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HALT to Manage Tough Emotions

Many of our behaviors stem from something deeper, so take a moment to HALT and check in with yourself.

Step back and evaluate, “Am I feeling…”

Hungry. (Do I need something?)
-Find what will fill you.

Hunger can be either physical or emotional. We generally feel bad when we are hungry. You might get a headache, feel exhausted, have trouble concentrating, or feel irritable. This is due to blood sugar dropping too low. Also, certain chemicals being released that interfere with the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. “Hangry” is a real thing! Hunger can lead to mood swings, affect our decision making, and lower our impulse control. Become aware of the need to eat and choose something nourishing when possible. Try to plan ahead for your day, and bring along protein rich snacks like nuts, cheese, or protein bars. Also, stay hydrated and bring a water bottle when on the go.

Hunger may be an indication of an emotional need. Identify if you are in need of attention, affection, or connection. Nurture you community to be sure your emotional needs are being met and see what else you can do to meet those needs in a healthy way.

Angry. (What is causing me to feel this way?)
-Express yourself

Anger is a natural emotion, and often signals us that something is not right. Unfortunately, we do not always express our anger in a healthy manner or notice the feelings that are underneath. Like the anger iceberg, what we see is only a piece of the story. Underneath you may be feeling fear, shame, disappointment, guilt, powerless, anxiety, or sadness. Once you know what you are feeling, then you can choose to work through the anger by calming down. Breathing, physical activity, or taking a break are all good options. Talk through what you are feeling with someone, and try to wait before responding to cool down before saying something you regret. That means no emailing, texting, or calling!

Lonely. (Am I having difficulty connecting with others?)
-Tell someone.

We all experience loneliness at times. Even when people surround us, we may still feel disconnected. Even though we are all digitally plugged in constantly, we still feel distant. Try to connect face-to-face with other people whenever possible, even through a brief call, or walking around in public. Isolation amplifies depressed mood and can lead to a downward spiral. With family, set up routine times during the day to check-in, chat over a meal, or connect doing something enjoyable.

Tired. (Have I taken a break lately?)
-Breathe and slow down.

Getting enough sleep is essential for physical and emotional health. Sleep deprivation leads to poor choices, negative thinking patterns, and anxious/sad moods. It also increases the likelihood for physical conditions likes obesity, heart disease, or diabetes. To get good sleep be sure to practice good sleep hygiene. Have a regular bedtime, turn off devices an hour before bed, and have a cool, dark, quiet room for sleep.

Sometimes tired means being overloaded and overwhelmed — a common occurrence in our busy world. Evaluate where you can cut back a bit, take a break, reduce overscheduling, and plan longer vacations or time off. Build in regular time for self-care like exercise, reading, or simply enjoying the outdoors.

The HALT method is a great way to evaluate how you feel first before reacting.

It’s also important to consider when responding to your child’s behavior. Do they have needs in one or more areas that makes it difficult for them to regulate emotions or behavior?

If you are feeling a bit off, or more irritable, take the time to HALT and assess your needs. If you are out of balance, take steps to feel better and care for yourself, or your child.

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