The Secret to Dealing With Life's Little Frustrations
Ever feel frustrated by someone's actions? It happens to the best of us. The truth is, though, that we can't change how other people act—or, say, the traffic we encounter on the way to work or that line at our favorite coffee shop when we're in a rush. But we can change our beliefs and expectations.
How do we do it? Simple: We recognize what we can and what we can't control. And we recognize when we're asking too much of the universe.
The Problem With Irrational Beliefs
Truly, it's all about our beliefs—and it comes down to what psychologist Albert Ellis called "irrational beliefs." According to Ellis, irrational beliefs are unrealistic demands we place on ourselves, others, and the world around us. And these irrational beliefs are often paired with the words "should", "ought", and "must". Ex. There must be no traffic today, people should be nice, etc.
Sure, we can hope that people will be nice and that traffic won't be bad—but when we take it personally when things don't go as we demand, that's where frustration creeps in.
So, How Do We Fix It?
In his book, How To Stubbornly Refuse To Make Yourself Miserable About Anything-yes, Anything, Ellis shares the perspective shift we need to avoid frustration:
It's all about recognizing our stress and assessing if it comes from an irrational belief. When annoyance creeps in, see if it stems from something out of your control. Traffic? Out of your control. The behavior of strangers? Not in your control. The elevator breaking down? Yup, out of your control. Once you recognize the stressor is out of your hands, focus on your reaction rather than the stressor. Think: This situation isn't going as it "should" be—but I can handle it. Try using mindfulness techniques to center yourself in the present and emotionally make peace with the frustrating scenario.
Ellis also offers an ABCD strategy for coping with frustrations, which writer Eric Barker sums up well here. In sum: Recognize the adversity (A) you're facing; check if your beliefs (B) are irrational and turning towards should, ought, or must; check the consequences (C) of the stressor by looking to your reactions (clenched fists? cursing like a sailor?); and then finally dispute (D) your beliefs—AKA shift them—if you're asking too much of the universe. Bottom line: Accept those frustrating situations as less than ideal, but don't let them steer your mood.
You Decide Your Vibe
"Don't kill my vibe" is the classic saying—but that saying kind of takes away the power you possess in controlling your vibe. You decide your vibe. The universe will keep dishing up unexpected 'ughs', but if you have flexible expectations you'll truly keep calm through it all.
Read next: How to Turn Anger Into Compassion