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How to manage frustration

iStock-1179938842 low res.jpgOur MS-UK Counsellors discusses how to deal with this feeling

Frustration is a common human experience, however, it seems to me that MSers have more than their fair share. This is not surprising as frustration is the experience of being upset or annoyed as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. In my counselling work for MS-UK I hear many examples of day to day tasks and other life achievements which can remain elusive for MSers.

Frustration is unpleasant to experience and when prolonged it can lead to low mood which can bring unhappiness, poor sleep, negative thinking, worthlessness and self-pity. Experiencing this for too long or too often is debilitating and can have a ripple effect on others near and dear to us.

A way forward when experiencing frustration may be to try out what is known as distress tolerance skills – distraction and shifting focus. Distraction helps by diverting attention. It works better if you choose something that keeps you absorbed and as different things work for different people it is worth trying some out. Shifting focus helps by noticing the frustration and then deliberately choosing where to put your focus; do you choose the frustration or a different focus? As you "do" your chosen activity, you will notice thoughts, feelings and other distractions come into your awareness so just notice them, then gently bring your attention back to your chosen activity.

A way of shifting your attention away from frustration is by using the ‘Right Now’ method. Say ‘Stop’ to yourself and then think about and say

  • 5  things you can see now
  • 4  things you can hear now
  • 3  things you can touch and reach out and touch them now
  • 2  things you can smell or like the smell of now
  • 1 slow deep breath and then focus on something different now

Some examples of what you might use to distract from frustration are offered below from trying out new things to thinking about what needs doing in your home or garden, and do some work in bite-size chunks to match the energy you have with what you want to do.

Pamper yourself

Try out aromatherapy or reflexology, visit the hairdresser, watch the clouds or stars from inside or out, read, have an early night, eat something new, have a bath or shower, write a list of your achievements – great and small, soak your feet, write a list of things you are thankful for, cuddle a soft toy, watch a feel good, funny or inspirational film.

Get out and about

Try joining a leisure centre or health club, or see what is going on at your local MS Therapy Centre, take a walk or jog, or sit on the beach or in a park, get on your bike or local bus, visit a new church, go to the library, visit a museum, check out what movies are on, go to a concert; browse the shops or car boot sale, find out what free classes are on offer, go out for lunch, learn to drive or go out for a drive, visit a garden, visit an attraction.

Be Creative

Try a new hobby, learn a language, write a story or poem, learn to meditate, do yoga or tai chi, learn a musical instrument or compose music, paint, create a blog or website, sew or knit, bake, take photos or sort out the ones you have, make a scrapbook.

Make contact with others

Phone someone you have not spoken to for a while, join a self-help group, a civil rights group, do some voluntary work, write a letter or email a friend, phone the MS-UK Helpline.

Express yourself physically

Bang a drum, shout or sing loudly, rip up a newspaper, dance or cry.

And finally,

Talk to yourself positively

I can get through this. I can take one hour at a time and these feelings of frustration will pass.   

MS-UK Counselling is here for anybody living with MS and offers space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings in a professional, supportive, and non-judgemental therapeutic space. You can register your interest for this service at www.ms-uk.org/counselling