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  • When we find ourselves in frustrating situations, we might experience an emotional meltdown, which results from difficult feelings.
  • Fortunately, there are healthy ways to respond to an emotional meltdown, of which include understanding one’s frustrations, tuning into one’s physical self, and breathing.
  • If you’re feeling frustrated and on the verge of having an emotional meltdown, first take a step back to evaluate your thoughts associated with the frustrating event.
  • Then, consider if your frustrations are really rooted in the present circumstances; it is possible that they’re rooted in a past experience, instead.
  • Now, look at where your negative emotions are manifesting and focus on soothing that part of your body.
  • Finally, employ a handful of breathing techniques until you feel calm: diaphragmatic breathing or alternate nostril breathing might get the job done.

Have you ever found yourself completely frustrated? We’ve all been there: you’re stuck at the DMV, waiting in line for hours, just to get a number and wait for even longer; you’ve been working extra hard at work to prove your worth and ensure you get that well-deserved promotion… but your lazy coworker gets it instead; or, more simply, little things throughout your day are going wrong and you feel emotionally defeated.

Whatever it is that’s made you feel defeated, you’re on the verge of an emotional breakdown. For some, this means their eyes are welling with tears, threatening to fall at any moment. For others, this means a racing heart and trembling hands. But for most, it means an influx of stress, negativity, and a bad end to a bad day. So, how can we better manage that emotional meltdown and prevent it from wreaking complete and utter havoc? Robyn Gold, a licensed clinical social worker, outlines a few steps, of which focus on understanding your frustration, tuning into your body, and practicing different breathing exercises:

1) Evaluate the thoughts associated with your frustration.

When you’re feeling frustrated and on the verge of an emotional meltdown, take a minute to think about why you’re so upset: “One way to handle frustration is to evaluate your thoughts associated with the frustration. Sometimes when people are frustrated, they may find their thinking patterns to be catastrophic (i.e. if they make a mistake, they may beat themselves up for it and have the thought that they can never do anything right),” Gold explains. Then, decide if you’re being a little hard on yourself. And adjust any unhelpful thinking patterns. “In these situations, ask yourself, ‘Is this thought helpful or unhelpful to me right now?’ If the thought is not helpful, ask yourself, ‘What is something I can say to myself instead to help me feel more empowered and calm.’”

2) Answer this: Are you upset about a present or past situation?

Take some time to think about whether your frustration truly stems from your current situation or if, instead, it is rooted in something deeper—perhaps an event from your past. “Think about whether the frustration is being caused by what you’re actually dealing with in the present, or if your present situation is reminding you of a more emotionally tumultuous, negative situation from your past,” says Gold. “For example, someone who has a history of being bullied in childhood may be more combative or easily angered in the present if a stranger calls them a bad name for no reason on the subway. You can calm this frustration by staying present in the moment.”

3) Tune into your body and where the frustration is manifesting.

Now is the time to look at where your emotions are manifesting in your body. Then, try focusing on relaxing that part of your body. “If you tune into your body and notice you’re feeling your frustration in your chest, it may be helpful to place a hand on your chest as you breathe to ground yourself,” Gold explains. “Oftentimes, people become frustrated in situations in which they don’t have control. In these cases, there may be other emotions such as fear or anxiety that are underlying or accompanying the frustration. By focusing on what you do have control over, you may feel more empowered to problem solve, which can help you feel less frustrated.

4) Breathe.

Finally, calm down by employing different breathing techniques. Gold recommends a few different approaches, including diaphragmatic breathing and alternate nostril breathing: “There are a couple of different styles of breathing that can help calm your body down. First, try diaphragmatic breathing. You can do this by imagining a balloon in your stomach inflating with the in breath through your nose and deflating with the out breath through your mouth. Another way to try this is to breathe in through your nose while imagining the air going all the way down to your toes, and then breathe more slowly out through your mouth imagining the air coming all the way up your body from your toes. You can also try alternate nostril breathing. In this type of breathing, you can start by covering your right nostril, breathe out and then in through your left nostril. Then, switch by covering your left nostril, breathing out and then in through your right nostril. You can keep alternating as much as you need to until your body calms down.”

The next time you have an emotional breakdown, remember that it’s normal to feel frustrated and completely defeated sometimes. It’s okay to feel this way, but it’s also helpful to learn how to respond well in these situations. On one hand, you can let your frustration and anger take over, potentially harming your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around you; or, you can learn to tune into your emotions and take a few moments to calm down.

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Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is the Content Development Manager at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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