Frustration: the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of something.
We all get frustrated, it is part of the human experience. Some days are worse than others, especially when we encounter more daily hassles than normal. Daily hassles include, but are not limited to: not enough time, traffic, social obligations, financial strain, relational strain, minor household accidents such as spilling the milk or breaking a dish, pet problems such as accidents on the rug, forgetting your phone at home, not being able to find your keys, work deadlines, late lunch delivery, etc. Many of these seem extremely minor, but when you add a few, or several of them together…it can add up to a big hassle and lots of frustration. This frustration can be very challenging to deal with. Pent up frustration is often the reason people “explode” or “lash out.”
I would like to offer a modified definition of the word frustration: unmet expectations (the prevention of the progress, success, or fulfillment of expectation).
For example, if you oversleep because you did not hear your alarm, your morning will be rushed. If you expect your morning to go as smoothly as a normal morning, this expectation will most likely not be met, causing frustration. Studies show that when we feel rushed we make more mistakes, are less focused, are more forgetful and even drive more aggressively. During a rushed morning you may very easily make the mistake of pouring orange juice on your cereal, less efficiently pack your child’s lunch, forget your phone and cause a fender bender or near miss.
In this example the best way to reduce frustration is to re-calibrate your expectations – and expect to make more mistakes! Accept that you are rushing and therefore might have more daily hassles. Laugh when you make OJ flavored oatmeal because of course you did! Or you could…take a deep breath, pour a cup of coffee, call the boss, call the school, and go in a few minutes late, thus reducing frustration.
Or let us take another example: family functions. Some family functions may go off without a hitch and everyone has a great time! Then there are others. Many times, family functions can be a great source of frustration. You go to the family reunion hoping this year will finally be different, this year everyone will get along and you will not be frustrated. You expect it to go well, when in the past it has been the furthest thing from the Cleaver Family Reunion.
Does Aunt Denise always talk your ear off? Does Uncle Ralph always drink too much and start yelling at the game on TV? Do Elizabeth’s children run amok? Does Grandma’s dog chew your shoes…while they are on your feet? Yes, and will this change this year? Probably not. So what do you do to reduce frustration? Re-calibrate your expectations.
Make a game plan to get away from Aunt Denise – call in another family member to join the conversation and duck out, then apologize later. Avoid the TV room where Uncle Ralph camps out (at least after drink number three). Take a deep breath and remember these are not your children, you are not responsible for their behavior or cleaning up after them. Go barefoot or let the dog out in the yard when you are inside, and let him in when you are outside.
If you expect the hassles to continue, not only because they are out of your control, but because they often happen, you might just reduce frustration. If you modify your thinking and behaviors to accommodate them, you might be able to eliminate some frustrations altogether.
Smile because you knew it was going to happen, after all, you expected it.
Be well and less frustrated.