09/15/2013 01:16 EDT | Updated 11/14/2013 05:12 EST

How to Handle Your First-World Hissyfits


I was reading a memoir about one of the lost boys from the civil war genocide in Sudan. The content is heavy, so I took a Facebook break. I saw that that a girl from high school 'liked' my status update saying I lost my iPhone. How rude! In a self-important rage, I freaked out and privately messaged two other friends to hot-headedly vent about it.

This is beyond embarrassing to admit. In case you're not immediately spotting the problem here, let me reiterate the situation for you: I was throwing a hissyfit over a Facebook 'like' while simultaneously reading about the real life struggle of a young boy literally running for his life during a horrific genocide. To say that I lacked perspective is a massive understatement.

I picked up my book again, and within a span of only minutes I realized the ridiculousness of it all, illuminated all the more by the stark contrast of the life-and-death problems I was reading about and the "problem" I had freaked out over minutes ago. I silently laughed at myself and shook my head at the absurdity.

If you occasionally struggle to keep your "problems" in perspective, it helps to take a deep breath followed by a quick reality check. Is this truly a big deal? Is the energy I'm putting into this worth it or is it a waste? Often that is enough to bring you back to reality. However, if you're perpetually over-blowing things that should be only small annoyances it probably means that something is out-of-whack in a more serious way.

I can remember regularly going off the deep end during a period of my life when I was working my first management job while also trying to complete my master's degree during the evenings and weekends. I was frazzled from working too hard. I was a short fuse, easily lit and prone to unstable explosions. Everything and anything would launch me into either a fiery rage or a defeated puddle of self-pity -- house-training the puppy, burning dinner, losing my keys, you name it. Often during these episodes I could see how deranged I was acting, yet I felt powerless to stop. Looking back now I can see that I had simply taken on too much. I was stretched too thin, and my priorities were out of whack.

If this sounds familiar, I urge you to do a problem audit to see what's really getting to you. It's probably not losing your keys or burning dinner that truly makes you feel like it's the end of the world. It's probably your overall stress level -- taking on too much at work, trying to balance too much, feeling lost or unfilled, or repressing some issue that deeply needs to be resolved.

Looking for the root of the problem is terrifying (which is why many avoid it), and it can be a painful discovery process (which is why many prefer a band-aid solution), but it is most certainly the only way to resolve the real issue and regain your sanity. The next time you find yourself in the passionate throws of a hissyfit, try and take a deep breath. Ask yourself if this kind of energy drain is really worth it. If it is, you have a real-life immediate problem on your hands. If not, there's something else going on.

Find yourself some time to contemplate the real source underlying your fits. Are you unhappy at work? In a souring relationship? Exhausted from overextending yourself? Frustrated with a friend? Frightened about the future? Resentful about a wrongdoing? Uncertain about what you want? It may be any number of things, and it may be more than one thing. Understanding what's really bothering you is the first step necessary to making positive change...and a way to prevent yourself from going off the deep end.

Published at Aspire.