You know you've done it. You've ignored the signs, kept plowing through your busy to-do list, and then all of the sudden you pick up your head from your work and everything is a disaster. You cannot see straight, you are sad and furious and confused and OMG YOU HAVEN'T EATEN ALL DAY.
Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. This handy acronym came my way early in my twelve-step program experience, and it is a goodie. When the anxiety and the fear and the crazy come a-knocking, one of these basic self-care needs has not been covered. There's a reason my self-care checklist starts off with a reminder to eat! If we forget food, keep ourselves in frustrating situations, cut ourselves off from our friends and family, and don't get enough sleep, we sure as hell aren't going to be happy and healthy people.
Tired has an easy solution: sleep. I do get tired and cranky, but sleep is usually not a problem for me. When it is, I check on my caffeine intake, my screen time before bed, and invite in herbal nervines like skullcap and lemon balm tea (also great for calming the fuck down). If insomnia is an issue, check out passionflower or valerian (but please talk to a qualified herbalist or health professional before putting stuff into your body).
Lonely is harder for me because despite my best efforts, I still have a hard time asking for help. But another gift of twelve-step programs is learning to reach out and stay connected. I have a go-to list of ladies who I know will text me back or pick-up my call, and I do my best to use that tool. Sometimes when I cannot muster the will to talk to an actual human being, I watch favorite old TV shows with characters who feel like friends. Slightly pathetic? Possibly. But it truly helps to move the needle and get me out of HALT energy.
Food is where I lose my will. If I put off eating, I become a monster. This is a well known transformation in my family, and I go all the way. And that transformation, my friends, leads directly to Anger. I wanted to address all of HALT in this post, so I called in some extra help from a certified health coach. Gabrielle Gray, INHC is a wonderfully talented healer who was totally game to share about the parts of HALT that I feel particularly unqualified (i.e. am particularly prone to) to make recommendations for.
When faced with some HALT level Hunger, Gabrielle goes nuts (sorry!). "I recommend taking down a handful of unsalted nuts of your choosing," Gabrielle says. "They are loaded with healthy fats which contribute to satiety, but also send lots of useful nutrients to your brain. When you’re experiencing any HALT feelings, your brain needs a little back-up!"
Nuts for the nutty! I have done my best to implement this recommendation, and my general wellbeing (and that of those around me) is improved if I can just grab a handful of nuts and eat them instead of spinning into food crisis mode. I have a tendency to grab something junky if I get too far into HALT, which Gabrielle says is a no go: "Avoid taking in simple carbohydrates by themselves when you’re feeling like this, because it can spike your blood sugar, resulting in a hard crash, or an increase in some of the symptoms."
The truth hurts.
Nuts not cutting it? Try a smoothie. "The reason I’d pick this over a green juice in a HALT scenario," Gabrielle says, "is that smoothies are more well-rounded. Whole plants and veggies contribute nutrients and fiber, you can add protein powder to make it more filling, and there is sometimes a healthy fat option as well (coconut oil, nut butter, or chia seeds). By having a smoothie that’s a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat, it’s more of a balanced 'meal' that will get you out of those painful pangs and support you."
So you managed to sleep, call a friend, and eat something that didn't come from the chip aisle of the bodega. And you're still pissed off. Yeah, me too. Anger is the most difficult of the HALT signs for me to address. Anger gets deep into my body, makes my adrenals work overtime, and quickly brings on panic.
Thankfully, Gabrielle had some tips on anger, too. "Remember that old adage about taking 10 deep breaths? That’s not a way to suppress anger," she says. "It can be very calming and clearing. When something happens that triggers your anger or anxiety, we’re not trying to pretend we don’t feel it. We just breathe deeply until we feel better equipped to handle it. This can take you from a reactionary place (where we sometimes say or do things we regret) to a place where you are more thoughtful about the situation, and perhaps even more accepting of some of the things that we don’t have control over."
Deep breathing is great in the heat of the moment, but what about those triggers that you just can't quit? "Simply to write it all out," Gabrielle says. "What got triggered for you? What was coming up in that moment? Write it all on a sheet of paper in a paragraph or list form. You can keep it if you feel like that might help you handle it, but it’s so gratifying to actually throw it away or burn it! Take it out of your brain, put it on paper, and light it up!"
HALTing makes me want to burn things anyway, so this tip has become my go-to. Write it down, burn it up, and move on.
Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired cover so much of the pains that we feel on a daily basis. Self care comes in many forms, but addressing these integral human needs when they appear rather than hoping they'll magically go away (manifestation is powerful but I have yet to see the witch who can use it to balance her blood sugar) lays the foundation for a deeper level of respect for your body and its needs.
Do you HALT? What are your tricks for getting out of the danger zone? Please share in the comments below, and use #HealYourSelfCare on Instagram. Need some new tips? Download my free Self-Care Checklist here.