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O, HALT! 4 Steps to Avoid Regretting Bad Choices

A tool I use often as a therapist, a wife, and a mother is to HALT.

When I HALT, it prevents me from making decisions that I may regret, choices that will impact me negatively. I learned about this many years ago in my work with substance abuse counselors but I’ve found it to be applicable in nearly every area of life where an impulsive decision could lead to chaos.

So, how does one HALT? Do you just stop what you’re doing? Sort of, but I love that this acronym gives us a built in check list for a quick body scan to make sure we are behaving as the human we want to be.

4 Steps to Avoid Bad Choices

STEP 1: Notice that you’re heading towards certain disaster. This is often accompanied by a fast heart rate, a feeling of deep annoyance, or a sudden desire to just blow up.

STEP 2: Do the quick body scan below. Ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or overwhelmed (O, HALT!)

STEP 3: Take steps to address any O, HALT areas that are “off.”

STEP 4: Make decision at your own risk. (Decision making is such an adulting thing to do.)


(H) Hungry

Hungry = Hangry. We have literally coined a term that pokes fun at the dysregulation people feel when their bodies get too hungry.

A way to prevent this is to eat nutrient dense meals regularly and enjoy healthy snacks when you need one. Keeping up your water intake is another very important element to prevent hunger from rearing it’s ugly head.

(A) Angry

“I make fantastic decisions when I’m super mad.” -Said no one ever.

This is also a no-brainer. When we are overcome with emotion to the point that we identify as being angry, we need to calm down before making any decisions. We can do this by taking a few deep breaths to get some oxygen to our brains and help our pre-frontal cortex get back online.

(L) Lonely

Brene Brown is known for the comment “in the absence of connection, there is always suffering.” As humans we were not designed to exist in a vacuum. Human connection is a core psychological need. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, love and belonging is shown to be more important than self-esteem.

Covid has pushed even the most introverted person into loneliness over the past year. It’s harder than ever to see our loved ones and to get the support that we need from each other.

Did you know that loneliness can actually make us sick? Psychology Today reports that loneliness is associated with depression and other forms of mental illness, Type 2 diabetes, and arthritis. Some studies suggest that lonely people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their counterparts. This is serious stuff!

We can address loneliness by calling a family member or setting up a Zoom date with a friend. It’s more important than ever that we become intentional about nourishing our friendships and checking in on our loved ones.

Who can you call to brighten their day? (and yours!)

(T) Tired

In her book, The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin talks about setting an alarm to remind her to go to bed at a reasonable time. She would find herself feeling exhausted after staying up way too late doing silly things like zoning out in front of the tv but not actually enjoying the shows she watched. I used to do this a lot, too. I knew I would hate myself in the morning but I had nothing keeping me accountable. I’ve had an alarm on my phone to tell me to go to bed since I first read Rubin’s book almost a decade ago!

(Pro Tip: The Happiness Project is a fantastic book that provides many practical tips to help promote behaviors that increase your individual happiness. Highly recommend!)

Getting enough sleep can ensure you won’t be a cranky, walking zombie. You’re more likely to get sick if you don’t get enough sleep and your brain is unable to regenerate properly so do as your mama told you and “Get to bed!”

When I struggle to sleep, I take Melatonin and do a bedtime meditation to help relax my body. There are tons of free options for meditations on YouTube.

(O) Overwhelmed

Anyone else feeling completely overwhelmed in the world of sorting life out Mid-Covid? There are 24 hours in a day and I’m certain I do 30 hours of work, e-learning, housework, and child rearing daily. You would think this would make us feel like Superman or SuperWoman but all we feel is #SuperOverIt.

Every friend I have and client I meet talks about how completely overwhelming life has become as we endure medical fears, burying friends and family, political issues, financial concerns, changing work conditions, and e-learning. For the last year all we have done is PIVOT (cue Friends reference) and we are flipping tired. As an adult, I know that change is the only constant, but for the love, this is feeling a little ridiculous.

I know this is just a rough season and someday we will look back and speak in disbelief about how we spent the time of Covid much like we ask “Where were you on 9/11?” For now though, while we process life moving at the speed of light through a global pandemic, be gentle with yourself. Set good boundaries, try to find reasons to feel grateful everyday, and know when to “say uncle”and call the emotional fire department aka a therapist. I’m here and so are my colleagues.

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