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HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired

HALT is a saying that asks you to take stock of how you’re feeling. It’s preparation before you engage in any stressful event. It touches on the dangerous feelings that can make us vulnerable to emotional distress or the temptation to drink: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.

We’ll look at the ideal times to go through the checklist and what the vulnerabilities mean.

What HALT Means

HALT implies we take a pause and take stock. If we’re about to engage in a stressful activity or currently participating in one where we’re losing our composure, it’s a good time to remember HALT.

If we determine an aspect of HALT that we need to fix, we should refrain from the activity and resolve it. For instance, when we’re hungry, we take time to eat. When we’re tired, we pause to rest or take a nap.

Hungry is the easiest to fix. We can prepare a snack or meal. We can also take with us throughout the day something to snack on, such as a granola bar, candies, or chocolates. We keep these with us all the time, so we’re always ready to fill the need to eat.

Angry is hard to fix immediately in most cases. If a resentment isn’t something we can resolve now, we have to set it aside and plan for it later. We can also pray for the person we’re mad at, such as wishing them the best things in life, as a way to ease the heat of our anger.

Lonely. We can resolve loneliness temporarily by calling someone in the program. This may be a sponsor or close friend. Instead of complaining about our lives, it’s helpful to listen to theirs and offer suggestions. When we’re there for someone else, loneliness is decreased, and we’ve not focused on our problems the entire conversation, which tends to make them more prominent in our minds.

We can also make plans with someone on a date down the road. When we ask ourselves if we’re lonely, we may find we’ve been isolating and cutting ourselves off with contact with others. This is a good indication to change course, open up more with our friends, and make plans to get together.

Tired we can resolve with a nap or even scheduling an event for a future date when we have more energy. We don’t need to fix every problem today. If we’re overwhelmed with fatigue and just not up to tackling an issue, it’s helpful to push it in the future and sleep on it.

We should also check if our sleep schedules are healthy. Are we staying up late reading our phones or playing video games? Can we take actions at night to make falling asleep easier, such as a warm shower or activities we can cut out?

When to ask yourself the HALT questions

Certain occasions are ideal to ask yourself if you need to HALT. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired currently? They are usually ones that require us to perform at our best, engage in stressful scenarios, and take us out of our comfort zones. Taking care of all facets of HALT beforehand can ensure we perform at our best.

Before a long event

Events that put us in a new environment for long periods can be difficult, including conferences, educational lectures, or strenuous flights/car trips. Being emotionally and physically healthy throughout the entire course takes preparation before and during the excursion.

We should pack snacks or peppermints for the hunger pangs along the way. We should also not be shy about stepping out and getting fresh air or calling someone in the program.

Before a stressful communication

If we have ahead of us a talk with our boss, a combative family member, or an authority figure, it’s a great time to check in with HALT. When we cover all the bases, we’ll be fortified with more patience, tolerance, and a sense of well-being despite what the other person throws at us.

Social Events

HALT is especially useful before we go to drinking events, like parties. The questions are designed to protect against relapse or even the thought to drink. Being hungry at drinking events is, for many people, a recipe for disaster.

Though unrelated to HALT, we must have our own, separate transportation at drinking events, so we don’t need to rely on anyone if we need to leave early. We should also check in with our sponsors before we go.

Any time you’re feeling emotionally stressed

When we’re feeling drained or wrapped up in anxiety, HALT comes into play again. We may need a long nap or a sandwich. We may find our anxiety has caused us to skip a meal or cut into our regular sleep.

Emotions have a way of feeding off our physical status. When we take care of our bodies, our feelings tend to follow.

When we can’t fix a problem in HALT

There’s sometimes a quick fix for HALT, and sometimes not. For instance, if we’re in extreme anger or loneliness, it’s best to skip stressful events and focus on the root cause or resolution. We don’t want to risk relapse or causing our emotional disturbances to spiral out of control.

Setting issues aside

It also helps to practice putting these problems in a “God box.” In other words, we set the issues aside for our higher power to take care of. We can get back to them when we’re inspired with new ideas and actions to overcome them. Putting something in the God box is a practice of letting go and waiting for intuition to provide the best course of action.

Taking care of the easy fixes and the hard ones

Hunger and fatigue are easy fixes, on the other hand. The longer we stay sober, the more in tune we become with our bodies. We start to accommodate our lives for days when we have poor sleep and general malaise. We know when to put off essential engagements because our minds and bodies may not be up to the task.

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