There is a famous acronym in the wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous called H.A.L.T. It is a very valuable self-awareness tool that can mark the difference between damage and death, or prosperity and life. Simply put, H.A.L.T. is a “stop” sign. It is so simple that is often missed by the very people who can become too busy or too proud to recognize that they need it most—all of us.
H.A.L.T. represents Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. It speaks to the territories that a person must contend with to remain competent and caring, i.e., whole, which means sane. We cannot give what we do not have. Self-care allows a person to have care within them to be able to contribute to others’ welfare. It connects us to our selves, others, God, and the ability to create.
Hungry: Hunger is a signal to attend to the daily needs of the body for strength. Food feeds the brain, which allows us to think clearly and wisely. It feeds the emotions that allow us to remain responsive rather than reactive. And food feeds the spirit that needs “daily bread” to remain secure and giving from a place of fullness. Self-neglect eventually leads to neglect of others. Not attending to our hunger makes us too weak in body, mind, heart, and spirit to offer much to others. It disconnects us from our selves.
Angry: Angry is an old way of saying that when we become resentful, not attending to our hurts, pride, and personal responsibility, we become defensive and blaming. We have a tendency to begin to project our own pain onto others, and we demand that others take responsibility for what is our own to deal with. Hurt people who do not attend to their own hurt, hurt people. They become defensive, i.e., “shove others away,” and then blame them for “backing up.” Resentment makes us prideful, vengeful, and alone. It disconnects us from others.
Lonely: Lonely refers to remaining connected to one’s own heart, the hearts of others, and the care of God. When one becomes disconnected in heart from others, the effect leads to toxic shame, the mistaken belief that we are defective for having the need for relationship. It also leads to self-pity, the mistaken belief that no one cares. Isolation from one’s self, others, and God is a dangerous place to exist. It sets a person up to find counterfeit satisfactions that only relationship with others and God can gratify. Isolation eventually ushers a person through the door of increased loss and self-destructive actions. It disconnects us from our selves, others and God.
Tired: Tired allows a person to identify limits, and know when one is pushing too hard without productive returns. It tells a person that the time for restful replenishment has come and the need for restoration has arrived. It says, “let go of control.” Stop, pray and meditate, exercise, sleep, i.e., care for self because we are creatures who can only live one day at a time. When we go beyond our limits, we will damage our selves, making us incapable of caring for others. We will eventually become unable to carry on to the destination we desire to get to. It disconnects us from our selves, others, God, and our capacity to create.
Being sensitive and humble enough to pay attention to H.A.L.T. allows us to recognize our own needs and limits. Doing so will bless us with sanity, the capacity to remain consistently competent and caring. And the beauty is that if we are blessed, we are very likely to be a blessing to others. Simple and true.