Ever Tried to HALT?
I’m not sure where I first heard the acronym HALT, but when I did learn it I remember just saying to myself, “YES! So true and so simple!” HALT, I believe, come from the addiction recovery world and is a tool to help people prevent relapsing. I have found, however, that it is not just for those struggling with chemical dependency. It can help with emotional stability, impulse control, stress reduction, and overall wellbeing.
Halt stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If we are experiencing any one or combination of these sensations than it our stress tolerance is lowered, and we are more vulnerable to any type of personal relapse. So, let’s go over each one.
Yes, this can mean being physically hungry and if that is the case…eat. We all know the importance of maintaining healthy nutrition but if you need a review check out our previous blog post, “3 Ways to Improve Your Wellbeing”. In the case of HALT, however, Hungry can really refer to anything. It is often helpful to ask, “What am I hungry for?” or “What am I craving right now?” These questions can lead us to all sorts of answers. I’m hungry for attention. I’m craving recognition. I’m hungry for pleasant experiences (read I want the pain to end). When we look at Hungry from this larger lens we can see how it can effect all areas of our lives and needs to be addressed in a healthy way with love, compassion, and connection when it is present.
Angry is a tricky one mainly because many do not know how to express their anger in a healthy and constructive way. One way of learning to do this is to look at what is creating the anger. Anger is often (not always) a secondary emotion meaning it is being created by something deeper. For example, I stub my toe so I start expressing anger through yelling at my spouse what I am really feeling is physical pain. Another example, I am stood up my by a friend so I call and chew them out with anger when I am really feeling sad and lonely. When we are able to recognize the emotion that lies underneath anger we can learn to express that emotion instead of anger. Angry in HALT also is about being angry at ourselves and beating ourselves up for the mistakes we have made. In any case, first, identify what is underneath the anger and then learn to send love and compassion to where it needs to go. This is easier said than don but with practice and some guidance, yes even you can learn to send love and compassion to yourself.
Within HALT Lonely not only refers to being physically alone but also feeling emotionally alone. I believe one of the most painful experiences is to feel completely alone in a crowded room. The tricky thing about Lonely is that when we feel lonely we often isolate ourselves. This just feeds our loneliness. So the answer is to reach out to people and get reconnected, right? Yes, but again this is easier said than done. There are so many things holding us back from reaching out to others; fear, embarrassment, learned survival skill, shame, etc. It is often helpful to get professional help to look at the roots of this and learning new skills to overcome whatever is keeping you Lonely.
Lastly, we have Tired. This obviously can refer to being physically tired and if that is the case make sure you are sleeping well and take a nap if needed. Healthy sleep is incredibly important to our mental health and wellbeing. Within, HALT, however, Tired can also refer to being emotionally or psychologically tired. When we feel overwhelmed, stressed out, or over burdened it is important that we recognize just how tired we are. These sensations can lead any number of relapses from substance abuse, emotional outbursts, and poor impulse control. So when you are feeling Tired first notice and be aware of it and then take a step back. Maybe that means taking a 5-minute break, cutting down on your overall workload if possible, or even taking a vacation. Do whatever you can to help you decompress and unwind.
HALT can be a valuable tool, but it can be hard to be mindful, pay attention, and accept to what you really need in any given moment. It can help to recruit help: a friend, family member, or even a therapist or counselor. The more we can recognize HALT in our lives the better equipped we are to handle the stressors that life has in store for us.
Here is the challenge: Pay attention to HALT in your life. Notice what happens when you take action against Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Let me know how it goes.
Disclaimer: This blog is designed for educational, informational, and entertainment purposes. It not meant to be a substitute for any mental health or medical treatment. If you need a doctor or therapist please find one near you. Please do not attempt to do anything without your doctor and therapist or other professionals go ahead and remember to use common sense.