Feeling Trapped With No Way Out?
Ashford University research expert offers advice for handling frustration
Feeling upset, annoyed, and stressed? Frustration happens for a variety of reasons, but it often escalates to extreme levels because we feel trapped with no way out.
The way one handles frustration makes the difference between going off the deep end and keeping calm and carrying on.
Dr. Mindy Sloan, executive director of research and student success at Ashford University, says self-knowledge provides more options for maintaining control when things run off the rails. "Regardless of whether your feeling of frustration is moderately irritating or completely off the Richter scale, develop a personalized strategy that you can use across situations," she said. "The most effective solutions are often the simplest." Sloan offers these tips:
Know what causes your frustration – Identify the situations, people, and settings that are, for you, the most likely to bring you feelings of frustration. If possible, avoid the high risk situations. If a high risk situation is unavoidable, consider how you might adjust it to either reduce or eliminate the aspects that are the most challenging for you.
For example, you may feel tired and consumed with issues at work when you first arrive home. Helping someone with homework at that time would likely be creating a high risk situation. Choose to wait until after dinner to help your children with homework.
Understand when you are beginning to feel frustrated – Identify the signs of emerging frustration. Do you feel tension in your forehead or neck? Do you clench your fists or teeth? Do you find yourself dreading specific situations or avoiding specific people?
If you can determine when you're becoming frustrated before it spirals out of control, there will be time to make choices to either reduce or eliminate negative challenges. When we're internally frustrated, external influences become more intense.
Have a set of prevention strategies – How can you respond before the frustration magnifies? There are things in your life that you enjoy. These can be as simple as memories, listening to music, walking, self-talk, or even resting. Identify those behaviors or thoughts that bring you pleasure and exercise them when you feel yourself becoming frustrated. This is the time when you are most able to think and make rational decisions. Act before your emotions go haywire.
Have a set of emergency strategies – What do you do if you find yourself in a high risk situation, have become frustrated, and see no way to stop it from getting worse? The easiest and most effective strategy is often to literally step away for a period of time. Even a brief moment to catch your breath can make a difference. You may say something like "let me think about this for a minute" or "let's take a short break."
Emergency strategies should not require a lot of thinking. Instead, they should be quick to implement and require very little thought. Once you are feeling more in control, you can implement other options. But give yourself that immediate moment to gather your thoughts so you can get your emotions under control before continuing.
Children too can be taught to know their own high risk situations, signs of increasing frustration, and personalized strategies for preventing or responding. Time can be the most powerful strategy, and it is free. Step away, take a breath, reassess, readjust, and come back when you feel more in control. Make sure you act based on rational thought, not emotion.
About Ashford University
Achievement belongs to all of us at Ashford University. By offering a traditional college campus as well as online degree programs, Ashford meets the diverse needs of individuals pursuing integrity in their lives and in their communities. Students may earn an associates, bachelor's, or master's degree online, while campus students in Clinton, Iowa may earn a bachelor's degree. Whether on campus or online, Ashford students enjoy the same supportive community. For more information, please visit http://www.ashford.edu or call Shari Winet, Vice President of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.