Dear Therapist,

I’m constantly frustrated these days. I loved what you said about loneliness and relate. You were very helpful. How bout for frustration?

Dear Frustrated,

You’ve done well to name this as an issue. There’s a lot that isn’t going our way, and we are struggling to accept the big things that are out of our control and are blocking us from reaching our goals. 

For many of us, we feel impeded on some level, from holidays we’d like to take, parties we’d like to throw, money we wish we had, access and liberties to the lives we feel we aren’t getting to live as fully as we want at this moment. The pandemic has forced us to delay or deny gratifications in countless ways. 

In addition to the big struggles, we are also experiencing numerous micro frustrations, such as reduced customer service, longer queues and waiting times, wearing masks and struggling to communicate and be understood as easily. We are crabby and fed up and poor frustration tolerance is what happens when we are frayed and pissed off.

Noting this goes a long way. It solves nothing to freak out over small things. Having adult tantrums rarely works out well. So as obvious as it sounds, make a point of letting things go. That’s right – it’s sometimes that easy, especially if you’re intentional about it. Decide not to shout at the barista who can’t hear your order. Be patient with the customer care operator who is unable to locate your missing parcel and tells you to wait another 48 hours. There’s a lot that isn’t within our control these days, but we still have some authority over our mindset, so when we can shift something like our frustration tolerance, it’s actually deeply empowering.

See how you feel when you decide to be the bigger person, not just to the outside world, but to yourself as well – when you choose not to get worked up over something not going your way. It can be a great relief to decide to rise above something.

By the way, I’m not telling you just to chill out. The last time someone said that to me, it made me want to freak out. But I am telling you that you have choices to make in how you respond to particular frustrations. Letting something go can be the best feeling. Here’s how. Someone or something annoys you. You notice it, but you choose not to let it ruin your outlook. How is it that simple? You make choices all the time. You chose your clothes this morning. You chose your breakfast. You decide how you like your coffee. You can select, to a large extent, your levels of frustration. So see if you can walk by the frustration, acknowledge it, and keep on moving.


Do you have a question for Charlotte? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line

Further reading

Don't get stressed over things you can't control

Is anger a choice?

Why do some people get more stressed out than others?

What's your anger protecting you from?

5 ways to manage overwhelming emotions