I invite you to ask yourself this question:

When you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sore, stressed, or sad, how do you respond?

Do you ignore how you feel, bypass your body’s signals, continue to power through your day, or lecture yourself about what you should be doing differently to feel better?

Or do you approach your uncomfortable feelings as a cue to pause, get curious about what you need, and choose a step toward meeting your needs?

Or do you do some of each, sometimes tending to how you feel and sometimes ignoring yourself?

In Episodes Six and Seven, I’ve shared with you the power of pausing to transform old habits and make choices that meet your needs. If you’re curious to learn more, I recommend listening to those episodes.

Today, I want to build on the practice of pausing by encouraging you to be on the lookout for a new set of cues and to pause when you notice them. These cues can be summed up with the acronym HALT(S).

The HALT(S) practice has its roots in the recovery movement, and its premise is simple: We humans are more likely to make choices that don’t serve us well when we don’t feel good.

Traditionally, the acronym is HALT—hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I add the letter “S” to represent sore, stressed, and sad.

Here’s the practice:

Throughout your days, pay attention to how you feel, and if you notice that you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sore, stressed, or sad, take it as a cue to halt.

Pause.

Then, get curious.

Ask yourself: What small steps am I able and willing to take to feel better now?

Then take whatever steps feel doable.

You may have time to close your computer, go for a long walk, eat a nourishing meal, phone a friend, or get your journal out and reflect on why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Or you may be in the middle of a busy work day and only have a moment to acknowledge your feelings and needs, and may need to wait to tend to your needs until later that day or week.

If you’re feeling pretty crummy (like a 1, 2, or 3 on a scale where 10 is feeling the best and 0 is feeling the worst), get curious about what you might do to shift to a 5 or 6. If you’re at a 6, get curious about what might help you shift to an 8 or a 9. And, of course, if 10 feels easy enough, go for that. But don’t go for perfection. Just stay curious about what might help you feel a little bit better, and take whatever steps feel doable now.

To help remind you to pause, you might grab a sticky note, write “HALT(S)” on it, and put it somewhere you’ll see it. Then, pay attention, and take notes about what helps you feel better.

Imagine that you are backpacking through life, and keep a list of the basics you need in your pack to feel nourished enough.

I invite you to start that list now. If you’d like, grab your journal and write down a list of the basics that help you feel not bad.

As you learn more about what helps you feel nourished, energized, and supported, add any new practices to your list. Make sure to stay focused on the basics. We can only carry so much comfortably in our packs, and it’s important not to weigh ourselves down with too many must-dos.

Your list may also include some limits you place on yourself—like not staying up past a certain hour or not scrolling the internet longer than is good for you. If part of you resists or rebels against these limits, I invite you to imagine that you are reparenting yourself—taking responsibility for what you need, offering yourself the care you may have missed out on as a little one, and setting loving limits to nurture yourself.

Of course, when we set limits for little ones, they don’t always like it. They might even throw a tantrum especially when they’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sore, stressed, or sad. But as an adult who loves them, you know they need limits.

Similarly, self-care sometimes looks like stopping and saying no to ourselves.

And when we practice noticing and pausing when we don’t feel good, turning our loving attention toward the struggling parts of ourselves, and choosing practical steps to nurture ourselves, we offer ourselves the love and care we so deserve.

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