Last week I wrote a post about the importance of starting and this week, in a somewhat different context, I’m writing about the importance of stopping or more accurately pausing. A couple of years ago, I discovered a simple but effective tool, which has in many ways changed my life. The tool is a technique called HALT and it is designed to encourage us to pause and take a moment to consciously consider our needs in certain types of situation.

A self-care technique that works

HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired and the technique involves asking ourselves, when necessary, if we are feeling one or more of these four things in order to help us to better understand what we might need to do for ourselves in a given situation.

I first heard of the HALT technique around two years ago and the reason for my interest was a tendency I used to have to react emotionally in certain situations with others. As a result, I have over the years been described as both feisty and hot-headed and could often be left regretting my behaviour after the event, as a result of reacting too quickly to a situation or person.

This technique has taught me to pause and reflect before taking impulsive action and to give myself the time to ask myself whether or not I am feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired (or a combination of the four). As well as situations like mine, I’ve also seen this technique recommended for a number of other impulsive or “trigger” behaviours such as emotional eating, smoking or making impulse purchases.

As a result of using this technique and other personal development tools, I am less likely to act impulsively these days, but the tool still holds a lot of value for me. Nowadays I’m most likely to use it to ascertain what I might be needing at times when I’m feeling under par, not on top form or a little low or snappy.

I used it recently during a difficult and challenging conversation in the workplace when suddenly out of nowhere I felt a wave of emotion rising within me, I managed to hold it together in the moment, but after the meeting I found an empty room and took some time out to ask myself whether I was feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired. On this occasion, I immediately recognised that I was feeling particularly exhausted due to a recent lack of sleep and I also recognised, with some surprise, that I was actually feeling a bit lonely as a result of being too busy to catch up with loved ones for a number of days.

As a result of this check-in, I immediately knew what I needed to do in order to feel better. I made plans to meet up with my closest friend that evening for a much-needed catch-up before heading home to get an early night. Problem solved.

How do we ‘solve’ anger? 

When I first started using the tool, I felt confident that I could recognise when I was feeling hungry, lonely or tired and just as confident that I was able to rectify those states by simply eating something, spending time with friends and family or simply getting some sleep. Angry, on the other hand, I struggled with. Anger for me was easy to spot but unlike the others, far more difficult in my mind, to rectify.

With time, I came to understand that the purpose anger plays in my life is to serve as a warning sign that for whatever reason, I’m not looking after myself in that moment and that could be by not speaking up for myself or asserting what I need. Some time ago, I wrote a post that goes into much more detail about how we can deal with anger but its key message is that anger is less likely when we are routinely taking responsibility for getting our needs met.

A reminder to take care of ourselves

For me, using this tool has gone beyond preventing impulsive behaviour or understanding the cause of such behaviour after the event and become a reminder to pay more attention to looking after myself from the get go. Understanding how allowing myself to become hungry, angry, lonely or tired can effect my mood and emotional wellbeing has meant that these days I pay much more attention to ensuring that I am not only well fed but also well-nourished, that I build in and plan for quality time with friends and family and that I take responsibility for looking after myself and meeting my needs.

Getting adequate amounts of sleep, however, is the area that I personally struggle with the most and it’s actually this problem that provided the inspiration for this post. Of late, my sleeping patterns have been worse than usual and consequently, I’ve found myself getting to sleep far later and getting up even earlier than usual. The adverse side-affects of this situation are plain to see. On the plus side, however, something I noticed last month, having had a couple of nights of good sleep, was what a hugely positive impact getting enough sleep made to my life, emotional wellbeing and productivity. A state I’m keen to replicate on a more regular basis.

Listening to ourselves is a skill worth learning

What I think I love most about this tool is the fact that it has taught me to listen to myself and check in with what’s going on for me when I’m not feeling quite right. So often, as a result of our busy and hectic lives, we deny what we are really feeling and push on through regardless. When I do this for too long, inevitably the cracks start to show and through using this technique I’m quickly reminded how to put myself back together again.

How are you at looking after yourself? Have you mastered the art of self-care or do you sometimes find yourself falling short? I’d love to hear from you if you have ever used this technique in the past or if you start to use it as a result of this post and want to share how it worked for you. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to share it using one of the buttons below.