I had an interesting conversation with someone about them feeling “Frustration” and “Overwhelmed”. It got me thinking about how we can be facing two different strong emotions that have the chance to dominate our lives. How do we manage them?
In this conversation, the other person’s “frustration” was the main topic of our conversation. The metaphor they used was the frustration made them feel like “their hands were tied”. Much of the frustration was internally driven – they were reliant on others to get some things done. That wasn’t happening at the speed they felt was necessary, or, was not happening at all. They lacked control over a few things they wanted to accomplish because there were other decision makers involved.
I had originally thought their “overwhelming” feeling coming from the large task in front of them. We had talked about this task before and it was really big – quite a stretch for the other person. So I could see why they might be overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of the task.
What I came to further understand was there were two components to the “overwhelming” feeling. The first was as I thought – the huge undertaking. The second component was being driven by the frustration we spoke about earlier. So the frustration, the “hands are tied” metaphor, was having a dual impact on the other person. They were overwhelmed, partly because they were thinking, “How can I possibly complete this huge task when I have these other frustrations in the way?”
It became clear that to really keep from being overwhelmed, the frustration needed to be dealt with. That was the key. The frustration piece had to be dealt with, because it fed into – and expanded – the overwhelming feeling. The enormity of the task was a truism. But they could compartmentalize that to some extent because it was an external source, something they chose to challenge themselves with. But the frustration piece, leading to being overwhelmed, was internal, driven by their own mind. We had to get to the internal piece first.
We came up with three solutions to deal with their frustration.
- Remind themselves that they have done challenges (probably smaller ones) like this in the past – and seen positive results. As my kids would say, “this is not my first rodeo”. Hark back to a time when you successfully met challenges. Remind yourself you can do it, but it takes time. There is success on the other side because you are competent.
- Become present. Slow down and recognize that you are getting frustrated. Become aware of what you feel in the moment, what impact it is having on your demeanor and your ability to cope. Acknowledge the feelings.
- Take baby steps. And then celebrate them. Change generally comes from slow, steady progress. Most of us are not capable of making radical change in one large step.
As I thought about it more later on, these solutions will work even when it is all about you alone. Lots of times we get frustrated and overwhelmed, but we only have ourselves to blame.
For example, think of a person trying to make personal change. That is a huge undertaking. There are so many moving parts – pushing yourself to go one step further, doing the small things that are dull, overcoming inertia, defeating the inner self that is so good at saying “do it tomorrow”, on and on. It can get very frustrating when success doesn’t come after months of work. It can be overwhelming trying to build so many new habits, especially in the face of everyday obstacles. But slow baby steps, becoming more aware of your situation and reminding yourself you are capable forms a really strong foundation for grounding.