How to… Overcome Frustration – I don’t know, do you?

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Many of the “How to…” posts I’ve written stem from a need in me to figure something out. For example, How to… Age Gracefully came about as I struggle to accept my middle-age status, and How to… Be Encouraging Just by Being You resulted from my attempts to learn to be a more encouraging person.

Some of the “How to…” posts come from a place of experience and a desire to save others from making some of the same mistakes I made. How to… Live an 80/20 Life, Part 1 and How to… Live and 80/20 Life, Part 2 are examples of this.

All of the “How to…” posts exist because of my belief that each person is responsible for his/her own walk. Others impact, sure, but ultimately only I can decide whether to walk the narrow, straight path or to meander aimlessly. I decided a long time ago that no one is going to keep me from pursuing Jesus. No one.

This post comes from a deeper place than any that have come before it. While all the others had at least some success to back them up, this one lacks victory. You see, frustration is a negative pattern I can’t seem to break. Maybe admitting that will be the first crack.

My biggest problem with frustration seems to be identifying the source, the place of origin. Sure, people and circumstances exacerbate frustration, but I don’t think they cause it. I think people’s actions, or lack thereof, often just trigger something that has lingered deep inside me for many years.

What triggers my frustration? Things I can’t control and shouldn’t have to control. Electronics – They should just work. My kids – Why can’t they see I just want what’s best for them? Friends – Do they really believe their way is always the best way? My body – I feed it healthy food & exercise, but it seems to constantly break down anyway. And let’s not even talk about how I feel about my hair!

And maybe the answer isn’t eliminating frustration. Maybe the answer is accepting its existence and then finding ways to more positively mitigate it rather than to constantly react when frustration overwhelms. Honestly, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that anything I’ve done to this point has only buried the root cause of my frustration and not really dealt with it.

I hate that frustration triggers reactions in me I thought I had overcome. Reactions I’m too ashamed to admit on paper or out loud. Reactions that seem stronger at times than any good in me and that lead me to believe, if only for a moment, that I am still a mouthy, arrogant, temper-driven teenager and that I’ll never change.

Do you sense the frustration in my words? Do you sense that even though I know that “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), I still struggle with letting that truth reign in this area of my life? Even worse, I struggle with seeing through my frustration enough to find scripture that would direct me toward healing in this area.

Perhaps the answer is that I can’t overcome this through struggle and reasoning and effort. Perhaps the answer, simply, is to continually take my frustration to the cross and to let the power of the Holy Spirit keep it from controlling me. I thought I had done that, but maybe I haven’t done that enough.

Maybe there’s still that child in me that was constantly frustrated by things she couldn’t control. Maybe she still wonders how she could have not felt overlooked and misunderstood all of the time. And maybe, just maybe, she has to simply admit that she can’t handle a bumpy road on her own, that no amount of “How to…” will fix her frustration.

DISCUSSION: I don’t know how to overcome frustration, do you?

For a related post reflecting this struggle with frustration, see Could this be your biggest source of irritation, frustration and even anger?

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18 thoughts on “How to… Overcome Frustration – I don’t know, do you?

  1. Kari
    , when you find the solution to this one you will never have to worry about money again! It is I believe as you said, a human part of us, think about how "frustrated" Jesus got at times.. you hear it in his responses to his disciples and others. I think accepting life as it is and not as we would have it is one of the hardest things in the world. So while I have no solution to offer you other than your own of taking it to God, I believe sometimes we just have to remember ONLY Jesus was perfect..we are all works in progress. perfection will not come while we live on this earth. Hang in there sister!

    • Jesus definitely provided the perfect example for us to follow. He DID get frustrated and didn't sin. I want to not sin in my frustration. He had and expressed emotions, but He did not let them control Him and lead Him to make stupid decisions with attitudes, actions and words. That's my goal too. We definitely will not be perfect this side of Heaven, but we certainly should be pursuing the gold standard Jesus set for us.

  2. Oh Kari, I wish I had the answer. I would bottle it and become a gazillionaire. LOL I completely agree with your suggestion. We just keep taking it to the cross, and praying for the Lord's forgiveness and strength. This fallen world is frustrating, and I think sin is supposed to frustrate us. That way we seek something better . . . a hope and future in Christ. So, we have to determine how to deal with the frustrations that are inevitable. Somedays they are handled with grace and others with a ranting that shames me. Praise God He never runs out of grace to cover my foolish reactions to frustration.

