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Mental Health

Four Stress Triggers and How to Shut Them Down Now

Four Stress Triggers and How to Shut Them Down Now


This quick self-check system will help you avoid the combinations of emotions, thoughts, and low energy level that can leave you open to problems.

H.A.L.T.! If you have ever been involved in a 12-step group, you are most likely already familiar this acronym. That’s where it originated. H.A.L.T. refers to four physical and emotional conditions that, for someone with an addiction, can lead to relapse. But I think that H.A.L.T. has a lot of value for anyone who wants to keep their daily perspective in balance. So, what does H.A.L.T. stand for? Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired.

H.A.L.T. provides you with a way to do a quick scan of your own personal wellness. Using H.A.L.T. can help you to stay focused in the present moment, which, in turn, can help you to avoid the combinations of emotions, thoughts, and low energy level that can leave you open to stress. 

I think of H.A.L.T. as the evil brothers who have a way of finding their way into your house and, before you know it, ruin your day. Just one of them can leave you feeling so off balance that you end up opening the door to one of the others, which can make you even more vulnerable. 

When you are overly hungry, you’re not at your best physically, mentally, or emotionally. It may be hard to think clearly. Your energy may be low. And you may find yourself prone to overreacting, and to feel anxious. 

If you’re angry, old resentments and disappointments can suddenly bubble up, out of the blue. This can leave you in the position of potentially flying off the handle at a situation that you would normally be able to recognize and either deal with appropriately or walk away from. The Fight response just leads to more fighting. 

Loneliness leaves you feeling uncared for, sad, and isolated. The world doesn’t look like an especially welcoming place from that perspective and makes you more likely to feel helpless and hopeless.

When we’re too tired, it’s not only harder to maintain a perspective on what you have to do to help yourself, it’s also harder to self-motivate enough to even care. 

What I am encouraging you to do is to place your own self-care first. Be mindful of how you’re feeling. And when you discover that one or more of the evil siblings has found their way into your life, then do an intervention to take care of yourself and send that one packing. 

Here are some ideas: 

Hungry? Put yourself on a schedule to eat regular meals. Choose healthy food that that matches your individual physical make-up, your preferences, your time, and your budget. Avoid empty carbs and sugar which can, in turn, affect your blood sugar level. When you feel a shift in your mood, checking in on your hunger is a good starting place. 

Angry? Stand outside yourself and ask: What’s going on here? What kinds of thoughts am I mulling over? Am I getting caught up in that continuous loop of memories of past put-downs and hurts from the past? Remind yourself that anger is just a feeling. It doesn’t have to control you. Acknowledge angry thoughts and then dismiss them. Accept that bad things have happened in the past. Now, you have more important things to focus on. 

Lonely? Avoid loneliness by staying in touch with your support network, keeping friends and family close by, scheduling time in advance to make sure you aren’t spending too much time in isolation. And when you do feel lonely, reach out to someone who can listen and give you some support. 

Tired?  Pay attention to your body. Avoid over-scheduling yourself and trying to meet too many competing demands. Decide what your priorities are and build in adequate time for your body to recharge. Learn to say no. Build in relaxation time where you can, and get a good night’s sleep. You know when you haven’t had enough rest. Stop the action and rest when you need to. 

Monitor your own well-being by asking yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. This will help you to keep yourself in balance – fortified against the uncertainties of life, maintaining your strength, and staying focused on the road ahead. 



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Gary McClain