Anxious? Worried? HALT!


February 7th, 2013

By: Dr. Anoosha Avni
Registered Psychologist

Have you noticed that when you’re anxious or worried, you’re more prone to making bad decisions? There’s a biological reason why this happens. The amygdala, which is the part of your brain responsible for emotional regulation, becomes flooded when you’re anxious or worried. This makes it hard for the prefrontal cortex to engage in planning, reasoning, and problem-solving. When you’re anxious, you literally can’t think clearly!

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious and worried and you have the urge to make a decision right away because you think it’ll lower your anxiety, HALT!

What does HALT even mean?

HALT is an acronym that’s often used in addictions counselling, but it can also be used by people who struggle with anxiety or worry. When you’re anxious or worried, you can’t reason, plan, or problem-solve. What you need to do is HALT; that is, immediately stop what you’re doing and pay attention to your basic needs. Are you:

H – Hungry

A – Angry, Anxious

L – Lonely

T – Tired, Thirsty

When you HALT, you become aware of which of your basic needs are not being met in the moment. Sometimes, the onset of anxiety or a sudden decrease in mood can be traced back to having forgotten to eat so your blood sugar levels are off course. Other times, you may be feeling lonely or angry towards someone who has hurt you. And, of course, there are days or weeks when you’re really busy and you don’t get enough sleep.

Being too hungry, angry, anxious, lonely, tired or thirst can make you vulnerable to even more anxiety and worry. When this happens, you’re more likely to make bad choices to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings that result when your basic needs aren’t being met.

Learn to pay attention to your signs of hunger, anger, anxiety, loneliness, tiredness, and thirst. Practice ways to get your basic needs met and resolve any personal issues you have with the people in your life in ways that will enhance your life, not take away from it.


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