There is a great acronym to alert you to the danger zone in how you will respond to a situation. This acronym is helpful to prevent you from going into high-stakes situations and discussions with the wrong mentality. Built into the acronym is the concept of stopping yourself before you do something you may regret.
When I was at Alpha Academy several years ago, I learned this simple method and it has benefited me and the many young men that were taught it at the Alpha Academy.
Have you ever been in an argument and looked back and thought, why did our discussion over what’s for dinner blow up? Or maybe you got home late from work and didn’t get a work project completed and you snap at one of your kids. Remember that last stupid decision? This acronym will help you understand why you acted that way and help you stop it the next time.
The concept comes from the world of drug and alcohol addiction. It stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These four little words do not create much trouble on their own, but when two, three, or more come together at the same time, watch out.
Think back to your answers to the questions above. When you had the argument over dinner, was it because you were hungry because it was late in the evening, tired from a long day of work, and stressed from things still incomplete? It’s hard to remain rational when you are dealing with this combination of stressors.
When we step back and know we are feeling a combination of these “symptoms,” we can approach situations from a much healthier perspective.
Learning When You Need to HALT
Children illustrate the sort of irrational thought that happens when a combination of HALT comes up. Recently, my wife and I were looking at bunk beds with Annaliese and Haleigh at a local store. We asked Annaliese to climb the ladder and it scared her, so we had her try a different ladder, that scared her too.
Now she’s stressed from being scared and she actually slipped a little on the second ladder. Because she can’t seem to climb over and is stressed she begins to get angry and combine this with it being about 11 am or so, she is hungry too. Needless to say, she was not a good listener and began to have crying fits and was a nightmare to get back home.
Instead of pushing through this, we should have left at the first store when she was struggling with being Hungry and Angry. But we went to the next and it didn’t go over well. This was our fault as parents to not recognize our need to HALT the situation.
When You Stop and Reflect Think HALT
As adults, we need to recognize when a combination of these “symptoms” arrives and HALT. Use this list when you are going to enter a challenging situation and stop yourself from doing something you’ll regret by recognizing:
- You skipped a meal (usually breakfast).
- You’ve been at work all day and are “starving” when you get home.
- You forgot to eat something after a workout.
- You didn’t get what you wanted in a situation
- Someone at work has been irritating you all day.
- You get cut off in traffic.
- You failed yourself or someone else in some way.
- Your spouse is being unreasonable.
- You realize you’ve been home alone every night this week.
- You lost a friend.
- You go through a breakup.
- You get left out of doing something fun with friends or family.
- You haven’t been sleeping well.
- You’re fatigued from a high amount of stress.
- You had a long fun weekend and are tired.
- Your children aren’t sleeping well.
- You have been sick for several days.
When any combination of the items on this list come together it is important to recognize them for what they are, stressors and warnings. These warnings will help you to HALT and make a slower decision.
Use HALT like a Stop Light
I think of HALT like a stop light. With none or just one of these, the light will be green and we can go through. With two of these “symptoms” showing the light is automatically yellow and at times will be red. In this scenario, we need to proceed with caution or stop altogether and not go on.
When we are experiencing 3 “symptoms” the light is red. We must stop. Evaluate what needs to change before we proceed. This usually means waiting until the light turns green. If we don’t wait, sometimes the result is we make it through and get lucky. Other times it’s an ugly and damaging wreck.
So how do you know the light is green? This is a lot easier to determine because the hard work has been done. You’ve recognized you are Loney and Tired, and that the light is red, great!
Now, when do you step on the gas again? Simple, when the light is green! Hear me out, at a stop light, you only go when the light is green and you have a clear marker to alert you to this. The big stop light goes from red to green and no other traffic goes through the intersection.
If you recognize why you are feeling the way you are feeling you are aware of your surroundings, you can judge if you can go or not. You may proceed with caution and make sure no one is running the light like you almost did, but you can now go.
The irrational decision has already passed, you’ve recognized where you are in the HALT arena and now can think rationally. The battle is almost won. In this case, since you are Lonely and Tired, maybe you need to get some brief rest or connect with a friend. Making daily decisions like this can prevent mistakes and keep you from damaging relational, financial, or emotional decisions.
What if I recognize my issue but still can’t make a rational decision?
This is where you have to go a little deeper. You’ve stopped and that is a great healthy decision, but you still can’t see a green light or if you do, you don’t trust it.