The Work Frustration Survival Guide

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You probably have a morning routine the minute you wake up and hit your alarm clock. You may exercise, eat breakfast, drink coffee, or meditate. You may give yourself some much-needed “me time” before heading to work or your home office to log in to your computer. Whatever your routine, you can typically expect everything to run smoothly. 

But what if it doesn’t? What if an email goes out with incomplete information, a client calls with a problem or complaint, or your project management system moves slowly, crashes, or is completely down? 

The saying about “even the best-laid plans…” comes into play here. Even with your to-do list and plan to get through the workday, sometimes life can throw you a few unexpected curveballs.

Those pesky work detours 

How do you respond when something unexpected happens? Do you feel stressed, anxious, or frustrated, or do you take a deep breath, pause to recollect yourself, and get back into the action? 

If you find yourself doing the former, you’re not alone. In Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Survey, 44% of people experienced some form of frustration, anxiety, or stress. And as one Reddit user pointed out, “There won’t be a job where there is 0 frustration 100% of the time.” 

Frustration will happen. Instead of letting it distract you, take charge. When you find yourself reaching the point where you want to tear your hair out, pause and do any of the following: 

Take a deep breath   

Deep breathing sends a message to your parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system) that tricks your brain into thinking that you’re calm so you can relax. The simplest breathing exercise you can do is to breathe in for a count of three, hold your breath for one second, and then breathe out for a count of three. Deep breathing gets your brain out of frustration mode and back on an even playing field. 

Give yourself a grace period  

Much like stores have a grace period where you can return an item for a refund, give yourself a grace period. It could be as simple as stepping away from your computer and going for a walk or setting your status to Do Not Disturb while you take a short nap or read a chapter of a book. Like deep breathing, giving yourself a grace period helps you reset. 

Identify your triggers 

A trigger is an unexpected emotional response to a stressful or uncontrollable situation. Responses can range from fight or flight to anxiety and panic attacks, but they all have one thing in common: they’re unexpected. One thing you can do is identify your triggers. For instance, if you notice you get snippy when the client management system is down and rush through your work once it’s back up just to get it out of the way, that’s a trigger.  

Once you know your triggers, you can develop constructive strategies. For instance, instead of being snippy about the system not working, use the downtime to focus on another project. 

Use positive self-talk 

When you’re frustrated, the last thing you might feel is positive. But you can reframe the frustration by flipping the script and using positive statements. Using the previous example of the client management system going down, instead of saying, “Ugh, I won’t ever get my work done,” say something like, “It’s okay. Once the system is back up, I’ll get this to the client.” If being positive feels forced, try an “Oh well” statement. “Oh well, this is frustrating, but it will only delay the response. The client will still get their answer.” This will help you get perspective on the thing that’s causing you frustration and enable you to let go.  

Seek support and an objective opinion  

When frustrated, you may struggle to see things clearly and start to spiral. Instead of holding those feelings in and letting them boil over, share them with your manager, a colleague, or a work friend. They can give you a different perspective on the situation or possible solutions you may not have considered.  

Solve the problem  

Instead of focusing on what caused the frustration, focus on solving it by breaking down the problem, brainstorming different approaches, and considering the outcome of each approach. Here’s what that could look like:  


The problem Approach  Outcome
Sometimes, the client management system goes down, and when it goes down, I get frustrated.   I can stay frustrated and keep checking to see if the system is back up.   Staying frustrated will make me stressed. I can’t control when systems or technology go down.  
  I can shift my focus toward another project until the system comes back up.  Shifting my focus toward another project will keep my attention away from the system being down, and I can remain productive.  


This can shift your mental energy toward constructive actions, promoting productivity and reducing your stress levels. 

Reflect and learn from your experiences  

If you let yourself get swept up in a storm of frustration, reflect on the situation after the storm dies down. Think about how you responded, what triggered you, and the outcomes. Reflecting helps you learn from the situation and identify how to approach a similar situation next time. 

Turning frustrations into opportunities 

Navigating work frustrations is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to derail your day. By implementing these strategies, you can keep your productivity and peace of mind intact. Remember, it’s not about avoiding frustration altogether but managing it effectively so you can continue to thrive. When you take control of how you respond, you turn potential setbacks into opportunities for growth and learning. Keep this survival guide handy and face each challenge with confidence.


Content provided by Q4intelligence 

Photo by  d8nn