Have you found yourself with a shorter than normal fuse lately? Do you find yourself overreacting to minor mishaps? Do you feel irritable for seemingly no reason? You’re not alone, and there’s even a name for it: pandemic frustration.

I started noticing it a couple of weeks ago when I had a complete meltdown and found myself raging at a poor, unsuspecting Instacart customer service rep after my order was delivered to the wrong address. The rational part of me knew this was not a big deal. They’d either redeliver my order, or they’d send me a new one. But the  part of me that has been dealing with stress, anxiety and overwhelm for the past nine months had reached the point of no return, and the pressure valve blew.

This is so not me. My  normal MO is to be patient and kind. This felt almost felt like an out-of-body experience: I was watching myself lose my mind, but I couldn’t stop myself.

According to the Washington Post, pandemic frustration does not have a DSM code yet (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,) but I suspect it’s only a matter of time until it will. According to the CDC, 2 in 5 Americans are “struggling with mental or behavioral health issues associated with the . . . pandemic, including anxiety, depression, increased substance use and suicidal thoughts.”

The problem with pandemic frustration is that many of our normal coping mechanisms – getting together with friends, going to the movies, shopping, or anything else that’s fun – are not available to us right now. As a result, we’re all stressed and it doesn’t take much for us to blow up.

So what can we do so we don’t take our frustration out on innocent parties like the poor customer service rep in my example? The same advice that applies to coping with pandemic-induced stress in general applies here, too: eat healthy, meditate, journal, cook, bake, connect with friends, and get professional help if you need to.

Most of all, I think we need to be gentle with ourselves, and with others.

For me, I’m going to make sure that the next time I’m dealing with a customer service issue, I’m not even going to pick up the phone until I’ve taken a few deep breaths and have put whatever issue I’m trying to get resolved into perspective. And then I’m going to be extra kind to the person who’s trying to help me.

Are you experiencing pandemic frustration?  How do you deal with it?

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11 Comments on Sunday Quotes: Frustration

  1. Oh, Ingrid, I’ve been in yours shoes when it comes to not being as kind as I should with customer service reps. And I used to be a customer service rep in a call center, so I know how it feels when a frustrated customer is taking out their frustration on the rep. Sometimes, we just aren’t at our best-especially during this pandemic. Let me offer some kind words to you, Ingrid. You ARE a kind person-if you weren’t, you would not have realized your temporary lapse in kindness. Don’t beat yourself up for making a mistake. As a customer rep, I was trained not to take things personally, solve the problem, and move on. It could be difficult at times, but at the end of my shift I would go home and forget about work.

    Ingrid, you bring so much happiness to the world with you wonderful website. I visit everyday and it helps me cope with the stress and negativity that this pandemic has caused. Keep up the great work!

  2. Yes, reading. Books take me anywhere I want to go… and some places I didn’t know I wanted to go. My mother taught me to always carry a book along, which became easier when I started carrying a back pack. Annoying wait? sit down and pull out the book.

  3. “For me, I’m going to make sure that the next time I’m dealing with a customer service issue, I’m not even going to pick up the phone until I’ve taken a few deep breaths and have put whatever issue I’m trying to get resolved into perspective.”

    I don’t see it in the article written, but hopefully you made some kind of apology to that customer service rep. We all get annoyed, pandemic or not. If we take it out on some poor unsuspecting person, think how miserable you’ve made their day!

    I make a point to thank people ALL the time for jobs well done, or even just done. It’s too easy for most people to rant and rave about not well done jobs, but having someone thank you is priceless.
    Just yesterday one of my cat food orders came short one case of food, with a bag of Dove bird seed in it’s place. My cats won’t eat bird food and no birds would be happy living in this house! I sent both email and chat request for that case of food to be sent (it gets mixed with another, so we can’t skip it!) and more or less laughed about the bird food! I also, in both contacts, told them how much we LOVED their service!

    As with smiles taking less muscle to make than frowns, saying nice things to others is more rewarding to both parties than making a big fuss over a little mistake.

