I am aggravated right now. No real reason. It’s rainy, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish, and now that I have to do them, there are stops everywhere. I can’t make delicious almond bread until I have a clean place to work. I can’t make my lunch until I finish the almond bread. I can’t sit at my table because it isn’t cleared off.
I don’t want to clear all these things off. In our family breakdown of jobs, these things are not my job. And besides, it’s B-O-R-I-N-G. I have things to do do.
I feel stuck. I feel cranky. I feel restless.
I don’t like this feeling.
What do I do?
As someone who is not known for patience, I have had to learn to deal with aggravation. As someone who is sensitive to stress, I’ve had to learn to deal with in ways that minimize the effect on my body. Here are a few tips that I may not always employ myself (baby steps. . .), but they are useful.
- Regroup. If the things around you are mounting up, try distraction first. This method is great for procrastinators, because it is a way to continue to accomplish even if you can’t get the thing you want done. Take a break and fold the laundry, clean out a drawer that’s cluttered, make a phone call you’ve been avoiding. One or two productive wanders frees up space to think and work again; more than two probably means you are avoiding something important and need to refocus on the Dreaded Thing.
- Quick meditation. Sometimes you just need a quick chance to recenter. http://www.Just-a-Minute.org has one minute meditations that can help you quickly calm yourself and adjust your attitude. I keep a tab open to the site so I can grab a one-minute break here and there during the day.
- Tackle The Dreaded Thing. Since I’m getting worked up over the table being messy, I have at least two options. Clear the thing myself, or ask my husband to interrupt his schedule to do something on mine. The movement might help me, or addressing my peevishness because he hasn’t done what I think of as “his job” might also help me feel less powerless. Either way, I’ve dealt with the issue.
- Review the importance of The Dreaded Thing. Why is the thing-you-are-frustrated-with important enough to make you frustrated? In my case, the table has two levels of importance. One, I have things I want to do, and a clear table is a necessity. Two, I wanted my husband to do it and I’m annoyed that he didn’t do it. So if I spend five minutes clearing off enough space to work, the first point is a non-issue. But the second is something I need to work out in my mind or with my husband. Does he often shirk household duties? No, and usually only when he feels unwell. Do I have a long-standing issue with feeling unfairly burdened with responsibilities from events that happened before I met him? Why, yes indeed, I do! The disordered table has assumed the status of A Symbol of Oppression. It now becomes my job to work on the emotion the messy table has generated. I can decide to take care of the pressing issue, and make time to journal about the Symbol later. I can ask my husband to help me as a simple household conversation, without the weight of decades of emotion tied into it.
- Accept life as a sometimes frustrating experience. I don’t like this option. Not at all. But sometimes, life just is frustrating. In our household, we are two creative, messy minds in bodies with energy limitations. The occasional messy house is simply part of the fabric of our partnership. In other houses, there are facts. Children will not always behave quietly. Money issues won’t always go away. Chronic health problems may not get better, or even get worse. Accepting the aggravations that come from the unchangeable facts of life is a hard task. But learning to do so, either by working on your own or with a professional counselor or trusted friend, will lessen the irritation. Once you’ve done the long arduous work of accepting that the aftershocks of a car accident, or bad investment, or catastrophic health issue is just “the way life is now,” it will aggravate you less.
Dealing with aggravation is sometimes easy and quick, and sometimes long and painful. Developing the skill of accepting frustration is a valuable task that will free you from a lot of worry and pain. It is worth the aggravation to learn how to face frustration.