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Using HALT to Prevent Relapse

Sometimes we just feel bad and we don’t really know why. We typically attribute it to being stressed, overwhelmed, or depressed. A bad mood can feel permanent, or like there is something wrong with us. This state of mind is dangerous for recovery. Ironically, these bad moods are usually caused by something simple and temporary, which you can remember by the acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Figuring out which of these you’re feeling and addressing it can save you a lot of misery.


It’s almost stupidly simple to think a bad mood might be caused by hunger, but it’s often the last thing people think of. If you feel depressed, agitated, or irritable, as you often do when you haven’t eaten in a while and your blood sugar is low, you look for reasons and easily find them. Of course you’re irritable–you want a drink, or your dog is barking, or your spouse asked you to do something you don’t feel like doing. Reason abound, so we attribute our bad mood to one of those when it’s probably just hunger. This is easy to fix–just eat something. Preferably, eat something nutritious with protein or fiber so it digests slowly. Stay away from sugar, which can make you crash and feel even worse.


We’re typically aware when we’re angry, but sometimes we’re not aware when we hold on to anger. Anger is short. Something happens, you get angry, and you either take action or forget about it. If you’re still angry several hours or several days later, you’re probably holding on to anger and feeling resentment. That’s bad news. When you notice you’re holding on to anger, there are several strategies for letting it go. The simplest is to ask yourself, “Is this helping?” If you’re honest, the answer is always no. The person you’re angry at does not even know or care that you’re angry. Meanwhile, you’re going around in a bad mood, grinding your teeth, and feeling terrible. Take a deep breath and let go of that anger.


We are social animals and even the most introverted people start to feel agitated if they spend too much time alone. Being alone allows you to spend too much time in your head. You start ruminating. Often, your thoughts go to a dark place, then you feel worse and isolate yourself more. If you feel bad, lost, disoriented, or depressed, reach out instead of isolating yourself. Go to a meeting or call a friend. Even if you don’t particularly feel like it, you will feel better.


Being tired makes every problem bigger. Getting too little sleep increases stress and makes you more prone to illness. You get irritable and nothing seems to go right. Worst of all, you can’t think clearly and so it’s hard to realize that you feel bad because you’re tired. In the short-term, you can always take a nap. In the long-term, give yourself enough time to sleep every night and keep a regular sleep schedule. It’s amazing how much better life seems after a good night’s sleep.

Get in the habit of using a HALT checklist. Whenever you find yourself in a bad mood, ask, “Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?” Fixing those will improve your mood 90 percent of the time and help you stay on track.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.