How Are You Feeling? Take a Minute to HALT for Your Health

Person with crew cut and some facial hair sits in front of laptop, chin in hand, looking tired and drainedHow do you feel right now? Great? Okay? Not so good?

If you aren’t feeling your best, taking a moment to HALT is one of the best things you can do for your overall mental and physical health.

“Halt” translates to “stop” in German. But HALT is also an acronym that stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When one or more of these areas are out of balance, it is more likely we will struggle with health and overall well-being as a result. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on whether you are feeling any of these things.

Let’s break each area down.

Hunger

Think about how poorly you feel when you are hungry. When your blood sugar gets low, you may get a headache, become irritable, or find it difficult to concentrate. These effects are the result of the brain releasing certain chemicals that interfere with the production of serotonin, a feel-good chemical.

We might jokingly say we are “hangry,” but this is a real thing. Hunger can put the body in an imbalanced state that can lead to mood swings, affect our ability to make decisions, and lower our impulse control. When you get physically hungry, it’s important to refuel your brain and body with nutritious food. If you know you are going to have a long workday, drive, or carpool ride, plan ahead. Assemble meals and snacks that include fruits, nuts, cheese, yogurt, or protein bars. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Water and decaffeinated teas offer many health benefits.

Hungry can also refer to how we feel emotionally. Sometimes our everyday tasks and schedules take a toll on our mood and well-being. If you are bored with your routine, consider doing something to mix it up. Spend time with someone you haven’t seen in a while. Take an impromptu car trip! You might even consider trying an activity you have never done before—research shows that the human brain produces dopamine, a feel-good chemical, when we experience things for the first time.

If you aren’t feeling your best, taking a moment to HALT is one of the best things you can do for your overall mental and physical health.

If your emotional hunger persists for more than several weeks, it may be time to assess your routine. It’s one thing to experience a draining period while pushing through to meet a deadline, but quite another when the thought of work or facing certain people only inspires dread. If this is the case, it may be time to explore making some changes. If your activities of daily living are negatively being affected or if you often turn to unhealthy behaviors or substances to cope, the support of a therapist or counselor may be beneficial.

Anger

When we are angry or experiencing negative emotions, we may not be able to think rationally. If you feel angry, take some time to calm down first. Try to talk through what you are feeling with someone. Then you may feel better able to address the problem. If the issue is a chronic one, it can be helpful to break it down into manageable tasks. If you are able to take even one step forward, you are likely to feel less hopeless and helpless about the situation.

When in the midst of anger, it is generally a good idea to wait at least two hours (and maybe even speak to someone in person) before touching technology. In other words, no texting, tweeting, e-mailing, or posting! You don’t want to impulsively put something out in cyberspace that you may regret later when you are in a more rational state.

Loneliness

We all experience loneliness at times in our lives. Even when people surround us, we may not be actively interacting with them. What’s more, with all of our modern technology, many of us are plugged in electronically but not connected emotionally. Think about the number of times you may have made a problem much worse in your head by imagining the situation into a catastrophe. Once you actually talked out what was wrong, you gained a much more positive perspective.

It’s generally a good idea to reach out every day and connect face-to-face with other people, whenever possible. Isolation can be a breeding ground for depression and unhealthy choices. Even brief encounters can help reduce feelings of loneliness and have a positive impact on well-being.

Tiredness

Making sure we get enough sleep at night can help improve not only our physical well-being, but also our emotional health. When we are physically and emotionally tired, we are often more likely to engage in more negative thinking patterns and interactions. How much sleep is “enough”? Experts recommend seven to nine hours. Anything less than six can have damaging effects, such as an increased risk of accidents, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity.

It’s also important to practice good sleep hygiene. I know sleep hygiene is a funny phrase. It doesn’t mean you’re a dirty sleeper. It refers to the habits that make restful sleep more conducive. These habits include getting up and going to bed around the same time each day, reducing distractions that interrupt sleep (pets, television, or the phone), monitoring caffeine and sugar intake, managing stressors, and limiting exposure to bright lights (light interrupts the biological process that allows melatonin levels to rise and help us drift off to sleep).

In Conclusion

When you find yourself getting upset, or if you just feel a bit off: HALT. Take a moment to do an internal assessment. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? If so, take the steps necessary to address your needs. Note if you often tend to be out of balance in one area. Be intentional about correcting that area. By proactively making sure you never get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, you can help protect yourself against many illnesses and mental health symptoms.

References:

  1. Dean, N. (2018, February 26). The Importance of Novelty. Brain World. Retrieved from http://brainworldmagazine.com/the-importance-of-novelty
  2. Hunger hormone increases during stress, may have antidepressant effect. (2008, June 16). UT Southwestern Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080615142252.htm
  3. LaMotte, S. (2017, September 27). Sacrificing sleep? Here’s what it will do to your health. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/07/19/health/dangers-of-sleep-deprivation/index.html

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Cynthia Turner, LCSW, LSATP, MAC, therapist in Ashburn, Virginia

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 2 comments
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  • Ira

    Ira

    May 15th, 2018 at 11:37 AM

    This has been being used in AA for decades … not a new concept. But it is certainly pertinent to everyone to use to be healthier

  • Cyndi

    Cyndi

    May 16th, 2018 at 2:35 PM

    Yes- it works if you work it!

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