I ran across the acronym H.A.L.T for a reminder in times of stress or distress on the Flylady mailing list.
Basically, it runs like this.
Self: I feel like crap. I’m ruminating. I’m upset, I hate the world (or myself, or whatever tends to be your danger signal for negative emotion).
This can be a trigger to H.A.L.T — examine yourself.
The acronym stands for four things that it is useful to check for:
The order is actually important.
First is Hungry.
Humans are not meant to function well when we are hungry. Hunger means that we need to make it our first priority to fuel our bodies or we’ll die. Oh we take pride in “forgetting to eat” or some such nonsense, sometimes — proof of God knows what. Maybe you think it means you’re being focused. Maybe you want to prove to yourself that you don’t have a bad relationship with food. Whatever.
Not fueling up on a regular basis doesn’t help your mood. Me? I’m lucky. I get cranky as all hell if I fast. I know it. I get clear signals. So, I try to eat about five times a day. Yes, you heard me right. Five times a day (I follow more or less a weightlifter’s regimen. It takes off the excess fat while keeping me comfortably satisfied). I don’t drive myself into negative moods that are too difficult to control from lack of eating. I challenge you to do an experiment and keep an hourly mood chart sometime. I guarentdamntee that you find a correlation between negative mood and a meal too far in the past. If you feel you’re losing control of your feelings and are hungry, often fueling up with something healthy will calm you down and help you gain perspective.1
Second is Angry. Anger is an emotion with a strong imperative. It’s also biologically based as a protection mechanism. If you’re angry, you’re feeling a need to protect yourself. It’s a healthy enough trigger if you treat it properly and check out what you’re angry about. Are you setting good boundaries? Are you enforcing them? If you’re spiraling and you’re not hungry, check out the anger issues. Plenty of people don’t acknowledge anger and what it means. Is that what’s going on? Do you need to speak up about something? Are you hanging on to something that it would be useful to let go?
Third is Lonely. We humans are social creatures. Yes, even cranky misanthropes need company from time to time. Spiraling emotions, if you’re neither hungry nor angry, can be loneliness. This can be a trickier one to satisfy immediately. If you’re reading this, though, chances are good you’re online in a forum where you can at least chat with someone. Try it. If it helps, that might be your issue.
Last on the list is Tired. We’re not meant to chug along like steam engines and never stop. We need sleep. We need rest of other sorts. If you’ve eaten, don’t feel angry, and you find that you’ve had enough company to satisfy you, then it might very well be that you’re tired. Take a nap, if you can.
Following this won’t mean that you’ll always feel great. Life isn’t like that. As people we have our ups and downs. What this is meant to do is to help you in times of stress to help you keep your cool and stay balanced. It’s meant to help you make helpful decisions instead of merely reacting in times of stress.
1 Yes, this can be the basis for emotional and binge eating. My own personal touchstone for whether or not it’s actually hunger vs. a desire to eat emotionally is if cobb salad will satisfy me. If it will, it’s hunger. If it’s chocolate or bread or somesuch, chances are that I need to go further down the HALT list and see what need is unmet.