I write this at the end of an especially frustrating day at the end of an especially frustrating week.  The sources of my frustrations are irrelevant. By its very definition, frustration is less about the outside world and more about our perception of it.  As this article from Psychology Today points out, “The majority of anger and frustration in life, no matter what the situation, has at its basis one simple thought: It shouldn’t be this way.”  The author likens this to each of us having our own personal rulebooks.  When someone or something runs amiss of our rules, we become frustrated.

On a normal day, we can all probably handle a certain amount of frustration. However, on those other days, when the “rule breaking” compounds, we can feel like a ticking time bomb.

As part of my attempt to both understand the science of frustration and more importantly how to handle it, I discovered the term, “low frustration tolerance” – which is exactly what it sounds like.  Either by general disposition or situational, we can have days, months, even years where our ability to handle frustration is compromised.  Instead it builds and builds until it turns into aggression, anger or even violence. Imagine a boiling teapot, eventually if it gets too hot it will need to blow off its steam.

The solution, although easier said than done, is either to turn down the heat or let out the steam a little at a time.

The different recommended interventions range from taking a deep breath, meditating, getting fresh air, talking to someone (or even yourself), doing something that will distract you, exercise, visualization, distracting yourself, and on and on.

But of all the suggestions, the one that most resonated with me was the simple act of self-awareness.  Identifying what isn’t going right, understanding the way you would like it to be and then if possible, figuring out what you yourself can do to impact the situation… if anything.

Frustration often is related to a lack of control.  And as the Serenity Prayer reminds us:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference”

Let’s see if this week I’m able to practice what I preach.

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