H-A-L-T: Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired


Aid Worker:  HALT!!!

HALT is a popular self-care tool in the treatment of alcoholism. It is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired, and was designed to remind people when they might be vulnerable to relapse. But really, HALT applies to anyone– no matter what your “ism”. In the case of International Aid Workers, an awareness of H.A.L.T might even help us avoid some of the more insidious and underlying “isms” that plague our work: cynicism, defeatism, and various other forms of addiction.


The question is, what happens when you have already hit “HALT” full throttle, and what do you do to get out of it?

When you’re HUNGRY

We don’t need to belabor the importance of good nutrition, except to say that this is an area where a lot of aid workers might be floundering.  Either we live in places where shortages make good food hard to come by, or we are just too busy or ignorant of the benefits to make sure we make it a priority. Here’s the catch: eating right is even more important when you live in the field, as working in the developing world exposes us to all manner of diseases that our bodies need extra defense against. How many of us have spent more nights than we’d like to remember battling amoebas on the porcelain throne?  Or recovering from typhoid, dysentery or some other ‘mystery’ bout with a belly disorder? How many of us abuse coffee, alcohol and cigarettes to stimulate us?  Our physical resilience depends largely on what we eat, so nutrition is our first line of defense in keeping our immune systems strong.


But feeding yourself well goes well beyond what you put in your mouth.  If you find yourself insatiably hungry, you might ask yourself what you are truly hungry for, because this is often an indicator of an emotional need that must be met.  Could it be hunger for attention, comfort, understanding, or companionship? In this case, it’s wiser to turn toward friends, family or some other form of fellowship rather than the grocery store.


When you’re ANGRY

This is a good news/bad news story:  it starts with realizing that anger is actually nothing more than a feeling, and we need not feel badly about our feelings!  In fact, recognizing we are angry about something can give us just the right energy to change a bad situation for the better. The challenge here is to use that energy constructively, which can be difficult since many of us are more accustomed to letting anger get the better of us in the form of criticism, belittlement and even violence toward ourselves and others.  Sometimes anger overcomes us to the extent that it feels like a loop-tape we are playing over and over in our head (in which case, it has morphed into resentment).


If Anger is energy, it needs to go somewhere, and it’s up to you to decide how to channel it effectively. Here are some ways Satori advisors recommend: physical exercise, creative projects and breath work.  But they also warn us that anger will never truly be transformed until you address its underlying causes, so while you are going for that run, writing that novel, or stomping around the room, try to get to the bottom of what the cause is because anger is never a primary emotion. It usually masks something deeper, like fear or powerlessness. Once you see it for what it is it becomes a lot easier to identity a suitable resolution.  If you can’t seem to do that on your own, please seek professional help.


When you’re LONELY

It’s easy to feel isolated when you are living in a foreign culture and having to find fresh friends and office allies with every move you make to a new posting. A certain amount of loneliness can be written off as an occupational hazard, but if you find that your feelings of isolation seep past the first few months of settling in, then there is something more serious at hand.  Sometimes isolating ourselves is something we do to protect ourselves when we are tired of putting ourselves out there, or having to say good-bye again and again. But it’s a rabbit hole we are best advised to avoid, since without good friends, family or professional advisors to help us gain perspective, problems can grow exponentially.  If you feel lonely, it’s time to reach out.


When you’re TIRED

Sleep deprivation is very common for many aid workers I know. What we don’t realize is that at its extreme, sleeplessness is every bit as dangerous as any other illness out there: it affects our judgment, our physical fitness, our emotional balance, and our interpersonal relations.  The obvious solution here is to get more sleep, but if you find you are unable to do so even given the opportunity, you need to dig deeper into whether you might be suffering from overwhelm (and therefore need to cut down) or anxiety (and therefore need to seek treatment) or some other form of sleep disorder.



So what is the overriding answer to HALT? The secret is right there in the word! If you are feeling Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired it’s time to STOP, put all major moves (decisions, judgments and pronouncements) on hold while you give yourself a chance (as long as it takes!) to reflect and recover.  This is what our Satori advisors call “the Power of Pause”, because although it appears nonsensical to do ‘nothing’, you would be amazed at the clarity that arises when you stay still enough to let it surface.


Satori Worldwide offers 7 Day Sabbaticals for aid workers and others looking to cultivate balance and resilience, so they can bring the best of who they are to what they do.


Our next program is 15-22 May 2011 in Bali, Indonesia. Get in touch soon and enquire about the early registration discount.  We limit the program to 12 participants.


Views: 2285

Tags: Aid, balance, development, resilience, stress


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Comment by Marianne Baziruwiha on April 25, 2011 at 5:23pm

I visited this blog and like it

This is to ask a permission to use this symbol while citing you: "HALT"

Marianne Baziruwiha

Comment by Hari Bansha Bhujel on March 31, 2011 at 8:35am
Suitable solution of HALT is to generate power yourself thinking that nothing happen and nothing wrong and no need to worry.What ever things is infront you better utilised it with your best way and that gives you hope & energy.In this situation forget all the thing saying that nothing loss & from now I want to do some thing myself as well as with the help of my best wisher.Don't make trouble for others as well for yourself.Thensforth every things come positively.Always forget wrong habit,wrong idea & wrong thinking.When the sun rises your better day start.
Comment by Maria Lisa Dioneda on March 31, 2011 at 12:38am

There are many ways to regain inner peace and balance. As a development worker, we are exposed to all sorts of images and realities that can make us 'angry" or some cultural differences and treatment that may make us "resent" for our efforts, initiatives and motives not accepted, worst doubted. Who else knows you but you and those who truly know you. One thing i find helpful in regaining balance is to just sit in a place where there are lots of people - a park, a mall and just watch people going through, passing through. It makes me reflect on how each one has the capacity to live life to its fullest, accept one's humanity and interdependence. Probably, comes the advantage of growing up from a traditional family and community where people still care for each one.


Self-care is indeed a skill needed by every well-intentioned social change/aid/development people. After all, if we have drained our inner capacities to share and give, what quality of service can we give to those who need it?


Check-out one place to visit and unwind without losing touch of people and communities. Visit Chiang Mai in Thailand.. Ride the train... visit the temples... see migrant communities...chat with local NGOs.... trek the mountains... explore the caves.... visit one Buddhist temple with  interesting wall paintings and sayings on peace in each religion... if you're not religious... go philosophical about life... after all we all have that some inner voice that time to time will talk to you, even though one gets busy with all the realities we face, and we tend to drown this voice that guides us, makes us whole within.. Life is great!!!

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on March 30, 2011 at 7:36pm
A good learning for me. Thanks Steve!
Comment by Shah Tasadduque Ali Khan on March 30, 2011 at 1:43pm
Thank you very much.
Comment by Padma D. Jayaweera on March 30, 2011 at 12:52pm

Do appreciate the concept, it is food for thought. we need to inculcate suitable solutions through religious mirror with patience.

Padma Jayaweera

Comment by salome Nduta on March 30, 2011 at 9:32am
Thank you very much for the insights.
Comment by Pamela Struss on March 30, 2011 at 8:54am
H.A.L.T. has pulled me through many situations and helps restore sane thinking, stability, hope and energy. And yes this is a critical acronym for alcoholics :-)
Comment by Rahel Warshaw-Dadon on March 30, 2011 at 8:41am
I like HALT and the Power of PAUSE.  Consider Traditional Reiki, too.

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