Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fight Frustration

Sometimes I get a little. . .frustrated. Ok, a lot frustrated. Traffic jams, cancelled visits, or a to-do list a LOT longer than my day can ruin my day. Seeing all the things I want to do, accomplish and enjoy stifled by mundane problems really makes me grit my teeth and clench my fists. 

Unfortunately, it's hard to have much “cred” as a natural health practitioner if your expression looks like a mug shot from aggravation at life.
  I don't like to yell at cars, hit malfunctioning printers, or scare my cat because I get so irritated I want to cry.  So long ago I decided to start working on minimizing what I now call The Frustration Response.  While I do still resemble a 2-year-old in tantrum mode from time to time, I am much closer to the peaceful acceptance of life that I desire.  Here are some of the ways I have found to minimize frustration:

Do less. This point is pretty universal in stress reduction literature, but is terribly hard for an overachiever. Or in my case, someone who has lots of ideas, and can be a little ditzy about putting them into practice. 

I probably won't run a magazine, be a best-selling author, top acupuncturist, master gardener, professional chef, own a great gift shop/restaurant/tea shop/art gallery, and run my own bath product company (oh, and if I can squeeze in some voice lessons maybe do my own album--jazz standards) all at the same time--but I really, really, really want to.  So I try to do a little bit of all of it RIGHT NOW. Which means I have about 15 minutes a day to devote to each thing. Surprisingly, it doesn't work so well. 

So this year, I'm trying to do less, and accept that I won't become Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Allen all rolled into one (and no, you probably will never forget that visual)--at least not this year. I WILL choose some of those goals to look at now, and pencil the others in on 5- or 10-year plans. I'm working on whittling my to-do list to no more than 5 things a day--and if you suffer a lot of frustration, you should too.

Keep the big things in focus. In addition to having a lot of dreams for the future, I also am easily distracted.  I regularly go to the computer to answer an email. After checking Facebook, jotting down a random idea or two, checking for articles about acupuncture, and even checking my email--I close everything up and walk off.  You guessed it--no answered email. To fight that, I try to keep my eyes on my overall priorities as well as my daily goals.

To-do lists help, but only if you are generating to-do lists from bigger goals instead of catching random things you don't want to forget. You can find hundreds of books on defining your priorities, and spend weeks just on that. But most people quickly agree on the Big 3 Priorities. Family, Career, and some kind of Belief--whether it's related to a specific church or your profound desire to rid the world of Barney the Dinosaur.  You probably have some version of these three things in your life, and find them important.  Using your Big 3, look at your day and make sure you are giving them the time they deserve.  Maybe you're frustrated because you are frittering away your life while Barney is still out there singing. You'll feel less frustrated and more in control if you start each day looking at your Big 3 Priorities and make sure you have goals related to them.

Use humor. It's nearly impossible to stay frustrated while laughing.  So much so, that I sometimes suggest patients just force themselves to laugh to move their qi and benefit from all the great chemical changes that happen when you laugh--whether you're laughing because something is funny or not. When you feel like you might have to scream, try a good belly laugh instead.  You might not look any less crazy, but you'll have more fun.

Thanks to Steve Ford for the adorable picture of the grumpy girl.

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