man under duress

Keep Your Cool: How to Avoid Hot Cognition Responses


Sober Recovery Expert Author

man under duress

Ever feel a little hot-headed while struggling to keep your cool? Do you respond impulsively to negative texts, emails or Facebook comments rather than staying calm and thinking your actions through? Feeding your anger like this may seem uncontrollable, but it’s still detrimental to your overall health and your recovery. We invite unnecessary stress into our lives when we let small issues become bigger than they need to be. Stress like this can lead to all types of problems and can even cause a relapse if you’re not careful.

Some research suggests that the reason why some people are more likely to immediately respond with irritability – something the researchers call “hot cognition” – is because arousal can lead to impulsive decision-making neurologically. The amygdala, which processes our emotions, will hijack the brain when a tense or stressful situation arises. This causes instant, emotionally-driven responses before the more logical parts of our brain can thoroughly assess the situation at hand.

Hot cognition responses often result in bouts of anger.

This is a troublesome cycle for anyone to get stuck in. Although it can be hard to deprogram your brain from old habits, rewiring is possible with careful attention and commitment. And it’s important to rewire this tendency to react rather than respond. This is a reflex that gets people into trouble, whether it’s a bar fight or succumbing to addiction. Remember, anger and addiction usually go hand in hand.

Tips For Controlling Anger

Here are some tips that can help you avoid hot cognition responses the next time you are aroused by anger.

1. Learn How Amygdala Functions

If you are aware of what is happening inside of your brain – what is making you want to immediately lash out or act in an equally extreme manner – you are one step closer to controlling the issue at hand.

2. Distance Yourself

A good way to ensure you respond rather than react is to distance yourself from the situation before immediately responding. This could be as simple as counting to 10 before responding or sleeping on the issue before making rash decisions.

3. Meditate

Try to find a way to bring mediation in one form or another into your life. Whether you meditate in the morning, after work or in the shower, meditation will introduce intentional mindfulness into your life. If you can strengthen your mindfulness skills, you’re more likely to be present in all of your decisions.

In hindsight, hot cognition responses won’t seem like a big deal, but responding this way will consume you over time. By controlling and therefore preventing impulsive bouts of anger, you’re also taking control of your peace of mind.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

Stay Connected
Subscribe to our newsletter to get addiction help, recovery inspiration and community tips delivered to your inbox.
No Thanks. I'm not Interested