I’ve decided that frustration is the most useless of all of our emotions.
Usually I can see the good in anything. I can appreciate the reason for having emotions generally; they act as a combined psychological and physiological response to a stimulus. Some of them are obviously there to protect us from danger or to help us bond with a social group.
After years of tangoing with depression, I’ve learnt that there can be some comfort in surrendering to an oppressively low mood. It gives me the time and space I need to be able to heal, recover and rest. I can recharge a low battery when I otherwise would keep pushing myself. Having had a breakdown in the past, this early-warning system is far preferable to total burnout. So, depression and me get along a little better these days.
I don’t ENJOY it, obviously… but I can appreciate the call to inaction and some of the difficult emotions it invokes.
But frustration is a total bugger. It holds me like a finger trap – the more I try and distance myself from it, the more it seems to grip me, and I just can’t figure out the point of it.
This week, I felt myself getting really agitated on the 8th day of quarantine following my housemate’s brief stint with Possible Covid. He got through it easily enough and started rediscovering life on the outside after finishing his incubation period. Meanwhile, I need to stay in for another few days.
Cue the frustration.
It seemed to come out of nowhere. The rest of the quarantine period had gone by incident-free and I was managing my moods and energy levels just fine. Considering I’d slept a lot, had limited caffeine and was exercising, eating and resting well, I couldn’t justify where this dick-in-a-box emotion sprang from.
Which was frustrating in and of itself.
All day I tried to get on with some work – firstly because I needed to and secondly to distance myself from the aggravation. But I couldn’t seem to get my head in the right space.
Every time I looked at an email, I’d feel a rush of low-level rage. I couldn’t get my words out properly and seemed to find negatives in anything anyone was saying to me.
Even worse were the Zoom calls. I found myself moaning about everything, leading our end-of-week team meeting into a bitching session about lockdown that I couldn’t muster the energy to recover from. I came away feeling annoyed at myself for letting it descend into doomsday moping, and took my mood with me into my evening social calls.
I just couldn’t shake it off.
But when I woke up the next morning, all was well with the world.
No funk. No agitation. Just a niggling curiosity of what the hell yesterday was about.
The annoying thing about emotions is that, often, they seem to operate irrationally.
Our emotions stem from the limbic system – one of the oldest parts of the human brain. It massively predates rational thought and tends to spring into action before our more-evolved common sense can kick in. [This handy little article will explain more…]
Fortunately for us though, we do have a sensible, evolved brain as well, so we don’t have to be at the mercy of these emotions forever. There were a few actions I took which seemed to help round off the hard edges:
1. WALK AWAY FROM UNNECESSARY CONVERSATIONS
This may sound ironic on the face of it since Dark Coffee encourages open communication. But one of the most underrated tools in our belts is SILENCE. If you’re in a bad mood and you don’t have to communicate there and then, it can be cathartic and far preferable to come back to it later – especially when it comes to replying to emails or posting on social media.
I’m not saying it has to be traditional exercise, but just getting up and moving your body around can help convert frustrated energy into something more useful. One of my favourite things to do is put some loud, ridiculous music on and do half an hour of hula-hooping or have a private dance party. If you haven’t discovered the wonders of TikTok yet, I HIGHLY recommend it.
3. VENT IN A SAFE SPACE
For me this usually involves my journal because I find it such an easy way to externalise my thoughts. There’s also something very cathartic about aggressively carving into the paper which I prefer to typing when I’m in a really shitty mood. I was also fortunate enough to have two very lovely social calls that evening. One was with a new friend who was fiercely generous with her compassion and let me know she was listening, completely free of judgement, which had the added benefit of calming me down!
4. GET THE SELF CARE BASICS RIGHT
Throughout the day, I was massively tempted to comfort eat, watch trash tv and even ask my housemate for some cigarettes. Although I use all of those things as coping mechanisms sometimes, I know that the beneficial feelings are fleeting compared to having a proper balanced meal, doing something creative and staying hydrated. It all sounds very boring, but choosing self-supportive rather than self-destructive behaviours tends to lead to a better and longer-lasting outcome. It’s not easy in the heat of the moment, but that gives my ego a little boost any time I actually manage it.
So, what’s next for me and Frustration?
I haven’t hacked it or found a miracle cure, unfortunately. But I have re-learnt the importance of working with uncomfortable emotions rather than against them.
Knowing and accepting that our emotions are there (and may not always make sense to us) can be strangely comforting on its own, as well as trusting that we’ll get through the weirdness of it all.
Alice x x