Daily Stretch #19: reduce your dose of daily frustration

Day after day stupid frustrations pile up. Pic by Curtis MacNewton

Frustration is not something that happens to us. We do it to ourselves.

Idealists believe things will always end on a positive note. Perfectionists expect things to occur in a specific way. Anxious people want things to happen fast. Weak-minded folks wish life was easier.

We all anticipate outcomes, regardless of our personality. And, all we get is disappointment. That’s why many of us have a hard time adapting. We get stuck on wishful thoughts.

As I wrote in my book Stretch for Change, frustration is a powerful weapon that’s rooted in our expectations. It can strengthen our ability to fight adversity or backfire us.

Frustration is the gap between our expectations and reality.

The larger the gap, the more we suffer.

Today’s daily stretch: reduce your dose of daily frustration

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” — Linda Graham

The purpose of today’s stretch exercise is not to eradicate frustration from your life.

The idea is to remove “stupid frustrations” that are not helping you. Especially those that repeat on a daily basis.

When you get upset about the same things over and over, frustration builds up. Trivial things quickly turn into a life-or-death situation.

“Any experience causes neurons in our brains to fire. Repeated experiences cause neurons to fire repeatedly.” — explains author and clinician Linda Graham — ”Neurons that ‘fire together wire together’, strengthening neural connections.”

The amygdala is the reason why we are afraid of things that are out of our control. This region of the brain, located in the medial temporal lobe, assesses every experience, for safety or danger, and assigns an emotional charge.

What’s triggering frustration in your daily life?

The sink that’s full of dirty dishes although you dined out? Your teenager’s messy room regardless of your many reminders? That someone ate a piece of pie you bought for yourself? Your son who used your car but forgot to fill the tank?

Whatever is feeding your dose of daily frustration, getting upset won’t change things for the better.

Today’s daily stretch: reduce your dose of daily frustration.

Why daily frustrations hurt you

When you relive “bad” experiences, you are causing more neurons to fire in your brain. The negative emotional charge creates a vicious cycle. You are turning your brain into a frustration addict.

Each time it happens, you jump faster. And it hurts more and more.

A healthy dose of frustration can be good, leading to determination and resilience. But when “stupid frustrations” take over your life, that’s a waste of time. Save your energy for when important things go wrong.

One of the reasons why we get stuck and frustrated is the belief that others want to hurt us. We think they don’t do what we expect on purpose.

If that’s the case, let go. The world doesn’t revolve around you.

Repetitive-compulsive reactions will hinder rather than encourage others to change.

When we yell at our kids, we impact which brain structures receive the bulk of that pruning. Yelling activates structures in the limbic system that regulate “fight or flight” reactions.” as explained on Mindful Life Today.

Frustration is a contagious emotion.

If a school teacher gets mad at one kid every time he doesn’t turn his homework in time, he’ll become frustrated too. The student will feel discouraged rather than motivated.

Frustration triggers rage. Constant overreacting creates a perceived unsafe space.

How to remove your daily frustration — Exercise

This simple exercise works two-fold:

  • It will create awareness. You’ll realize what things bother you and why. But, most importantly, put in perspective how trivial things are hurting you.
  • It will help you reframe frustration. To shift from “what you expected” to “accept you can’t control other people’s behavior.”

The exercise requires patience and method.

On a daily basis, capture each thing that makes you explode.

We are looking for a pattern. Focus on the small things. Capture those situations that repeat and/ or those that easily make you lose your temper.

For each situation write down:

  • What happened (ie: the sink is full of dirty dishes)
  • Your reaction (ie: I cannot believe they did it again. I started shouting to my kids. I felt like I wanted to smash all the plates against the wall.).
  • How you felt about you (ie: no one treats me with respect, they know that I will always fix things for them)

Once you’ve done it for a week, select 3–5 things that repeat the most. You will focus on those for now.

Use the document below as a guide. The first part we covered it above.

The second part is meant to help you shift from “expectations” to “acceptance of other’s behaviors”.

Be honest when you describe what you expected. The more detailed the description, the better.

Be open-minded when writing down what you need to accept. This will help you get to the core of what frustrates you.

This doesn’t mean giving up. But to understand your limitations. Learn to be okay when things don’t go your way.

You’ve been wiring your brain to get frustrated when the same scenario repeats over and over.

This exercise will help you rewire your brain and pause, rather than having a fight-or-flight response.

Good luck 😉

Before You Go

Change happens one stretch at a time. Don’t take the shortcuts. Invest in improving your change fitness: