“I’ve hit a wall,” is the feeling we get when something just doesn’t feel doable. It may be something new we’re trying to learn or a project that didn’t look that difficult. Regardless, the feelings that come are a rush of anger, overwhelm, irriton at ourselves, at others, at whatever we’re trying to do. It feels easier to just walk away and give up. We may know we have skills to solve the problem, but at that moment they’ve vanished.
It’s useful to first notice all the signs of frustration described above, and then see if there are physical symptoms that go with this state. Is our breathing shallow? Our chest tight? Our ability to concentrate gone? These are all signs that the nervous system is in fight or flight mode, meaning that clear, rational thinking is likely inaccessible. If this is the case, the task is no longer to solve he original problem that led to the frustration. Instead, the challenge is to find a way to return to a calmer state.
Returning to calm can happen through finding internal or external resources. External resources are support—people, environments, activities or services that can give us help, but more importantly, give us a sense that we are not alone. Often just knowing that support is out there will calm us enough that we can return to problem solving. This is what happens when a friend sits with us while we make a difficult call or listens while we talk out our frustrations. Internal resources are ways that we can calm ourselves. This may include taking some deep breaths, getting a good night’s sleep, journaling, going for a walk or reminding ourselves that we’ll be okay. These actions will eventually help us return to a calm enough state to problem solve. The biggest takeaway is that if we keep trying to solve a problem while in a stressed state, we’re only likely to encounter more stress. Instead, once we notice our frustration, we can find resources to return to calm, creating a doorway through the wall of frustration.