Sports Frustration and How to Beat It

Frustration is an unpleasant emotion that can negatively affect the wellbeing and performance of an athlete. So in this article we're going to tell you how to beat it.
Sports Frustration and How to Beat It

Last update: 15 July, 2020

Frustration is an unpleasant emotion, and it often shows up while we’re playing sports. When an athlete loses a match, becomes injured, or receives unexpected results, it’s likely they’ll experience this sensation.

Learning to manage your frustration is important because it’s related to other negative emotions and behaviors. High levels of frustration can lead to angry outbursts, irate reactions, or even aggression toward others.

In the long term, it’s likely that an athlete who has accumulated high levels of frustration in sports will develop the syndrome known as burnout. This condition is characterized by a loss of interest in the sport, as well as physical and mental exhaustion.

We know that eliminating frustration can help you on your journey to psychological wellbeing. In this article, we’ll present you with a series of tips to help control your frustrations while playing sports. Don’t miss out!

Frustration in sports: establish realistic and achievable goals

Many times, the origin of our frustration comes from having erroneously set our goals. Setting goals that are too ambitious or not leaving enough time to actually accomplish them only leads to desperation.

When sitting down to set your goals, it’s better to think of small wins. You have to keep your own abilities in mind and know how your body responds to stress.

It’s better to establish lots of short-term objectives than one large, ambitious long-term objective. In addition, if you establish many short-term goals and are able to reach them, your self-confidence gets a boost. Few things feel better than reaching the goals you set for yourself.

Setting fitness goals

Openly express negative emotions

Expressing your frustration and unpleasant emotions will help to confront them and put them in perspective. When we express our frustration, it helps to channel it and can reduce the emotional and physical discomfort that it causes. Also, by articulating your emotions, you make it easier to adopt a new perspective and see things from a different angle.

One way to externalize your frustration is by writing down on a piece of paper how you feel, without any restrictions. Noting all of your physical sensations, thoughts and behaviors is an effective way to eliminate all of your internalized discomforts.

Frustration in sports: be careful with negative thoughts

On many occasions, frustration develops because we are placing too much importance on our negative thoughts. Thoughts such as, “I can’t do any more”, “I’m not progressing” and “I’m not going to achieve anything” only leads to anger and will distract our attention from our goals.

We have to treat our thoughts as they are, thoughts. That’s to say that a negative thought about yourself doesn’t represent reality. It’s only a negative thought that’s being brought on by a stressful situation.

A technique used by psychologists to control negative thoughts is cognitive diffusion. This consists of adding “I am thinking that…” each time that you have a thought that makes you uncomfortable. This technique can help distance your thoughts from reality.

Controlling your breathing is key

Frustration is closely related to the physical symptoms of anxiety. When a person feels high levels of frustration, their breathing and heart rate speed up. Practicing breathing techniques can reduce these unpleasant sensations and, therefore, lower your frustration. 

Depression and frustration in sports

On the other hand, regarding negative thoughts and as we’ve mentioned, when we direct our attention to our breath, we avoid thinking about our worries. Due to this, the benefits of utilizing breathing techniques to relieve frustration are double.

Overcoming your frustration in sports is possible

While it’s inevitable that we’ll all experience frustration at some point in our athletic trajectories, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. Psychological techniques are a great help to eliminate many of these unpleasant feelings and to experience emotional wellbeing.

It’s so important to know yourself on a deep level and to know how to identify your own emotional states. This means being conscious of your thoughts and physical states at all times and being able to name them. This will help you identify and understand the situations that are likely to cause frustration. In this way, it can be possible to act in a preventive way before you experience frustration.

Finally, it’s worth noting that frustration, just with all emotions, has a function. Pleasant emotions aren’t the only valuable ones. We can usually learn a lot from our negative emotions as well. It’s important to recognize this and control it so that we can be our best selves!

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Fit People
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How to Manage Negative Emotions When Playing Sports

Knowing how to control and manage negative emotions when you're playing sports is an essential skill, even if you're in peak physical condition.

  • Sheptak, RD, Menaker, BE El factor de frustración: Perspectivas voluntarias de frustración en un entorno deportivo. Voluntas 27, 831–852 (2016).
  • Dennison, P. E., & Dennison, G. E. (2005). Cómo Aplicar Gimnasia Para el Cerebro: Técnicas de Autoayuda Para la Escuela y el Hogar. Editorial Pax México.

The contents of this publication are written for informational purposes. At no time do they facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.