  4. I am normally a very nice patient person. However, when i have to be put on hold for over an hour, transferred over 5-6 times, then disconnected 2 times, my patience is gone. I dont like being given the run around, whether it be during the pandemic or not, there is no excuse. When i go to a store to pick up something curbside, I expect it to be there. unfortunately more than once, my order was lost and it took over an hour of my time for them to figure things out. I dont like to be told i have to wait in line where they are checking out people just to ask a question, especially when i just picked up my online order. I try to always be respectful of people and i expect the same. People have been rude in the store, the customers shopping, running over you, knocking you down- yes i have been knocked down more than once, because they were is such a hurry and did not even bother to check to see if i was ok, just said a short sorry and walked off. People are running red lights, tailgating. There are even more accidents now because people are in such a hurry. I rarely leave my house because of the pandemic, so when I do, i get even more frustrated with people in general. I just rather stay home with my dogs. Even trying to deal with one of my drs had been so bad, that I am going to get a new drs. I have been sick off and on since Sept, not with corvid but with other things. I have been tested for everything and they cant seem to find what is wrong. My last 2 specialists said something is definitely wrong, and said they could not believe my family drs just brushed me off. I will be having to go to the hospital for more tests. I am tired of going to the drs. The video/calls are a waste of time, all i heard was I cant see you so I don’t know what is wrong. then they would not see me because of corvid. I have been tested 3 times for corvid and all negative. I got charged for things I was not supposed to be charged for and now I have to fight those bills. So yes, I am really sick of the way people are treating one another. I don’t have much faith in 2021 being much better. If it was not for the love of my 3 4 legged girls, I would be screaming and yelling.

  5. I live alone like you Ingrid with my cats thank goodness. I don’t know what I would do without them. I miss occasional lunches with friends I used to work with or volunteer with but right now we don’t get together. I do have one friend and we get together for lunch with usually means takeout right now as I live in California which has very strict rules. I have a fair amount of FB friends and when I feel really lonely, i post a picture of my cats or something else and that always generates lots of hearts and flowers on FB of course and glowing compliments but it is a connection with many people I haven’t seen in ages. I can count any family I have on one hand and they mostly live on the east coast. We talk or text once in a blue moon. Now there’s an old expression. 🙂 I lost it a couple of days before Christmas feeling sorry for myself and may have strained a couple of relationships with the few family I have and after much apologies on my part I forced myself to pull out of my doldrums and started what I call a Gratitude/Happiness Journal in a word doc on my desktop. I started on 12/23 and have posted every day since then. No negative is allowed, only positive. And every day I have managed to find at least one, and usually more, things to be grateful for that day no matter how small. This way, too, I can go back and read them and feel good all over again. I will definitely keep this up as it has helped me tremendously and I look forward to posting each day. Another thing that helps is I tune out the news when they talk about covid and the number of deaths and all the gloomy predictions of what’s ahead. i just prefer not to focus on that. This isn’t meant as a criticism of anyone who does follow covid closely, it is just a way of coping for me not to. I am fortunate that my Curves is still open though just 2 days a week by appointment only, with all modifications and limits on the number of people but it gets me around people which I need. I grocery shop at my favorite store every week and go at a time when it isn’t too crowded and I shop at Wild Birds and Gardens for my bird and squirrel foods and some good as I feed in my backyard, and some good conversations with the wonderful people who work there. I also love to read and adore a good thriller. I’m sorry this is so long but these are some of the things that have helped me cope with the world as it is at the moment. Thanks for your great post Ingrid! It too helped me to sort things out.

  6. It’s interesting that you mentioned this because I feel the same, that being said, I would have been livid if my Instacart order went to the wrong address and would probably have lost it too. But…I went to Weight Watchers yesterday IN PERSON (instead of on Zoom) for the first time in a long time, I told my coach that while the year is new, everything is still exactly the same and will be (in my opinion) until at least the middle of summer (if we’re lucky)…..people think that with a new year things will magically switch and they won’t. I think a key word to use this year for all of us is “patience”, patience with others (we are all enduring this nightmare and while we each face different challenges, we all are having challenges) and be patient with OURSELVES. This is NOT easy for anyone. In your defense it is even harder for you living alone……I can’t imagine what it would be like to go through this living alone. Thankfully you have many, many friends (even if many are far away)….and that DOES help. Please be kind to yourself……that situation would have taken ME over the edge in NORMAL circumstances! Love you!

  7. Yes, taking a deep breath and I have to be careful not to take out my frustration on the cats when they bug me because they are only reflecting what is going on for me…so they are good at getting me to not do this…..they are my healers and I need them .
    And also reflecting on the other people in life who are so much worse off, and being grateful for simple things, like warmth, a safe place, sunshine in the garden, and people who come by to help, and I am not really in lockdown…can go to the store, library, have a friend come over.

  8. Ingrid,

    The situation you mentioned, is exactly what I have been going through. What you have felt is the same with me. And like you have tried to take some deep breaths, or a second or two to think. Doesn’t always work! But ….I try. Maybe once when get vaccine, will feel a little safer, and more kindness to all!


  9. Adding to missing the things we used to love doing, the stress over how to pay the bills and put food on the table are added to me. I am definitely suffering from pandemic frustration. I have all three of the symptoms you described except increased substance use. It seems I have a headache almost every day now and that keeps me from drinking too much. One thing that temporarily has helped take my mind off things is doing puzzles.

  10. Reading. Right now I’m reading about Amazon explorers in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. It takes my mind off my problems for a little while. And whilst the explorers did have a choice our miseries are nothing compared to what they had to endure.

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