by Howard Cohen, LMHC

What are your hot buttons and how do you disengage them?

What are some things that just make your blood boil? Are they dealing with massive amounts of traffic, being late to an event, major car repairs, or maybe your home air conditioner breaking down? I’ve heard that dealing with dishonest and unethical people can cause a great deal of personal irritation and infuriation.

What are some of your hot buttons? Perhaps if we make a list of things that anger and frustrate us, we can learn to turn down the heat. In this article, I am going to attempt to help offset the negative effects of stress, and increase joy, by developing “protective measures”—positive and uplifting activities that guard us from becoming agitated and irritable.


Rather than focus on the myriad obstacles and challenges we face each day, let’s begin to learn how to counteract “what’s eating us” and focus on what brings us happiness and satisfaction. Here are a few suggestions:

· Surround yourself with positive and upbeat family, friends and co-workers.

· Spend time alone, maybe walking on the beach, strolling in a park or exploring a quiet neighborhood.

· Find a sport or physical activity that you enjoy doing and schedule it in weekly.

· Become a member of an organization whose mission inspires you and get involved with a project they are sponsoring.

· Invite a close friend to have lunch or dinner with you and really engage honestly and openly with them. Ask that close friend how they manage their stress and get some new ideas.

· Take in a movie by yourself or with someone special, and afterwards sit and discuss what kind of impression the film made on you. Expressing your thoughts and impressions can release internal tension.

· What are your hobbies? Look on a website called Search an activity that you enjoy doing and find a local group that meets your needs; connect and socialize.

· If you are going through a really difficult time due to an illness or major loss and you feel isolated, consider joining a support group.

· Pay a good deed forward to a stranger. An example can be buying someone’s meal in a fast food drive-thru or covering the fee for the car behind you at a toll booth.

· Live a life of moderation and start to reduce the amount of tasks you feel you need to achieve daily. Don’t procrastinate doing your chores and responsibilities, just spread them out over a few more days or a week. They will all get done in time.

· It’s an over-used expression, but it fits here: “Stop and smell the roses.” Enjoy your day rather than grind through it. 

Here’s another important question: How do you handle your anger? Do you just “fly off the handle” and become explosive? Or do you “take a deep breath” and think about how you want to deal with the issue? The latter choice isn’t always accessible to us, but it really helps us to make a split-second decision. The idea is to choose a calmer course of action. In the long run (and even in the short run) you’ll be glad you did!

It seems like our disappointment with a particular situation moves into rage when we feel as though we have lost control over it. And, becoming emotional is a way to cope with the loss of power or unfulfilled expectations. Many of us have been told that we need to “let it go” and release the tension of the moment. Yelling and screaming can be quite cathartic for us, but not necessarily for the person or persons who bear the brunt of our exasperation.

If we could learn to manage our stress level, it would be more beneficial; think before you react and cool yourself to a “lower boil”. Here are some tips to “put a lid” on anger:

· Take a deep breath, bringing some oxygen into the brain, helping you to think with more clarity and understanding.

· Walk away or remove yourself from the heated situation and try to settle down.

· Self-soothe or try to steady yourself with gentle words of patience.

· Are you having a rough day? This may be the straw that is breaking your back. Realize this and give yourself a break that your emotions may be off kilter today.

· Is the situation within your control? If not, recognize that and accept you can’t change it. Try to move away from it affecting you further.

· Be as prepared as possible before embarking upon any project, appointment, assignment, etc. Being organized and making a plan will greatly reduce your stress.

· Don’t do tasks or communicate with others in the same way every time. Try new methods and techniques daily. The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

· Read about and experience some form of meditation. Apply something you learn from it into your everyday life.

· Get a good amount of rest and eat healthier at consistent times during the day.

· Become your own personal expert. Think ahead to imagine how things may go for you.

·     When you realize that you are thinking negatively about the outcome of a situation, try to introduce more positive thoughts.

Hot buttons don’t have to light your fire. Bring their temperature down by altering your thinking and changing your immediate reaction. Learn to how fan the fire and turn down the flames of frustration! 

Yours in personal change and growth, Howard M. Cohen, LMHC, 2312 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors, 954-980-9628, [email protected],

Howard Cohen is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice with offices in Wilton Manors and Dania Beach. Cohen Counseling is a safe place for therapy, with specialties offered in the areas of LGBT issues, career counseling, overcoming depression and anxiety, dealing with loss and grief, and addiction solutions. See ad page 51.