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September 25, 2023

How to Avoid the HALT Spiral

Mike Barzacchini

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©Getty Images/morgan23

I'm tired. It's been a long week. Deadlines are cascading around me. I need to rest and reset. I need to halt.

Instead, I binge on chocolate, hoping sugar will compensate for my lack of sleep. But my chocolate binge only makes me hungrier. My body craves substance and protein.

"If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit."

Graffiti artist, Banksy

And something else happens. Binging sugar ramps up my stress. I'm frustrated and quickly shut myself away from my team members before I snap at one of them. Now I'm isolated, fatigued, hungry, and stressed. Ah, it appears that I've been caught in a HALT spiral.

What Are the HALT Risk States?

Originally designed to help addicts prevent relapses, HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. These risk states are our bodies' way of warning us that our wellbeing is at risk, and we need to take a step back to focus on ourselves.

It may be tempting to push these feelings aside and muddle through. Perhaps you stay up late or skip lunch to meet a tight deadline.

Beware the Pitfalls of HALT

But fail to heed these warnings and you could face much more serious consequences than simply feeling a little peckish. You'll likely damage both your mental and physical health, the quality of your work will suffer, and your reputation will be tarnished.

Now, no matter how bad my week may have felt at the start, I've managed to make it even worse. But with positive actions I can stop myself from spiralling any further.

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How to Stop HALT in its Tracks

Each of the HALT risk states can be damaging – but not nearly as daunting – on their own. So, let's tackle them one by one.


When and what did I last eat? Coffee and sugary snacks probably aren't going to cut it for a full day's work. A healthy breakfast and lunch is more like it. And if I get hungry in between? Chocolate clearly isn't my friend but fruit, vegetables and nuts will give me the boost I need without feeling sluggish later.


If I'm stressed and feel my anxiety or anger surfacing, can I reverse this negative flow? A walk, deep breathing, or a few meditative minutes might help to calm myself. Or, simply acknowledging my symptoms and admitting, “I’m not my best self right now,” may help me to avoid negative behavior that could harm myself or others. 


If I feel the urge to isolate, can I instead make connections with colleagues who may be able to help with my deadlines or just listen to my challenges? A fresh perspective can do wonders to get you out of your head and calm your anxiety.


If I’m tired, can I take a break? My workplace may not allow an afternoon nap, but can I get up from my desk and walk outside? Sometimes simply planting my feet and taking three deep breaths is all I need to recenter and refresh.

Useful Resources About Wellbeing at Work

You may like to take a look at the following Mind Tools resources, then join the coaches' events to share your thoughts, ask questions, and learn more.

What Are the HALT Risk States?
8 Ways to Beat Loneliness in the Workplace Video
How to Handle a Stressful Job
How Good Is Your Anger Management?

HALT can help you to identify threats to your wellbeing before they spiral out of control. By being mindful of how you feel, and how this affects you and your colleagues, you can develop a plan of action to rest, reset, reconnect, and replenish.

Blog author, Mike Barzacchini

About the Author

Mike has over 20 years experience in the education sector, and is passionate about helping people and organizations to achieve their strategic objectives by improving communication. 

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