Frustration of life

8 Signs to Look For

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 23, 2020

In this Article

  • What Is Frustration?
  • Types of Frustration
  • Signs of Frustration
  • Dealing With Frustration

What Is Frustration?

Frustration is an emotional response to stress. It's a common feeling that everyone will experience in their life. Some people experience frustration in the short-term — like a long wait in the grocery store — but for others, frustration can be long-term. 

The stressor can vary according to the individual, but some common stressors that lead to frustration are:

  • Stress at work
  • Pursuing a goal that you cannot attain
  • Trying to solve a problem and not finding a solution

The definition of frustration is the feeling of irritability or anger because of the inability to achieve something. Being in a constant state of frustration can lead to many problems in your life.

If you continue pursuing a goal without any result, the frustration you feel can lead to other emotions that affect your well-being and mental health, such as:

  • Loss of confidence 
  • Stress
  • Anger
  • Aggressive behavior 
  • Irritability 
  • Depression

Types of Frustration

Frustration can come from internal or external sources. A helpful part of solving daily frustrations is to recognize if your frustration is internal or external. 

Internal frustration

This means you are frustrated with yourself or your reaction. It can mean you’re unhappy with the way you reacted in a situation.

External frustration

With external frustration, the stressor, or the thing that’s causing your frustration, is outside of you. That can mean things like wasting time in traffic, or barriers to something you want to achieve.

Examining the situation to determine where the cause of frustration stems from can be a useful first step in solving your dilemma.  

Signs of Frustration

Frustration can manifest itself in many different ways. There are numerous ways to spot someone who is frustrated. People who are frustrated usually become irritable and stressed.

Some of the typical responses of frustration are: 

  • Losing your temper
  • Incessant bodily movement, such as tapping fingers constantly and perpetual sighing 
  • Giving up, leaving
  • Feeling sad or anxious
  • Lacking self-confidence 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Turning to drugs and alcohol 
  • Bodily abuse, starving oneself, or irregular eating habits

Long-term frustration can be hard on the body. Symptoms of long-term frustration can manifest in different ways. It can affect all aspects of your life, even your sleep patterns. 

Excessive Frustration Can Lead to Nightmares 

Studies show that long-term frustration in your daily life can also lead to nightmares.

This can happen if frustration is making you feel incompetent. If your needs for fulfillment in your daily life are not being met, that can also result in poor sleep and nightmares. 

The Relationship Between Frustration and Aggression

People who experience large amounts of frustration in their lives can also be prone to exhibiting aggressive behavior. This frustration could stem from a variety of factors, from personal problems to societal issues. 

Frustration can also lead to negative self-talk that induces a negative spiral of thinking, leading to more aggressive behavior. A frustrated mindset can lead to negative thinking in other day-to-day aspects of life, such as driving. Being frustrated while driving can lead to aggressive decisions on the road, endangering yourself and others.

Dealing With Frustration

When coping with frustration, it’s important to get to the root of the problem. These feelings won’t go away on their own, so you need to figure out what’s causing them.

You can start by taking these steps to determine the cause of your frustration:

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings. Talking out loud can help you sort through what you’re feeling, instead of keeping it inside. 
  • Start journaling. Writing your feelings and experiences down can help you gain perspective and relieve frustration. It’s also a useful tool when you want to look back and see how far you’ve come.
  • Find an alternate way to accomplish your goal or restructure your plan. 
  • Recognize what you can change and what you can’t. Accepting the situation can relieve frustrated feelings when you realize you don’t have control over what happened. 
  • Exercise produces endorphins, making you feel accomplished and relieving stress.

Recognizing feelings of frustration is the first step to overcoming them. If you continue to have issues with frustration and anger, speak with a professional or consider joining a support group. 

18 Ways to Cope with Frustration

Frustration can be hard to put into words – it’s a complicated mix of anger, disappointment, and annoyance. For most health care workers, frustration levels are particularly high right now as many face PPE shortages, minimal workplace support, and a seemingly careless general public. Anger and frustration aren’t always productive emotions, and while we can’t necessarily control that we feel them, we can control how we react to them. If you need to release some of your pent-up negative energy, here are some healthy ways to do so:

  1. Do some breathing exercises: when having a strong emotional response, you may notice your breath getting faster and shallower. By regulating your breathing, you can get more oxygen to your brain and help yourself calm down. A good technique is 4-7-8 breathing: breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, breathe out for eight


  2. Progressive muscle relaxation: one of the ways our bodies respond to heightened emotion is with muscle tension. Relieving that physical tension will help your mind relax too. Lay down and work your way through each muscle group: tense as you slowly inhale, and release as you slowly exhale. If you prefer some instruction, try a guided audio.


  3. Meditate: Meditation can be a great way to connect with your feelings, but it can also help you create space between your thoughts and emotions as you settle into self-awareness. Download an app like Headspace or Calm and look for a guided meditation that fits how you’re feeling. 


