How Not to Manage Your Frustration (Or, How I Screwed Up)

how to manage your frustration | Red Cape Revolution can help

People are messy.

I say this all the time to my clients and speaking audiences. What I mean is that we don’t always operate in the way that makes the most sense for the situation at hand. We’re blessed and burdened with feelings . . . nothing more than feelings . . . which we can let work for us or against us.

This week, I lost that battle. My feelings got the better of me; actually, one feeling in particular. It’s that old nemesis FRUSTRATION.

Here is the story of how NOT to do what I did. 

How Not to Manage Your Frustration

First, let’s set the stage. As I’ve shared earlier, I’m in the process of moving and making myself uncomfortable intentionally.  (I’m succeeding.)

So, I have a seemingly never-shortening list of items on my to-do list. I’m pretty good at saying no to things that don’t matter, but when you’re moving, there suddenly appear a lot more yeses than normal.

I won’t bore you with the specifics (some are in the stories below), but let’s just say that the small and large annoyances added up and my patience ran out.

I got nasty. I am not normally nasty, nor do I like to be nasty or to be around nasty people. I actually work hard to live a life that’s positive, kind, and to be around positive and kind people.

But I saw the dark side, Luke. Thankfully, I’ve now leaned toward the light, but with a sore bum from my virtual kick in the pants.

You too will be frustrated some day soon. Don’t do what I did. Here’s what not to do.

1. When someone else is involved, conveniently forget that they’re a person, too.

I called my phone and internet provider to cancel my service. The first recording stated that they’re busy and to call back later. So I did. Four times.

On the fifth time, I had walked to the printer after dialing, and had the phone on speaker so didn’t hang up immediately. And found that after about 5 seconds, my call went into the regular queue.

I was so shocked that I called back again and recorded it.

And reached a representative in less than 10 minutes who handled my call quickly and efficiently.

At that point, still reeling from the stupid customer service experience I had prior to reaching her, I was not very nice. And I wish I could call back and find her and apologize. Because I know her company’s wacky way to provide “service” isn’t something she can control, or may even know about.

She handled her job with grace and speed. But I forgot she was a person and didn’t treat her with the polite respect she should have received. I’m sorry.

2. Don’t get real about what’s important.

When a simple hour-long oil change turned into “you-need-a-new-battery-&-alternator- and-our-tech-is-out-sick,” I found myself car-less exactly when I had been planning on a number of meetings to attend and errands to complete.

Me, re-enacting my week of frustration (not a pretty look)
Me, re-enacting my week of frustration (not a pretty look)

I fought with the service person for a while—-the car had been running fine, what did YOU do? Etc. But inside I knew the battery was several years old and the replacement probably made sense.

But it wasn’t in my plan. And I didn’t see any room to change my plan. Until I got real about what’s important.

While the meetings I had planned were important, they could be changed. And did.

While the errands I had planned needed to be completed, they could wait. And did.

What was likely more important is that I didn’t get stranded somewhere on the Georgia-Florida line in a couple weeks. Or in my own driveway when the moving truck was headed in. So I got real, and got over myself.

3. Keep drinking caffeine.

On and off over the years, I’ve had a powerful Diet Coke habit. It’s been in check the past few months, but this week, I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

Wired and carbonated are good feelings sometimes, but this week, it just made me anxious and burpy.

4. Don’t breathe.

Several times, I caught myself short of breath. While sitting at my desk. Even I’m not that out-of-shape.

I was so tight and mentally sticky that I was forgetting the most human of actions: to breathe.

So I got my buns off the chair, and got outside for a walk. And opened my mouth to breathe.

I often use my walks as extended professional development time, listening to podcasts from business leaders and marketing professionals. But now that I was breathing again, I started thinking again, and decided to play my favorite digital music game which I call iPod 8-Ball.

You play iPod 8-Ball just like Magic 8-Ball you had when you were a kid: ask it a question and then shuffle your music.

And so I asked: “What do I need to do to get out of this crappy mood?”

And Magic iPod answered by choosing a song called “I’m Not Wearing Underwear Today,” from the musical Avenue Q. (This isn’t the Broadway version, but you’ll get the idea.)

Yes, things are now better.

YOUR TURN: How do you handle your frustrations? Share in the comments below.

6 responses to “How Not to Manage Your Frustration (Or, How I Screwed Up)”

  1. Hi, Darcy. I like the answer I heard recently while listening to a TED talk. This answer came to a different question (Why do I hold back from doing the things I really want to do?) and it applies to your question just as well. The answer was to stop and ask, “Am I responding out of fear or out of love?” So often when we don’t respond the way that “we” really want to it is because fear got in the way. I’ve never felt disappointed in myself for responding out of love. It’s always the right thing to do!

    Thanks for being so open that you could let us know we aren’t alone in this! 🙂

    • Martha–you might also like something we used to do in my old office with the voice recognition software. If we were stuck on a problem, we called the automated switchboard “Name please?” and said something like “Who is the smartest person in the office?” The voice recognition would bounce back with “Calling . . ” and then say a name. A lot of the time it worked!

      Anyway, thanks for reading and have fun!