Image: Greg Raines/Unsplash Grow Your Grit: How to Deal With Frustration

Grow Your Grit: How to Deal With Frustration

How can we use frustration to empower rather than disempower us? How can such an uncomfortable feeling help us to become stronger, more resilient, and more confident? Find out how.

We all know the feeling of frustration. The way it makes us feel hemmed in, trapped and flustered. In many ways, it’s an uneasy emotion that can leave us feeling as if we are standing on the line between shouting and tears. Fear not, though. While it can be an overwhelming emotion to negotiate with, there are ways you can take hold to steer it in the right direction. Here, you’ll learn some of the most time-tested practical techniques on how to deal with frustration and better yet—how to use it as a tool to empower rather than to disempower you.

How can we turn the uncomfortable feeling of frustration into a tool we can use? And, how can such an uneasy feeling help us become stronger, more powerful, and more assured? The very feeling of frustration is a complicated emotion with a lot to unpack—so let’s start by doing that. If you’re feeling frustrated, it can mean a few things.

  • You’re trying something entirely new, or facing a demanding task,
  • You’re being challenged to accomplish something or,
  • It could be you’re struggling to catch on, catch up, or create change, but reality is being stubborn

It may also be that you tried at a task and failed, but all that needs to happen for frustration to strike—is a lack of easy and immediate success. You may even feel frustrated just thinking about approaching a problem that seems utterly unsolvable.

If, however, you can find a way to muster the courage and perseverance to take hold of your frustrations and work through them, ultimately, you’ll find yourself feeling like a champion. An unstoppable force loaded with confidence to deal with all sorts of areas in your life—from school to work, to your relationships with family and friends.

To illustrate the power of managing frustration, this is Jenna’s story.

Jenna’s Frustration

Jenna has been a top student for most of her time at school. In her English class last year, she and her classmates were given the opportunity to correct their mistakes and re-submit their papers.

While other students submitted their papers two or three times, Jenna’s papers were awarded top marks right from the get-go! While Jenna works diligently at all her academic assignments, she is almost never confused about what it will take to do well. And, rarely does she find the tasks too difficult. This year, however, it didn’t turn out quite the same.

Jenna attended her first honors chemistry class for the semester and listened to the expected introductory lecture. The issue was, by the beginning of the second week, the problems on the board seemed gibberish, foreign, something Jenna just couldn’t seem to understand.

As Jenna looked around the class, she noticed everyone around her working through the problems, frowning and tapping their pencils, but only ever pausing for a second or two before moving on.

After a few minutes, Jenna gives up and throws her pencil down. It agitates her to watch everyone else keep working their way through the problems. An impossibly long stretch of pencil-scratching continues while she sits, cheeks heating, feeling more and more disturbed and helpless wondering what it is her classmates know that she doesn’t.

Jenna is feeling the heat of frustration.

The Frustration Learning Curve

Why is Jenna more frustrated than her classmates? We look to her past for answers. Earlier, when Jenna’s classmates struggled to turn in their papers a second or third time, they somehow learned to build up resilience in the face of failure and frustration.

The difference? Mentally and emotionally, Jenna’s peers are already familiar with the embarrassment (and anger!) of seeing their mistakes pointed out on paper. The struggles inherent to frustration in correcting their mistakes as they learn, but as they learn, the satisfaction of being awarded a better score as a result of their hard work and persistence.

In the face of disappointment and frustration, even the great Albert Einstein believed in hard work and perseverance as he once said:

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Use Frustration as a Teaching Tool

For Jenna, she hasn’t had as much experience dealing with frustration as her peers and as a result finds the uncomfortable feeling difficult to manage. In Jenna’s situation, however, she needs to understand she is being tested. Life is dealing her a challenge. A small but an important one that if she can learn and grow from—will be invaluable to her future successes.

Clinical Hypnotherapist Caroline Brown, in her blog post; Building Resilience — Tolerating Frustration, supports this notion stating even the small frustrations can train you to cope with larger ones, and the difference is just that.

Jenna’s friends have more experience dealing with small frustrations which have in turn helped them to build the resilience they need to combat the feelings of frustration.

For Jenna, struggling in class is a new experience. In the past, she has worked very hard in her classes. Working hard and being successful the first time is, however, a very different feeling from working hard, failing, and having to work through the feeling of frustration to try again.

Jenna’s struggles with frustration are common amongst academically gifted students. In fact, in an article by Peters, Building Persistence and Resilience in Gifted Children, published by the Davidson Institute, studies confirm that “gifted” students often have a lower tolerance for frustration because they aren’t used to experiencing it as often as their peers.

While Jenna has more difficulty dealing with frustration, it’s important to note, it doesn’t make her any better or worse than her friends. For Jenna, it’s that she doesn’t have many learned strategies in her emotional ‘toolbox’ to manage the feelings of intense frustration.

So, how did Jenna deal with her frustration and go on to be a top student in all her classes?

How To Deal With Frustration

Whether you consider yourself as “gifted” or not, there are some techniques Jenna used that you can too to immediately improve your ability to deal with those unexpected feelings of frustration.

1. Identify the Source

Firstly, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge what you are feeling as frustration. While this may seem trivial to ask, negative emotions can leave us feeling so overwhelmed that we may mistake them for other negative emotions, or even reframe them so that they seem more socially acceptable. For instance, you could be furious, but saying you feel frustrated is easier for others to handle.

2. Own Your Frustration

One of the easiest things to do when feeling frustrated is to point blame at others, or the situation itself. For example, in Jenna’s experience, it would be very tempting for her to determine that the class is too hard for anyone to do well in and that the paper should not be so difficult.

By thinking this way, it means that it’s not on her but rather on her teacher to fix things. While that may seem easier to cope with in the short-term, over time, it’s a mistake in the long-run that could lead to Jenna ultimately failing the course entirely.

3. Acknowledge and Accept

When in the heat of frustration try to take a deep breath and remind yourself, it’s okay to feel like this. You’re human—and humans get frustrated! It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, what you’re good at or what you think you’re particularly terrible at, we all experience it at some point during our lives.

Remember, just like Jenna feeling frustrated; it doesn’t make you better or worse from anyone else. Ultimately, we can use the emotional feeling of frustration as a tool to help us become better, stronger, and grow our grit!

4. Make the Call

You need to figure out, in the moment, whether you need to remove yourself from the situation that’s causing you this frustration. If Jenna’s feeling close to tears, she might want to excuse herself to the bathroom or to get a drink of water. Should Jenna burst into tears of frustration during class, she may well end up feeling worse than she did before.

If, however, you can stick it out—at least try your best as it will undoubtedly help to build up your resilience sooner rather than later. A behavior you don’t want to get into the habit of doing is removing yourself from every frustrating situation you find yourself in because you’ll never adapt and develop the skills you need to persevere and succeed. After all, the reality may be, in some situations, you won’t have the option to leave, so it’s important to know how to deal with your frustration when that happens.

5. Breathe

Breathe through it. A few deep breaths can help you stay calm and focused in intense, frustrating situations. As you take a deep breath, remind yourself that the feeling is only temporary, and the situation itself is too.

6. Redirect Your Attention

Do whatever you can to get your mind off it and focus intentionally on something else, something positive, relaxing, or uplifting before returning to deal with what’s frustrating you. Even your mind and your emotions both need a break now and then.

7. Seek Help

Have you ever told someone about what you’re struggling with, only to realize that you already know the solution? Often enough, talking to someone about your frustrations can help you re-evaluate your experience. Talking through your frustrations with others can have a magical-like ability to put your frustrations into perspective, even if the listener doesn’t actively offer up a solution.

8. Act On It

Whatever you do, don’t give up! It can be tempting to turn away from problems or situations that are frustrating. Life events that seem to threaten your sense of self (like Jenna’s picture of herself as a top student). Whatever you do, however, resist the temptation to turn away and instead act on it. Better yet, take action in a positive way. There will be situations where everything feels out of control. When this happens, take a deep breath. Know, there is always something you can do to make things a little more manageable.

For example, in Jenna’s situation, she could talk to the teacher after class, get a tutor, ask a friend to help her, or devote more time per week to learning the subject. If you were to ask Jenna what she might do when she is feeling frustrated, Jenna might say “there’s just nothing I can do”. If you ever hear these words, know that frustration can lie to you.

See also: How To Relieve Stress: 10 Quick Ways To Get Stress Free.

The feeling of frustration is inherently good at making us feel helpless. When you’re frustrated, giving up seems easier than finding a new way to look at the struggle. Instead of giving up, be the kind of person who looks for new ways to act. Learn to face the challenging times ahead with more optimism and some heavy duty perseverance.

9. Let it Go

More than just the name of a Disney song, “let it go” is some great advice. Give yourself permission to let go of the emotion. If the frustrating situation has passed, don’t hold the feeling in so you keep going over it again and again. Instead, refocus your attention to a frame of mind of “what can I do?” rather than “why can’t I do this?”

In the article, Success Requires Grit and Resilience, published by the Huffington Post, leadership expert Jane Shure suggests that dealing with major frustration and disappointment early in life can lead to greater success and happiness down the line. Angela Lee Duckworth supports this notion stating in her TED talk, The keys to success? Grit,

“Resilience, not IQ, is the best predictor of success.”

In other words, it’s not pure smarts that dictate success—it’s resilience. The earlier we learn to identify, handle and accept difficulty, the better equipped we are to deal with future events. Overcoming emotional challenges helps us to become stronger, smarter, tougher and more understanding. It helps enable us to better face new challenges with confidence.

So go out there and face your frustrations. If you do—I have 100% confidence in you that you’ll be a better person for it!

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