  4. Exercise: Physical activity is a mood booster, helps you regulate stress and adrenaline, and is a healthy way to release pent-up energy. If you can, try going for a run and really focus on your feet hitting the ground. If you prefer instruction, see if your local gym has online classes or search for your favorite type of workout on YouTube.


  5. Yoga: If you prefer low-impact workouts, yoga is a great way to get your body moving in a meaningful way. Yoga Pose has an online directory of poses searchable by symptom (like anxiety or back pain) and has categories including poses for calmness.  


  6. Vent: Ruminating on your anger only perpetuates it, so give yourself some time to let it all out with a trusted friend. As long as you don’t focus on it for too long, venting can be a healthy emotional outlet – just try to keep it to 15 minutes, and then move on to more positive conversation. If you want to vent anonymously, try an app like Lyf or reach out to Magellan Health’s free crisis hotline for frontline workers at 1(800) 327-7451.


  7. Journal: If you’re dealing with the the kind of frustration where you can’t even think straight, try writing (or typing) it all out. This can help you process a situation and calm your brain down so you can approach the issue with a more level head.


  8. Get outside: Spend some time in your backyard, go for a walk around the block, or head to your favorite park. If you’re crunched for time, even just stepping out for 60 seconds of fresh air can help you recalibrate. To really help ground yourself, slip off your shoes and let your bare feet touch the dirt or grass.


  9. Manage your expectations of others: Often, negative feelings come from misaligned expectations. Recognize that you can’t fully anticipate anyone else’s behavior; change your own mental framework so that you aren’t holding them to standards they won’t meet – it’s only hurting you.


  10. Treat yourself: Sometimes you just want to lay on the couch with a bag of chips and your favorite movie, and that’s OK! As long as it doesn’t become an unhealthy habit, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to some guilty pleasures.


  11. Spend some time with animals: Many people find animals to be a source of comfort and support. Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and lower blood pressure, as well as elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax[i].


  12. Distract yourself: Leaning into feelings doesn’t always help. If you need to detach from your anger, try doing something that requires focus (like a puzzle or reading).


  13. Take a nap: We all need a brief reset at times. If you hit a wall where you are completely overwhelmed with everything going on, set a timer for 20 minutes and climb into bed. The rest will do your brain well and checking out for a little bit often helps you go about the rest of your day with a fresh start.


  14. Start a garden or get a new houseplant: Numerous studies have found that the act of gardening can be beneficial for numerous health outcomes, including anxiety and stress reduction[ii]. Don’t have the outdoor space? Taking care of an indoor plant has similar effects on your mental health[iii].


  15. Get creative: Art is a great tool for emotional expression. Crafting, drawing, painting, writing poetry, and other art forms are all healthy ways to channel your anger into something fun.


  16. Turn on some music: Music has a powerful effect on our brains. Search for a playlist of relaxing or happy music to turn your frustration into a more enjoyable emotion. Bonus points if you dance it out!


  17. Get organized: Take ten minutes to clean, plan, or otherwise streamline something in your life. Turning your extra energy into something productive will not only help you get rid of some of that frustration, but you’ll also have accomplished something.


  18. Wash your face: It seems so simple but putting cold water on your face doesn’t just feel refreshing – it triggers your mammalian diving reflex which slows your heart rate and breathing. By reducing the physical symptoms of frustration, you can interrupt your brain’s feedback loop and reduce your emotional frustration as well.

[i] National Institutes of Health. (February 2018). The power of pets: Health benefits of human-animal interactions. NIH News in Health.

[ii] Soga, M., Gaston, K.J., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, 92-99.

[iii] Lee, M.S., Lee, J., Park, B.J., & Miyazaki, Y. (2015). Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 34(1). DOI: 10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8

9 habits that lead to disappointment in life like bypassing them? Today, many psychologists believe that our destiny depends on mental attitudes that become habits and govern our lives. Some attitudes become a brake on the path of our development and make us disappointed in life even when we have every reason to be happy.

1. Don't forgive others

Many people equate "forgive" with "forget". But this is not true. If we try to pretend that nothing happened, we only swallow our experiences, drive them deep into ourselves. To truly forgive means to let go of resentment. Accept what happened, but allow yourself to move on. Say to yourself: “Yes, I was hurt, but I will not let the feeling of revenge and the desire to prove something to the offender control me.” Forgiveness does not change the fact that someone did you wrong. It only allows you to no longer suffer because of it.

2. Don't forgive yourself

More importantly, don't get stuck on the mistakes you make. Regret, humiliation, shame, and guilt over one mistake can haunt us for years. And the subsequent negative thoughts, stress, and pessimistic attitudes can create a negative view of the world in you - all because of the feeling that you are not worthy of being treated well. In fact, the ability to forgive yourself helps even those who are in a state of depression. If you are haunted by thoughts of past mistakes, start to notice and analyze them: when do they manifest themselves more strongly? what feelings do they bring with them? what makes them leave? If you are wasting time in an endless war with your thoughts, try to make a way out with your mind. The challenge is to learn to accept these thoughts without agreeing with them: “That thought again that I was cruel to my parents. Hello thought. Yes, I know you are here. But you can't get me now, I have more important things to do - decide what I'm going to eat for dinner.

