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The NSPA Blog

Frustration in Times of COVID

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Posted on December 22nd, 2020 by Bettina Carlson, under COVID-19 Stories, Mental Health, Social Distancing, Take Charge


Are we more frustrated or aggressive?

The COVID crisis is challenging many, if not most of us, creating frustrations on a widespread level that we have not experienced in a long, long time. We can feel this throughout our communities across the country, where frustrations flare up more often than before. Some people are even outright aggressive. Observing this behavior in my community and the communities near me and seeing how people suffer from this, I felt compelled to address this issue in our blog post today. The info below is nothing new, but reading it (again) might help some of our readers. 

I’m sure many of you know, first or second hand, examples of frustrations turned into spats or heated and even aggressive arguments. In talking to people and observing social media posts, it is becoming evident that our emotions are becoming increasingly raw and reactionary. These actions are hurting those on the receiving end, but also those on the giving side. They are not supportive at a time when we need even more support. 

The reasons for the increasing frustrations are manifold and well-known: 

• Gathering with larger groups of friends and family has been restricted.

• Visits with loved ones in Congregate facilities have been restricted or disallowed. 

• Exercise opportunities have been limited.

• Work has been moved into the home.

• School has been moved into the home.

• Job loss is a reality for a large number of people. 

• Entrepreneurs are losing their businesses. 

• Patients may not have access to all elective services. 

• And more.

Most people experience the social distancing as an emotional disconnecting feeling.

Some people very intensively experience the different restrictions as a loss of their autonomy and choices, especially if their financial livelihoods are at risk.

Some people experience fear of becoming infected with COVID and what consequences that may bring.

And some experience a combination of both of the above frustrations and fears. 

When people experience frustrations and fear, some are withdrawing. Yet, with others, the frustrations and the fear can be a tense and irritable combination that can find an outlet in highly charged exchanges between people. This can be triggered, especially if they feel threatened by each other’s behavior; for example, if someone doesn’t wear their mask or physical distancing isn’t being kept. Our innate “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in. 

Aside from right or wrong, this reaction is hurting both parties – socially and further, it hurts our already strained emotional and physical wellbeing.

So what can we do?

Frustration is the feeling of being upset or annoyed, primarily because of the inability to change or achieve something. It creates a sense of not having control. Add stress, making it more difficult to control ourselves, caused by a lack of focus and energy. And 2020 has been a very long and draining year in terms of stressful experiences, which has left many of us with strained internal resources. 

Ideally, we know our triggers, and we stay away from getting engaged in a potentially aggressive situation by:

• not starting a contentious discussion

• politely listening without engaging 

• not responding aggressively if someone triggers us to avoid escalation of the situation

• leaving, if someone is trying to lure us into an aggressive argument or if a discussion turns aggressive

I know; this all sounds easier than it is done. It is a known fact that when we are stressed and frustrated, we are more likely to react than respond to triggers. I know that we understand we ought to be mindful and regard the other person with the benefit of the doubt, kindness, and forgiveness. Yet, after ten months of living in the extraordinary times of COVID, patience runs thin, and tempers can flare up more readily. 

And while this is understandable, reacting with intense frustration or even aggression towards another person is, more often than not, not bringing the result we desire. On the contrary, we are at risk of becoming a destructive force to ourselves, to our peace of mind, and if this type of stress is long-term, it has the very real potential of harming our overall health.

The famous adage “we have no control over others, only over ourselves” is quite accurate and wise to heed. Try to exercise control over what you can do. Seems like a tall order these days? Maybe? Yet it is possible! And it is worth it! We are worth it! 

Here are a few tools that can help us to restore the focus and energy needed to succeed in claiming our self-control:

  • Physical exercise helps reduce stress hormones. It can help turn our negative energy into positive energy. While maybe our favorite places to exercise may not be available to us, and on top of it we are remote working from home, there is no reason why we can’t put on our walking shoes and go on a walk, brisk and short, or long and leisure, your choice. Or any other physical activity that taps into your energy, including house cleaning, for example.
  • Turn off the news! And likewise, unplug from too much Social Media. We may feel better informed on current topics, but it is also creating and feeding a simmering frustration, depression, and anger for many. What do you prefer? What is supporting your most important need, your health?
  • Focus on gratitude. Yes! Even with all the challenges that COVID brings, there are still positives! So every day, appreciate one or two moments for which you are grateful. It could be as simple as a friendly conversation, a great movie, or tasty food. It doesn’t matter what it is; this practice will help redirect the focus from the negative onto the positive and thus nourish your mind with positive energy. 
  • Deep breathing exercises promote a state of calmness. They help us feel connected to our body, redirecting awareness away from the worries in our head, and quieting the mind. Here is a YouTube video of my favorite breathing technique. Please give it a try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34&t=709s&fbclid=IwAR3CoLpbvOkh6RmQDfxTjPauvU_U70xkh06rkd2SUIkHNY7gJWu06N3x6JU.


So while we are all experiencing this year together, we are not all experiencing it the same way. Let each of us put forth additional effort and mindfulness in how we show up and not let frustration drive us. This effort can help us stay in control over our emotions, although the world around us may feel out of control. If we can do this, we likely will bring some good improvements if only for our emotional wellbeing and health!

Be well and be blessed! And Happy Holidays!

Teri’s Corner

Know your rights when advocating for those with special needs. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20201220/know-your-rights-when-advocating-for-those-with-special-needs

Keep the senior in your life happy with these gift ideas. Daily Herald. https://edition.pagesuite.com/popovers/dynamic_article_popover.aspx?artguid=8fef8179-775c-4069-abac-e421a95841de&appid=1031

Advocating for your health in the age of COVID. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20201121/advocating-for-your-health-in-the-age-of-covid

Flexibility is key for families during nursing home visits. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20201114/flexibility-is-key-for-families-during-nursing-home-visits

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