    • Really like your point that "sin is supposed to frustrate us." Means our hearts are not hardened and that we still hear from the Holy Spirit. Grace & mercy… that's part of the answer too.

  3. Get comfortable with the phrase "And this too shall pass." Perhaps then you'll be less frustrated.

    Actually frustration is a part of life but I learned a lesson ages ago while watching a Super Bowl game. If you know the outcome (and it's favorable), you get a lot less frustrated by dumb mistakes and bad calls. In this particular case, I watched my favorite NFL team win a Super Bowl but weeks after the game was over (I was in Russia at the time and had to wait for the video-taped game recording to arrive in the mail).

    • Funny… my mom used to say that ALL THE TIME! Wish I could get used to it, but I haven't yet. It works for me sometimes but not always. I find that frustration comes more easily the more they are piling up. Interesting point about things being less frustrating when you know the outcome. I can't think of a personal example that fits there, but the point makes sense. I do know that the more in control I feel, the less frustrated I feel.

  4. I do the same as a writer–I write about what I'm working through myself for the most part. I'm far from being the woman I want to be and certainly haven't overcome frustration. A couple of thoughts have given me a better perspective on it though. 1) Much frustration is rooted in fear. We're afraid we'll be late, be disabled, or look foolish. I saw a mother of young children just oozing frustration this week and I can relate. I was afraid my kids would hurt themselves, destroy my house, or just make me look bad. Usually they did all three. LOL 2) Some frustration is a natural consequence of our physical health. If we're tired, hungry, or hormonal, our reactions are going to be out of sync with the environment. We understand this with toddlers, but imagine that we should be above that as adults. We're not. 3) Sometimes frustration is a result of other sin we haven't dealt with. We feel guilty about something and lash out about something else. Our pride leads us to believe that we are better than others and we ascribe to them all kinds of nasty motives we'd never accept as being true of us. When I get frustrated now, I ask myself: What are you afraid of? Have you been taking care of yourself? Are you being prideful or is there something you need to repent of? Certainly not a cure-all, but like a vitamin that helps a lot. One final thought: sometimes God allows a problem to get really, really bad so that you'll turn it over to Him. If it's not that big a deal, then you can just manage it on your own. BTDT way too many times. 😉 Blessings to you!

    • You hit on something I hadn't thought of but am now going "Duh! Why didn't I think of that?" The idea that much frustration is rooted in fear makes a lot of sense to me. I don't think it covers all frustrations but certainly hits on a lot of them. Fear of being late? Yep! Fear of looking foolish? Uh huh! And the impact of physical health is absolutely true and probably one of my biggest issues with my chronic problem with frustration. And then there's un-dealt-with-sin. Going to have to pray about that one and consider where it might apply. So much good stuff to think about here and definitely a step I need to take. Thanks for the wisdom! And then you get with the biggie at the end… getting to Jesus. More of Him is always the answer no matter the problem. Great input Melanie!

      • One of the ladies in my classes realized that most of her anger and frustration was due to insecurity. It definitely helps to find the root to the problem.

        • I am definitely doing a root cause analysis on this issue. Though I am a pretty secure and confident person most of the time, I will take the idea of insecurity to Him in prayer for sure since there IS still that unconfident and insecure teenager still lingering around inside me.. Thanks for mentioning it.

      • Glad it was helpful. Lately I've been frustrated that people don't agree with me. I'm not sure why that is, except maybe I think people are saying there's something wrong with me or I'm inferior somehow if they don't agree. I need to recall that my identity is in Christ and to be able to lighten up. This politically charged environment is NOT helping me. 🙂

        • Knowing from where our identity comes is truly a key to staying grounded and not letting frustration with others get the best of us. I stay away from politics as much as possible, probably too much, but I have friends who are in the same boat as you. Fortunately, God's Word has great advice not only on our identity in Him but also on how to view politics. An answer for everything!