3. All-or-Nothing Thinking

It's amazing how many unhealthy psychological states come from make-or-break thinking. From panic disorder to low self-esteem, from perfectionism to hopelessness. Black and white thinking, by definition, makes your view of the world more one-sided. It enhances negative traits, making them look more significant than they are. It forces you to focus on your mistakes, to see only the bad in other people and circumstances. Observe yourself: does this habit show up in your daily life? The ability to clearly distinguish between black and white can be useful when you're choosing clothes to wash, but it's less useful for life in general.

4. Judging others too harshly

If you are constantly frustrated and annoyed by the behavior of the people around you, this may mean that you are having a streak of bad luck and you are not getting the treatment you deserve. It can also mean that you are choosing the wrong people. Or, more likely, you have very rigid standards by which you judge other people's behavior. Perhaps you are just as demanding of yourself. But sometimes we criticize others precisely because we see in them traits that we also have, traits that we do not want to recognize. Notice what really happens when you get mad at someone, whether it's a stranger who didn't let you pass on the road, or your sleazy neighbor. Think about how big a picture you see? What if, instead of wallowing in your annoyance, you wondered when was the last time you yourself made a similar mistake? And what kind of response could she evoke from others? Empathy, even when you least feel like it, can be a powerful way to deal with anger.

5. Thinking that nothing will change for the better

But even a moderate belief that nothing in your life will change for the better can be harmful. For example: “my son will never be able to achieve anything significant in life”, “I will never be able to get out of debt”, “the world is a terrible place, and it only gets worse.” These beliefs can take over our minds to such an extent that they make us deaf and blind to signs that indicate otherwise. But life is full of ups and downs. Recession, no matter how catastrophic it may seem, is always replaced by recovery. If we believe that life only moves downward, we deprive ourselves of the joy of life and miss those days when happiness knocks at our door. Imagine how peaceful you will feel if you just believe that today's difficulties are not forever.

6. Believing that your life is beyond your control actually it is not. This mindset has a direct relationship with the likelihood of depression. It is formed in childhood, when we were not really the masters of our lives and we were convinced of our lack of independence and inability to do something. Such a scenario leads to the fact that we lose interest in our lives and do not dare to change anything in it. And the longer we do nothing, the more we are sucked in by the feeling of hopelessness. On the contrary, when we decide to act, we begin to see the possibilities and fruits of our labors.

7. Believing that everything will work itself out

Sometimes the belief that everything will “shrink”, “shrink”, “settle down” can be almost as destructive as the belief that this will never happen. won't happen. For example, if your partner abuses alcohol and behaves provocatively, this situation is unlikely to change by itself. But many people believe that there is a higher justice in the world and that sooner or later we will receive retribution for our suffering. The hope that the Universe will send us happiness not only threatens us with disappointment (if this does not happen). It puts us in the same helpless position when we are not ready to listen to ourselves and act in accordance with our deepest desires and interests.

8. Generalizing too broadly

This is one of the "cognitive biases" described by psychotherapist Aaron Beck. Often it is expressed in the following conclusion: "I'm not lucky in one thing - that means I'm a loser." The tendency to draw unreasonably broad conclusions is observed in those people whose view of the world is imbued with pessimism. Sometimes this type of thinking even looks like paranoia: “give them a finger, they will bite off your hand” or “if you give up slack, they will trample you.” Of course, not every person we meet is a model of virtue. But this does not mean that we are surrounded by only scammers and unscrupulous manipulators. And if a neighbor refused to hold your door to the entrance, this is not a reason to follow his example. After all, by helping others, we ourselves begin to feel better.

9. Not being grateful

It's not just about thanking people who care about you or just show you affection. To thank - and bless - life for those happy moments that it gives us, means to impoverish oneself. Is it better to make a fuss about the fact that the restaurant makes you wait a long time for your order, or think about how wonderful the weather is today and how beautiful your companion looks in this dress? Some see it as sentimental. Well, so be it - if it gives us a sense of peace of mind and tranquility. After all, cynicism and acrimony have never made anyone happy.

Andrea Bonior is a clinical psychologist, blogger and writer, author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing and Keeping Up with Your Friends, St. Martin's Griffin, 2011). Her website is

Text: Anton Soldatov

New on the site

“My husband had an intimate correspondence with my girlfriend. So he was going to improve our relationship with him. 0003

“I am constantly looking for attention from men, but relations with them do not work out”

What traits do you need to have in order to take your loved one away from the family?

Madonna or a harlot: why a man sees in a woman either a mother or a lover — an explanation by psychologists you are the most interesting

“People like my poems, but I consider myself a mediocre rhymer”

The body hints loudly: 6 signs that you are ignoring your true desires

Joy of life - Disappointment in everything - how to deal with the problem?

  • Post category: