It is as though someone dragged me aside and beat me with a tired-shtick. The weight of my feet feel are like steel anchors. My shoulders throb in concert with the pain in my lower back. Very loud but invisible bees buzz around my head as though it is their hive. I carry on as my exhausted body toils around the house picking up toys, unfinished food, paints and craft items from the floor.
After a long day of working, I’ve made dinner, washed the laundry, AND the dishes and now, the rest of the house. The children play wildly upstairs. I can hear their laughter and mischievous energy as they spar back and forth.
My body tenses up. I feel myself agitated and impatient. I am filled with unease, as their playfulness at this hour of night, although joy-filled at the moment, usually ends up with the younger child screaming.
“Should I stop them...?” I think to myself.
In an instant, I hear the bellowed cry of my 4-year-old, screeching as she wails. “Mommy!! I hit my head....!”
Taking a breath, and remembering to HALT, I come to a full stop.
Closing my eyes, I inhale, as though it is my last, 1-2-3-4-5.
Slowly I exhale, 1-2-4-4-6-6-7-8-9-10.
Even as I am fully present to my aching, exhausted, weary and tired body, I am also present to my daughter’s need for love, hugs, and comfort.
One slow, deep, conscious breath and I am present once again.
I am tired, but I am present. My little girl needs me.
I am no super mom, but I am here, and I am present for her.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The exhaustion noted in the anecdote above is commonly experienced by moms around the world.
You need not be a mom, however, to experience the feeling of being bone tired.
Being tired, weary and exhausted, however, is a feeling all human beings experience, transcending roles, position and gender differences.
Feeling tired is one physical sign to come to a FULL STOP for critical self-care. In addition to being TIRED, three other physical signs to pay close attention to are when we are HUNGRY, ANGRY and/or LONELY.
Just as a car needs fuel to run, so too, do the trinity of our body, mind, and spirit. We must make sure we are not running on empty.
When we are drained of energy in body, mind, and spirit, it is time to stop and refuel.
Running on fumes is no way to live! When we feel depleted, and we continue to go-go-go, we will invariably experience a breakdown. In that instance, whether we want to or not, we will come to a complete and FULL stop.
To avoid breakdown and disaster, we MUST remember to take care and mindfully stop. A great way to remember to STOP is to associate the word and acronym: HALT.
H.A.L.T. :: Hungry . Angry . Lonely . Tired .
HALT stands for Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, or Tiredness.
I learned the concept of stopping myself from going-going-going (and from running amuck) from a recovery group in al-anon about 2 decades ago.
Being hungry, angry, lonely or tired clouds the decision-making process, causing REACTION rather then the preferred RESPONSE.
Reaction to (or reacting to) a situation usually comes instantaneously from the fight/flight/freeze stress response, not governed by the higher functioning, reasoning brain.
Our processing (and reaction to situations) is essentially stuck in the limbic brain, which governs emotions. When we are not self-aware, and we react (rather than respond), we do so from our emotional brain center (the limbic brain).
For those in recovery (especially from any Anonymous Program), the emotional reaction usually results in relapse or simply acting out. We want to cultivate self-awareness to preclude this from occurring.
When we are stressed, and not aware, we become EMOTIONALLY HIJACKED and do not have access to the frontal lobe of the cerebellum, which governs higher brain functioning such as reasoning, planning and problem-solving.
At any moment, self-care may be as simple as a breath, calling ourselves back: body, mind, and spirit to be present. A breath may be all we need or all we can get in the moment. Being present is a decision of consciousness to not let anyone or any situation get the best of us.
What is Self-Care?
How do you define self-care? One way of defining self-care is to take accountability for one's own life balance. Self-care is exactly as it sounds: to take care of oneself.
It is the intentional caring for oneself in the areas of physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, professional and personal health and well being.
It is self-initiated care to assure an equilibrium, inner and outer, to live sustainably and in balance to our own rhythm of life. Self-care can also refer to accountability in activities of daily living in body, mind, and spirit.
Self Awareness Leads to Self Care
When you know what you need, you can take better care of yourself, particularly when it comes to a basic need. Being self-aware of when you are experiencing hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness (HALT) can prevent you from making regrettable reactionary decisions, whether through action or speech.
The "H" in HALT :: Hunger
The words, “Growly Bear” come to mind. At some point or another either we have experienced grumpiness through hunger, or have witnessed someone affected by grumpiness through anger. Feel free to substitute the word grumpiness with whatever version speaks to you: big ol’ grouch, the Grinch, wrestle-mania candidate, whichever one this is, if you’ve experienced hunger and stress, it is no fun!
Hunger (as in food) after all, is a basic need. When our bellies are not fed, we do not function well. In other words, we become dysfunctional and may react to situations, circumstances, people or things with a side of our personality that is less than ideal.
Physical Signs of Hunger:
- Feeling of emptiness in stomach.
- Gurgling, rumbling or growling in stomach.
- Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness.
- Irritability, easily agitated.
- Lack of concentration.
What to Do When Hungry:
On an empty stomach, we lack the nutrition and the basic resource to deal with life. When you realize you are hungry, HALT.
Do not react.
Stop what you are doing and take care of yourself.
Take a breath.
If you are in the middle of a situation, and your situation requires you to answer another, simply say,
“I cannot respond right now. I will get back to you.”
If you are by yourself and feeling a reaction coming on, say to yourself,
“STOP. I need food right now. I will respond (to this) later.”
Stop what you are doing. Go get some grub. Feed your belly and take time to receive the food.
THe "A" in HALT :: Anger
Ever heard of the idiom “blood boil” to refer to being angry? Some examples are: “that boils my blood” or “my blood is boiling.”
When we are angry, we often feel negatively impaired, our hearts shut off, our brains unable to hear the reasoning, and our body chemistry is not quite right.
Anger is a healthy emotion as it empowers us to reflect, observe and experience being angry without being overwhelmed by it.
However, we should not make any decisions, or react while feeling angry. Anger can also trigger us to act out negatively.
Physical Signs of Anger to Be Aware of:
- Clenching your jaws or grinding your teeth.
- Stomach ache.
- Increased and rapid heart rate.
- Sweating, especially your palms.
- Feeling hot in the neck/face.
- Shaking or trembling.
What to Do When Angry:
In the moment, when you realize you are angry, HALT.
Do not react. Stop what you are doing and take care of yourself.
Take a breath.
If you realize you are angry, even in the middle of a discussion, give yourself permission to be assertive and advocate for yourself.
Rather than reacting, respond by saying,
“Right now, I am feeling angry. ... and I need some time to work through this before I respond. I will get back to you.”
If you are by yourself and find yourself angry, yet, are not at a place that you can process yiur anger, table it. Breathe through it and literally say to yourself,
“STOP. I realize I am angry, but it is not a good time to process my anger at this very moment. I will respond (to this) later.”
Immediately stop what you are doing. Practice self-care: take care of yourself!
Even after your self talk, time a moment. Mindfully receive 5 - 10 long deep SLOW breaths.
Go take a walk, or whatever you need and calm down before addressing the issue at hand.
Finding healthy ways to work out our anger can have a positive impact on our health and relationships for the rest of our lives.
The "L" in HALT :: Loneliness
Feeling lonely has little (if any) to do with the number of people around you. You can be in a room full of people, even loved Ones, and still feel alone.
Whether you are by yourself or with another, loneliness has to do with meaningful connection.
If you are feeling alone or feeling lonely, it is important to first and foremost, be aware of it.
When you have awareness of when you feel lonely, take steps to consciously reconnect: with yourself. And then, reach out to others.
What I find vital about connection is authenticity. Superfluous small talk and inauthentic fake relationships often create even more distance, leaving you to feel isolated and disconnected.
Signs of Loneliness to Consider:
- You would do anything rather than being alone.
- When you are alone, you distract yourself from being with your thoughts.
- You are always connected (wi-if, social media).
- You feel panicky at the thought of needing to be alone.
What to Do When You Are Feeling Alone:
In the moment, when you realize you are feeling lonely or alone, HALT.
Do not panic. Do not react.
Come to a full stop. In that moment, stop what you are doing and take care of yourself.
Take a breath.
If you are feeling alone, even in the middle of a discussion, stop to acknowledge how you are feeling. Self-honesty is about being truthful to yourself, and to not deceive yourself.
Even if acknowledging what is going on for you right now feels sad, doing so is a way of accepting yourself, seeing yourself and loving yourself - just as you are.
If you are in the middle of a conversation and realize that you are feeling alone, honor it!
Honor yourself and whatever isbup with you and respond by saying,
“Right now, I need to deal with what’s going on with me before I respond. I will get back to you.”
If you are alone and feeling lonely, I mmediately stop what you are doing.
Acknowledge how you are feeling.
Take 3-5 long, deep, SLOW breaths.
Be with what is, take a walk, meditate, journal, be with a pet, talk to a friend, or whatever you need to reconnect before addressing the issue at hand, or whatever is triggering you.
In any situation, when you are feeling lonely, think about the idea of HALT. Stop and ask yourself what you need to reconnect.
If no one is available that you can connect with, how would you reconnect with yourself? What do you need to feel less alone? Only you can determine how to replenish and nourish your emotional need for connection.
THE "T" IN HALT :: Tired
My illustration above about being tired is typical. As we give and give and give, we must remember to refuel and receive.
In many instances, as we build our business, do our work, play out or roles as ____ (fill in the blank), we often lose sight of our physiological/biological/spiritual/energetic need to rest.
I’m not referring simply to the rest we receive through sleep but about rejuvenation - replenishing our tired, tattered being (our consciousness, soul, energy) through time off, quiet, silence and by simply being.
Signs of Feeling Tired (Fatigue):
- Chronic tiredness or sleepiness
- Sore or aching muscles
- Muscle weakness
- Slowed reflexes and responses
- Impaired decision-making and judgment
- Moodiness, such as irritability
- Impaired hand-to-eye coordination
- Appetite loss
- Reduced immune system function
- Blurry vision
- Short-term memory problems
- Poor concentration
- Reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand
- Low motivation
- REF: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue
What to Do When Feeling Tired:
In the middle of a situation, when you suddenly realize you are tired, HALT.
Do not react. Stop what you are doing and take care of yourself.
Take a breath.
Even if you are in the middle of a spirited debate, give yourself permission to cease further dialogue. Rather than reacting,
Respond by saying, “Right now, I am really tired. Rather than saying something I may regret, l will need to get back to you.”
If you are by yourself, then say to yourself, “STOP. I am feeling TIRED right now. I will respond (to this) later.”
Immediately stop what you are doing. Take a couple of deep SLOW breaths.
Be sure that you are clear headed, and rested (if possible) before addressing the issue at hand.
This way, you are not reacting to your trigger but responding from your best self.
Self-care is a trend right now, and not just for millennials, but for everyone: Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers, and especially baby boomers! Take advantage of this positive movement so that you can serve for a place of abundance and overflow, rather than fear and lack.
There are so many tools to help and empower you along the way. The idea of stopping, to HALT, can be a simple resource for you to act not through fear, but through kindness, authenticity, and Love.
What may work for others might not work for you. The examples above are guidelines set to help you along. Know that it is a practice.
It takes time to master HALT, and not only will you find your way, you will pave your own path along the process, and help others too!
Not so much always in motion of doing, doing, doing, but by being ... in the moment, in prayer, in silence, in the rhythmic and replenish task of doing or making something with your hands, be it journaling, laundry, gardening or knitting.
Tips to Refuel for Deeper Practice
No matter how well-meaning or innocent, when we are lacking energy and our natural resource to deal with people, places, and things, we may react and not respond in the best manner.
Before you say or do something you might regret, take a breathe... check in with yourself and assess where you are in your personal energetic (spiritual/emotional) fuel reserves. I use the popular 1-10 scale.
Honestly and Objectively Rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10 (please refrain from self-judgment):
1 : Being full, completely not deficient
5 : Being that you are operating at 50%
10 : Being empty or totally depleted.
Decide before you ever get to a HALT situation, what you will do if you fall below a certain number.
For instance, on the Hunger Scale, you may decide that you will simply walk away from a conversation if you find yourself at a rating of 5 or lower.
And on the Anger Scale, you may decide that you will simply walk away from a conversation if you find yourself at a rating of 8 or lower.
Perhaps your tolerance is higher on the Lonely scale and you will stick with it unless your (self-rated) score is 3 or less.
On the Tired Scale, you may know yourself too well that any score below an 8 would not be ideal for you so that if you score any lower, you’d know it’s best to table a discussion (or reaction) till you are rested.
Note: Remember Loves ~ the relationship you have with yourself is dynamic, requiring practice, patience, compassion, faith, hope, and love. Do the assessment until it is feels right. Do it again and again to adjust as needed. You will see that over time, your tolerance (for self and others!) grows deeper in proportion to your self-awareness.
Having this self-assessment and self-score can help you avoid regrettable experiences of what you hoped you would NOT have said or done.
This practice will cultivate presence and create space so you become available for YOUR PRECIOUS SELF, leading to a deeper sense of self-awareness, greater self-respect, and increased self-esteem.
As you mindfully and carefully take time to care for yourself, to refuel, and to replenish your energy, you will empower yourself to be fully present to your Loved Ones in a way that truly supports your soul's work. Blessings!!