cases like this, you may not have to dig deep into your psychological profile to unhinge your frustration but, instead, remind yourself other people’s problems are their own. Going ahead and feeling or thinking for them will only make their jobs more complicated to manage independently without you in the future.

Final thougts

The second and last caveat, sometimes you should or need to be anxious. Our anxieties are signals that tell us we need to make changes in our lives. Locate the deep-seated issue. Understand that something has to give – sometimes, just going ahead without digging too deep into your subconscious or psychological wellspring might provide you with a fast and very much needed change to feel better in the next few moments.

Max E. Guttman, LCSW  is a psychotherapist and owner of Recovery Now, a mental health private practice in New York City.


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