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H.A.L.T. in the Name of Love

Remember the last time the naughty side of you unintentionally, seemingly out of nowhere, reared her/his ugly head? And before you could make heads or tails of it, it left a mess in her/his wake. I do. And it wasn’t pretty.

Once I got a hold of myself I realized it wasn’t my significant others fault the dishwasher wasn’t working, or the end of the world I forgot my lunch, all drivers on the road weren’t in need of having their licenses revoked and I’m not lazy because I skipped the gym and had a glass of wine instead. This loss in perspective and motivation was the result of not making my self-care a priority. A week of not getting enough sleep had its consequences.

In the past, before I learned to H.A.L.T., there was little curiosity as to why I found myself with little to no patience, a lack of motivation, a high propensity for irritation, frustration, blame and a generally pessimistic attitude until after naughty me was put to rest. At that point, I either felt justified in my mood and actions or resigned to the fact I was a horrible person.

I first encountered the acronym H.A.L.T. when I was working as a therapist at an eating disorder facility 17 years ago. H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry/Anxious (an emotional state I added), Lonely, and Tired. Each one of these five physical or emotional conditions, if not noticed and addressed, leaves one vulnerable for relapse.

Relapse for an individual with an eating disorder, means turning to the eating disorder behaviors to manage discomfort in ones’ life. After years of supporting people with other mental health conditions and with making lifestyle changes many underestimate the importance of self-care to their emotional well-being. The acronym H.A.L.T. is an effective strategy for managing mood and self-care.

The next time you catch a glimpse of naughty you literally H.A.L.T. The goal is to intervene as early as possible. Once the negative emotion train has left the station it’s gone. Along with the ability to problem solve and think clearly. Thankfully, these cognitive abilities will return once the intensity of emotion subsides.

H.A.L.T.-ing regularly will also increase your awareness of how this version of you shows up. As well as the aspects of your self-care needing more attention. Eventually, with regular practice, you will be H.A.L.T.-ing before the negative emotion train has a chance to leave the station.

Once the negative emotion subsides take inventory of what aspect of your self-care is screaming for attention. Next make plans to address and correct as soon as possible. If an immediate fix is not possible in the moment, at least you’ll have greater insight as to why naughty you came for a visit.

Just being able to make sense of a change in mood can provide some immediate relief. Plus, it’s a golden opportunity to practice treating yourself with compassion. In fact, cutting yourself some slack is a sure- fire way to send naughty you far, far away.

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