7 Ways to Reduce Frustration and Stress

Woman smelling flowers she's about to plant
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Stress and frustration are connected. Both of these feelings act on each other; feeling stressed can cause you to experience frustration, and frustrating situations often generate stress.

Stress can make you feel more emotionally reactive to events that normally wouldn’t bother you, and it can reduce your tolerance for frustration. Small failures can seem much worse (and much more frustrating), and chronic stress may cause you to feel like you’re not in control of your life, leading to further frustration and even depression.

Managing your stress can help you alleviate feelings of frustration, and improving your tolerance for frustration may help you lower your stress levels.

The Link Between Frustration and Stress

Stress and frustration act on each other in a variety of ways:

  • Stress may cause you to feel like you don't have the resources to overcome challenges, and feeling unable to reach your goals is a key component of frustration.
  • Frustration is a common reaction to a recurring, unresolved stressor.
  • Frustration is often accompanied by aggression, hostility, impulsivity, and defensiveness—and these emotions can generate their own stress if you don't deal with them in a healthy manner.
  • Increased frustration, irritability, and sensitivity can be signs of burnout, which is often caused by chronic, unmitigated stress.

Reduce Frustration

Our ability to deal with frustration is known as frustration tolerance. Having a high frustration tolerance indicates that you can cope with challenges successfully, while a low tolerance means that you may feel distressed at small inconveniences.

Feeling stressed, tired, or unsure of yourself in a new situation can reduce your frustration tolerance, as can certain conditions like borderline personality disorder (BPD), autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

If you have a low tolerance for frustration, there are strategies you can use to improve the way you respond. Seeking professional treatment is also a good option, especially if you're experiencing an underlying condition or your low tolerance is causing negative consequences in your life.

Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is linked with your ability to deal with frustration. Emotional intelligence is your capacity to notice and evaluate emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to regulate the way you express your feelings.

You can improve your emotional intelligence by:

  • Regulating yourself during moments of frustration and waiting for an appropriate moment to express yourself
  • Practicing empathy for others, especially people who tend to frustrate you
  • Remembering that all emotions are fleeting, including frustration
  • Noticing your feelings so you can react appropriately

Distract Yourself

Fixating on the source of your frustration can actually worsen your feelings, but temporarily distracting yourself can give you the space you need to process. Choose an activity that you enjoy, like exercising, doing something creative, listening to music, or watching a movie.

It's important not to let distraction become a pattern of avoidance, however. You should eventually return to the source of your frustration and determine if there are any strategies you can use to solve the problem.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully and nonjudgmentally aware of the present, noticing the sights, sounds, and smells around you, as well as the feelings and sensations within you. You can practice mindfulness throughout the day or as a form of meditation.

Staying mindful is a key component of dealing with frustration and stress, as you have to be aware of what you're feeling before you can take steps to address the issue. Mindfulness also encourages you to retain an attitude of acceptance rather than resistance or judgment, and this can have a positive impact on the way you react to frustration.

Relieve Stress

If you find yourself feeling less patient, more frustrated, more emotional, and less able to handle stress, there are several things you can do to feel better. Together with improving your tolerance for frustration, managing your stress is also an important part of maintaining your health.

Act Quickly to Ease Stress

Stopping your stress response early can help you to respond more calmly, instead of behaving in a way that you might regret.

Quick stress relievers such as breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation, for example, can calm you down and help you feel less frustrated and more able to handle what comes. Be prepared with quick stress relievers to use next time you feel overwhelmed.

Change Your Attitude

Much of whether or not we see something as stressful depends on our habitual thought patterns and how we process the world around us. For example, those who see things as under their control tend to be less stressed about what happens to them, as they see that they always have options for change.

Optimism carries health benefits and can lead to an improved sense of well-being. Learning how to develop an optimistic outlook and resilient state of mind may help you feel less stressed.

Change Your Lifestyle

If you feel like you're continually on edge, it’s possible that something needs to change in your life. If you cut down on commitments, take good care of your body, and make other healthy lifestyle changes, you’ll be dealing with less overall stress and you’ll be more effective at managing what you do encounter.

Good nutrition, proper sleep, and regular exercise can work wonders on your stress levels. Making time for leisure activities and creative expression is vital as well; downtime is not just a luxury, but a necessary aspect of a balanced lifestyle, and creative activities can be stress-relieving for artists and non-artists alike.

Try engaging in regular stress-relieving activities that fit your personality and lifestyle. Those who regularly walk, meditate, or enjoy other stress-relief activities tend to feel less stressed in general and less reactive to specific stressors that arise throughout the day.

Draw on Social Support

It's also helpful to have the release and support of sharing your troubles with close friends, family, or loved ones. While it’s not healthy to constantly complain, talking to a trusted friend about your frustrations now and then (and returning the favor by being a good listener) can help you process what’s going on and enable you to brainstorm solutions.

If you don’t have someone you’re comfortable sharing your situation with, seeing a therapist or starting a regular journaling practice have benefits as well.

A Word From Verywell

We all feel stressed and frustrated from time to time, but you don't need to allow these feelings to take over your life. By learning to manage your response to stress and frustration, you can reduce the impact they have and improve your overall well-being.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zajenkowska A, Jasielska D, Melonowska J. Stress and sensitivity to frustration predicting depression among young adults in Poland and Korea - Psychological and philosophical explanationsCurr Psychol. 2019;38(3):769-774. doi:10.1007/s12144-017-9654-0

  2. Jeronimus BF, Laceulle OM. Frustration. In: Zeigler-Hill V, Shackelford TK, eds. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer International Publishing; 2017:1-5. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_815-1

  3. Ayala EE, Winseman JS, Johnsen RD, Mason HRC. U.S. medical students who engage in self-care report less stress and higher quality of lifeBMC Med Educ. 2018;18(1):189. doi:10.1186/s12909-018-1296-x

  4. Maslach C, Leiter MP. Understanding the burnout experience: Recent research and its implications for psychiatryWorld Psychiatry. 2016;15(2):103–111. doi:10.1002/wps.20311

  5. Kumari A, Gupta S. A study of emotional intelligence and frustration tolerance among adolescentARJSS. 2015;6:173-180. doi:10.15740/HAS/ARJSS/6.2/173-180

  6. Vovk A, Emishyants O, Zelenko O, Maksymova N, Drobot O, Onufriieva L. Psychological features of experiences of frustration situations in youth ageIJSTR. 2020;9:920-924.

  7. Varvogli L, Darviri C. Stress management techniques: Evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Sci J. 2011;5(2):74-89.

  8. Zhang J, Miao D, Sun Y, et al. The impacts of attributional styles and dispositional optimism on subject well-being: A structural equation modelling analysisSoc Indic Res. 2014;119(2):757-769. doi:10.1007/s11205-013-0520-7

  9. Rossler W. Nutrition, sleep, physical exercise: Impact on mental health. Eur Psychiat. 2016;33(suppl):S12. doi:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2016.01.804

  10. Goyal M, Singh S, Sibinga EM, et al. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysisJAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(3):357–368. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018

  11. Baqutayan S. Stress and social supportIndian J Psychol Med. 2011;33(1):29–34. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.85392

  12. Baikie KA, Geerligs L, Wilhelm K. Expressive writing and positive writing for participants with mood disorders: An online randomized controlled trialJ Affect Disord. 2012;136(3):310–319. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2011.11.032