Did you know that when your basic needs aren’t met, you lose your ability to think rationally and logically? You see, if we neglect ourselves, we’re not able to participate in our lives fully. When we let ourselves get run down, we no longer have the ability to think clearly, and it isn’t possible to make good decisions.
Taking Care of Yourself is Important
The acronym HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired.
Using the acronym HALT is an excellent way to check in with ourselves. It reminds us to stop and redirect our focus, to pay attention to and meet our own needs to take care of our well-being. It is a method used in many 12-step programs to teach the importance of focusing on ourselves while doing difficult healing or growth work
Applying the acronym HALT or The HALT Method to our lives is also a way to set healthy boundaries. It’s a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves, beginning with our basic needs. When we go without food or sleep, or we isolate or don’t attend to our stressors, it depletes our ability to cope.
Using HALT is a very simple way to alert us to pay attention to our well-being. Using HALT means we stop what we’re doing and come back to it only after we’ve taken care of our unmet need(s).
The effects of self-neglect
If we ignore our need to eat, deal with anger, be with people or sleep, we create an unhealthy emotional environment for ourselves where it’s impossible to thrive. When we’re in that unhealthy emotional environment, we may think negatively, have a sour outlook, fail to see obvious choices, make poor decisions, forget, withdraw, push people away, or stop socializing. We may stop enforcing our personal boundaries or lapse back into codependent behaviors.
Neglecting ourselves in order to take care of someone, especially those capable of their own self-care, can make us ill. We need to pay attention to what our bodies tell us and then focus back to ourselves.
Why self-care is essential
When we learn to take care of ourselves, life feels better. When we make the effort to take care of our needs because we feel worthy of taking care of ourselves, our self-esteem improves. Our beliefs about what we should hang onto, and what we should let go of start to change, and we start setting healthy boundaries. We start to understand what’s our responsibility and what’s not. Part of the process is having a quick and easy way of checking in to see what we need and then giving it to ourselves.
Remember that airline mandate about putting on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others with theirs? In the same spirit, ensure that your self-care commitments are at least as important to you as someone else’s would be. If you don’t take care of yourself, then who will? No one is capable of caring more about you than you are!
How to Use HALT
Hunger is a sign that we are lacking or in need of something physical or emotional hunger. Are we hungry for food? Ask yourself: Is my stomach growling? Am I irritable or lightheaded? When was the last time I ate? Physical hunger is associated with food, diet, and nutrition, which are undeniably important aspects of our overall health.
We require nourishing food in order to be well and thrive. Let’s treat ourselves with kindness. Take a look at how and what you’re eating and see if there’s room for improvement.
Maybe we’re feeling emotional hunger. Ask yourself: Am I craving attention, validation, affection, or affirmation? Stop and do a quick self-assessment to figure out what you need. Validate yourself. Affirm yourself. If you need attention or affection, find ways to give those to yourself too.
When we’re angry, our brain is flooded with chemicals meant to activate our “fight or flight” response. So if we’re feeling angry, it’s easy to overreact and our behavior will almost certainly be out of proportion to the actual event that triggered it.
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that there is always an emotion that we feel first, for a fraction of a second. It’s that first (primary) emotion that triggers anger.
So when we’re angry, it’s important to stop and figure out the primary emotion.
Let’s say that you suddenly find yourself angry because you feel disrespected. If you look closely enough, you may find that the first trigger was a spoken message. Someone just said words to you that started the whole thing. Those words caused (“triggered”) an emotionally sensitive belief to re-surface, a belief like “I’m not good enough“ or “I’m not important.”
The “I’m not good enough/I’m not important” belief is loaded with feelings that were the first emotions that you felt for just a split second. Those feelings triggered the anger.
- The first trigger was spoken words.
- The second trigger was feeling “not good enough/not important”.
- “Not good enough/not important” triggered the anger. The words that were spoken to you did not trigger your anger.
It’s really fascinating, isn’t it?
The “not good enough/I’m not important“ beliefs are stories we repeatedly tell ourselves. We have LOTS of stories. They’re often on autoplay! We can catch ourselves when we start hearing those narratives and turn them off. We CAN learn to control what we tell ourselves. For now, try to start looking deeper when you get angry. See if you can find the primary emotion and the trigger that caused it. Start making a list of your triggers. You’ll learn some interesting things about yourself and you’ll start seeing patterns. Eventually, you’ll be able to devise a strategy to use when the triggers present themselves again in the future.
When we feel lonely it’s often because we feel like we don’t fit in or belong, or we think that people won’t accept us or understand us or our current situation. Sometimes it’s because we’ve withdrawn from others, because of the fear of being criticized or judged, or even worse, rejected.
Loneliness leads to isolation and isolation is often used as a maladaptive coping mechanism. Trying to fix loneliness by drinking, binge eating, shopping, or gambling doesn’t solve the problem. Those are self-destructive behaviors and they just create new problems. The cure for isolation (and loneliness) is to be willing to step out of our comfort zones, feel vulnerable and reach out to make a connection.
Learn more about isolation here.
When we’re tired or sleepy, we’re extremely vulnerable to making poor choices because our brains aren’t functioning optimally. Healthy sleep cycles and routines are essential for both physical and mental health.
When we’re sleep-deprived for whatever reason, it’s not the time for making decisions or having important conversations. If you find yourself tired and you have an important meeting to attend or an important decision to make, postpone it if possible until you’re better-rested.
Using the acronym HALT or The HALT Method is a simple (but not always easy) way to foster mindfulness and self-awareness. Both mindfulness and self-awareness are vital for insight and personal growth. Personal growth allows us to live a happier, more fulfilled life.
Try using The HALT Method to foster better self-awareness and to remind yourself to practice good self-care.
Download the free guide: The HALT Method for Self-care (and BONUS: How to Set Boundaries)
- HALT: Check in with yourself to see if you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Give yourself what you need.
- Conscious awareness: Be aware and make conscious choices before acting. Self-awareness releases us from making impulsive and potentially damaging decisions.
- Progress not perfection: Let’s give ourselves credit and just enjoy being human! No one is perfect. People just like to pretend they are.
- I’m in control of me. We can only choose to focus on and be responsible for ourselves, our own thoughts, actions, and behavior. The good news is that we can change ourselves with patience, persistence, and practice. We can take responsibility for getting our needs met instead of waiting for someone to change or meet our needs for us. We are in control of ourselves, and no one is responsible for us but us.
- Understand the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse
- Set boundaries
- Learn about codependency
- Learn about letting go with positive detachment
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About the Author
As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and with the help of professional therapists and continued personal growth, Diane Metcalf developed strong coping and healing strategies. She happily shares those with those who want to learn and grow in their own recovery journies.
Diane is an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer on narcissism, family dysfunction, and abuse. She draws from her personal childhood experiences, as well as her work in human service fields like domestic violence and partner abuse. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Her transformational books about healing and moving forward include the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series. This emotionally supportive collection explains narcissistic traits and teaches how to reconcile past hurts to begin self-nurturing, healing, and moving forward.
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.