Before you have a wobbly… HALT!

Before you have a wobbly HALTBefore you have a wobbly – HALT! And if you think someone else is about to have a wobbly HALT as well. What great advice. But what does it mean?

When we were staying with a Doctor friend of ours recently, I chatted with him about the epidemic of mental illness. As a GP he has too little time with his patients, 10 to 15 minutes at most, unlike when I am coaching clients for one to two hours. So I asked how he approaches his patients when they are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious. Apart from going down the drug route, he will recommend that they get out in the fresh air each day for 20 minutes exercise. He also recommends HALT. Before you have a wobbly, HALT, take a breath, when you sense that you are getting on a downward spiral.

HALT is an acronym for:

H = Hungry

A = Angry

L = Lonely

T = Tired

On our travels, Tim and I are together nearly 24/7 so we notice the times that each other occasionally get irritable! For Tim, hungry is the big one. He needs to eat every three hours (perhaps a pattern instilled since he was a baby), whereas I can go for hours without food. He is a wonderfully laid back guy, but woe betide if he hasn’t eaten – he turns into the Hulk! For him, when he realises he is feeling hungry, before having a wobbly – HALT and get something to eat. And if I notice Tim getting edgy, then rather seeing this as personal, I get him a banana. I need to learn not to tut and look exasperated (which can add the “A” (Angry) to the equation).

For me, I’ve noticed that when I get tired, perhaps had a restless night due to itchy insect bites or walked steep hills for a time, before having a wobbly – HALT. I need a rest. The other surprising one we both have noticed for me is “L” – not for Lonely, but for Lavatory! I’ve never noticed this before, well, I wouldn’t. When I used to work from home, if I needed to go – I’d go, whereas if I am tramping in the middle of the beautiful rainforest or mountains of New Zealand, there doesn’t tend to be so many toilets. Sorry to say I have learnt that rather than having a wobbly, I can halt, and squat – what a relief! And I am sure, a relief for Tim as well.

Enough of us, how about you? Have you noticed a pattern of when you are most likely to have a wobbly? Are you usually hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Rather than fighting these conditions and emotions, welcome them. They are giving you a very useful message to HALT – to eat, calm down, talk, have a rest…or even go to the toilet. This reminds me of a poem by Rumi (1207-1273):

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Useful Data

When we welcome our feelings and sensations with open arms, realising that they are there tell us something (such as to HALT), it stops us from having a wobbly and going into that downward spiral. These feelings and sensations are not negative or positive, we don’t need to analysis them, question them – “why am I feeling like this?” They are neutral, useful data. It’s similar to when our hands reach for a pot and we can feel the burning heat from it, we don’t carry on picking the pot up and burn our hands, we notice the message from our nerve endings and retract our hands. We don’t ask “Why are my hands feeling hot?” We don’t analyse, do we? We HALT and act. Voila!

Understanding that our feelings are extremely useful neutral information for us, we don’t need to fight them, spend time examining them – the why and how – we don’t need to try and change them – that’s a lot of wasted energy and doesn’t tend to work anyway. Think of it as our very own inner traffic light system. Stop – HALT – eat / breath and calm / talk / rest so that having a wobbly is avoided and then the light will turn from red to green.

The same when other people are having a wobbly. HALT. Don’t take it personally, even if they are taking it out on you! See passed the behaviour – empathy and understanding goes a long way. Perhaps they need a banana?!

It too will pass

Since both Tim and I have understood this, our lives are much easier, more happy and content. Yes, I do still get caught up, having a wobbly occasionally, hey, I’m human. That’s fine, I know it too will pass. Sometimes Tim can sense that I am angry about something and asks if I want to talk about it – I used to, yet now I have realised this is not the time to talk – I will just respond in an unkind way and say stupid things. I have learnt to HALT. If there is something we need to discuss, I’ll wait until I am in a much better frame of mind. Being with each other 24/7 is a joy and this understanding has really helped and I hope it does for you too…

Lindsey Reed is an experienced International Confidence Coach, Trainer and Author. She enables people to have a joyful, fulfilled life and be their best selves…re-igniting their lives with confidence. Lindsey coaches around the world via the internet and if you would like to work with her, send an email to  so that she can arrange an online chat with you.

Her book Got It: The Answer to a Confident, Productive & Stress-Free Life is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle/ebook format and is in over 22 countries. It describes how we create our experience of our own reality called life and through this understanding we can have a more confident and freeing life. 

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