  5. I feel like I have the answer to this one, Kari. I used to be a constantly annoyed person ten or 11 years ago – I still get annoyed at times, but not much. And when I do, it bothers me so much I go right to God with it because I love living in peace. The answer for me was truth journaling – carrying my thoughts captive to the truth. And then when I found the truth wasn't pleasant, I would make option charts.

    I've talked about truth journaling on my blog a little bit and on my old blog a lot but I haven't been able to figure out how to put option charts on my blog. I show how to do them in Freedom from Emotional Eating as I have a whole chapter (five lessons) on anger in that book. One of these days I'd like to make a video blog about option charts but knowing me, that might take awhile.

    It isn't an easy fix to the problem – I probably spent maybe even hundreds of hours with God working through problems the first couple of years – at least a hundred, and through all those sessions He was slowly changing my way of thinking. He actually taught me both truth journaling and option charts through these session with Him working out my frustrations.

    • Thank you so much for the suggestions Barb. I already do a lot of journaling, but that has begun to feel stale. Perhaps a refreshing in that area will come as I struggle through my frustration with frustration. I need to take my frustrations to Him more for sure. I want to think about Him more, to have my thoughts dwell on Him and go to Him more. I think journaling can help that to happen.

  6. Kari,

    I have thought about this all day. It's been frustrating.(kidding) I think frustration comes at me three ways: Over issues, over relationships, and over fairness. I do think as Melanie says some of these things get at our heart because they cause fear. Others because we just don't think life should be so frustrating or so unfair.

    With Issues it is frustrating:
    When things seem to be out of control
    When I feel I am not in control
    When I am out of control
    When the path forward is unclear
    When you face a deadline with things out of control

    With relationships it is frustrating:
    When you get a bad response from someone
    When a need is not meet(Your expectation post handles this well)
    When you don't get a reaction you wanted
    When you don't know how to deal with a person or the conflict with them
    When they take the issue public

    With Fairness it is frustrating:
    When Life is not fair(I know that comes as a shock to all of you)

    I think to deal with this I try the following:
    Acknowledge that God sometimes wants us to wade through frustration and to feel its weight(perhaps to help someone else or to grow)
    Concentrate on what you can control.
    Plan only the things you can actually do
    Plan using the best information available to you
    Take time away from whatever it is if you can… chill for a while if possible
    Work with people hard on expectations
    Acknowledge that life is not fair…. Get over it
    Allow yourself to feel the full weight of the frustration and set with it. Embrace it so you know how to talk with others about it
    Cast that burden on Christ knowing he may want to have you walk through it instead of taking you away from it.
    Seek encouragement. Share your burden with a trusted friend who can offer a ear or if you want offer you perspective.
    Know that you are not alone and this happens to all of us daily.
    Give thanks in the midst of the frustration for whatever you can think of. This helps with perspective as well.

    • I'm seeing a pattern with comments & my own thoughts: Fear. Expectations. Lack of control. Decisions. Fairness. These all cause frustration, and no one escapes this feeling. I do notice, though, that some people handle frustration much better than others and also that some people don't get frustrated as easily. I wonder why that is. Upbringing? Personality? Spiritual life? Not sure we can ever pin down exactly why. My husband does not easily get frustrated, and he handles it extremely well when he does. I find it fascinating how differently frustrations exist from person to person. Yet, we all experience them and have the same feelings. Intensity seems variable though.

      Also, I am seeing some lessons about frustration that I need to take to heart. Some I knew already. I am amazed at how quickly we can forget truth sometimes. That frustrates me! But, I am learning that frustration can lead to growth, we can and should control what we can to reduce frustration, and we should do that by planning and then being flexible. Just like with any feelings, we need to not let them control us. We can feel frustration but should not act on it when the feelings are stronger than our ability to think and apply God's truth. When we are frustrated, we need to get to Christ, seek encouragement and engage in TRUE fellowship. We need to always remember that we're not alone, and feeling like we are is a lie from the pit of hell. Giving thanks in our frustration can bring about a perspective change.

      There have been some terrific comments about this topic!

  7. Personally, a lot of my frustrations come when I think I'm entitled for things to be different. Whether it's big or small, the world doesn't fall into my neat little box of the way things should work. When you phrase it like that, the solution becomes a little more clear. I've found that humility is the answer for me. Easy to say, hard to do. But that's the path, I believe.

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