Frustration and Patience

You are very hungry, but you can’t get the lid off of the jar. You are running late and your keys are nowhere to be found. Your jaw tightens and you look up at the ceiling as that familiar and exasperating feeling comes over you – you are experiencing frustration.

Frustration occurs when we are trying to accomplish something, but our efforts are thwarted or our resources are insufficient for reaching our goal. The barriers may be external (such as a traffic jam or noise when you are trying to sleep) or internal (like unrealistic expectations or lack of skills), but the feelings are always unpleasant.

Frustration tolerance falls on a continuum from low to high. People who are prone to frustration tend to want or expect immediate gratification. Even minor delays and complications may cause great discomfort. Excessive or prolonged frustration can lead to passive-aggressive behavior, procrastination, prioritizing short-term rewards over longer term gains, and even anger and aggression. A small amount of frustration can be helpful if it ultimately leads to acceptance or increases motivation.

Patience is the ability to endure delay, obstacles or provocation without annoyance or anger. Patient individuals persevere calmly when faced with difficulties. Patience is often the antidote to anger and aggression.

Increasing Frustration Tolerance

  • Learn to be patient with yourself so that you can also be patient with others
  • Know your frustration warning signs and take action before losing your cool
  • Learn techniques for relaxing and calming yourself
  • Look at what you are thinking about the situation and challenge any faulty thoughts (ie. change your expectations, accept your limitations)
  • Build your endurance by starting small and working toward greater levels of patience
  • If something is frustrating you, take a break and come back to it later
  • Slow down, break the problem into smaller pieces, and approach it one piece at a time
  • Take an entirely different path toward your goal

If you or someone you love is struggling with low frustration tolerance, it may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional to learn more effective ways of managing this emotion. You can find mental health professionals in your area through online therapist locators such as those hosted by the American Psychological Association, Psychology Today, Network Therapy and GoodTherapy.

Please also visit my mental health resources website for more information and resources regarding a variety of mental health concerns.

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