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November 5, 2019

I had the privilege of starting and then leading the Celebrate Recovery ministry at Canyon Ridge Christian Church, in Las Vegas, NV, for 7 years. I learned a ton from the amazing people there in Celebrate Recovery. One of the things I learned from them was the HALT principle. It’s one of the essential tools for everybody in recovery, no matter what they’re recovering from. It’s also an essential tool for everybody else, even if they don’t think they’re in recovery. My friend, Kevin Odor, says we’re all in recovery, whether we realize it or not. We’re all in recovery from sin and its effects in our lives. I think Kevin’s right.

If you’ve got kids, especially little kids, you probably feel like you spend half your waking hours saying (or shouting) some from of halt. “Stop pulling your sister’s hair!” “Stop trying to put that fork in the electric socket!” “Stop teasing your brother (or the dog, or the cat, or your dad)!” Yep. Been there; done that. Take heart. There will come a time when you won’t have to be in the constant Stop Mode. It’s probably a ways down the timeline, but it will happen. Keep taking deep breaths.

When you’re about at the end of your rope with kids being kids and life being just way harder than it should be, the HALT principle could be one of your best tools.

HALT is an acronym for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. When you’re hungry, angry, lonely and tired, you’re more vulnerable to making bad choices. Any one of these things getting out of whack will set you up to do and say things you’ll wish you hadn’t. When these four things come into harmonic convergence, they’ll wreck your ship.

Hungry – Not everybody needs the exact same nutrients at the exact same time to be healthy. There is a wide range of metabolism factors that play into it. But no matter how you metabolize, when you’re hungry, you’re not at your best. The Snickers TV commercials used to crack me up. The tag line was, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s true. You’re really not you when you’re hungry.

There are many physiological reasons for this, and I’m not qualified to talk intelligently about all of them. The one that’s at the top of the list, though, I can talk about. It’s your blood glucose, or blood sugar. It rises and falls with what, how much and when you eat. This amazing substance does so much to help you be you when it’s in balance, but when it’s either too high or too low, it’s an enemy like few others. When you’re hungry, it’s too low, and it will hijack your mental processes, especially your judgment.

I’m not talking hungry, as in, “I’m hungry for something salty and crunchy.” I’m talking about hungry because it’s been 5 or 6 hours since you’ve had any protein. I’m not talking about taste-bud hunger. I’m talking about actual metabolism-hunger.

Sometimes, when you’re edgy and cranky and easily set off, it could be that your blood glucose is low and your body needs appropriate fuel. Like a handful of almonds, or some fruit, or maybe even a meal. When you find yourself set off easily, that could very likely be your body signaling you that you’re hungry.

I’m not a dietitian, but I can tell you that what you need at these times isn’t a candy bar. You don’t need a bag of chips. Or ice cream. What you need is something with lots of protein. Even when your mouth wants something sweet or salty or crunchy, your body is begging for something with good protein. If you want to know more about what kind of snacks will actually promote healthy blood glucose, here’s one of thousands of websites that will give you more than you wanted to know about it:

Angry – Everybody gets angry. Even Jesus got angry. But not everybody knows what to do about their anger. I know about this, personally. I often struggle with anger.

I used to ask, “What’s making me angry?” and, “Why am I angry?” These are good questions. They’re worth asking. But I’ve discovered that a more useful question, the best first question is: What is my anger trying to tell me? Most of the time, my anger is telling me that a need (real or only felt) isn’t being met. My task in answering this question is to first establish what that need might be, and second, to discern if it’s a real need or only a felt one. Not all felt needs are evil, but the difference between a real need and a felt need can be huge.

Then after I figure out what the need is, and whether it’s real or not, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. There are many options for this that work, but one that never works is stuffing it. Another one that never works is excusing yourself because that’s just how you are.

Long and complex books have been written about how to deal with anger. Some of them are even good. A couple that I’ve found helpful are The Anger Workbook, by Les Carter, and Anger, handling a powerful emotion in a healthy way, by Gary Chapman. You’ll find some very useful and biblical strategies for dealing with your anger (and other people’s anger) in these books.

Lonely – Being alone isn’t the same thing as being lonely. Alone-time is a precious commodity if you’re an introvert. But even if you’re an extrovert or an ambivert, having time to be alone is important and necessary,

If you’re the mom of preschoolers, you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Right. What’s your phone number? I’ll give you a call so you can come take care of these kids while I have some of this ‘alone-time’ you talk about. I can’t even be alone in the bathroom.”

You’re right. Sorry for bringing it up.

Finding ways to NOT be alone is important, too. And difficult for moms of preschoolers for many of the same reasons finding time to be alone is hard.

When you’re lonely you’re vulnerable. Isolation can be a killer. So you have to take deliberate steps to insure you have a reasonable path for connections. Phone calls, text messages, emails, FaceTime or Skype calls aren’t as good as face-to-face, fully present encounters, but they’re sure better than nothing! Connecting with people other than your little kids is (or is supposed to be) life-giving.

If you find yourself lonely, be thoughtful and careful. Don’t wait for somebody to just materialize and make your loneliness go away. Usually those people are almost the opposite of the people you need in that moment. When you’re lonely, you’re vulnerable.

Tired – You don’t need an advanced degree to know that when you’re tired you’re not at your best. When you’re tired, your body and your mind are working off of too-shallow reserves.

There are things to do when you’re tired. Not all of them work for everybody. For instance, napping is a great tool for lots of people. Not me. If I ever do fall asleep in a nap, I’ll be useless for about 4 hours after I wake up. I’m groggy and foggy and good-for-nothing. Right up until I get in bed for the night. Then I’ll roll around for another 2 or 3 hours, with my brain and body conspiring against sleep. My wife, Debbie, can do the power nap thing. Boy do I wish I could.

They say Winston Churchill took a nap in the middle of the day, every day. Of course, he’d also work until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Most people can’t afford to take a nap every day, and then there are those, like me, who might be able to occasionally take a nap, but napping doesn’t work for them. So it’s not viable for everybody.

I read not long ago that we’re the most sleep-deprived generation ever. I don’t have any problem believing this. I have friends who tell me they only need 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. May their tribe increase. I’m not in that tribe. I need 8 hours. I can manage on 7, but not for more than a night or two. I used to think this was because I was lazy, but I don’t think that any more. Reliable research says that our bodies and minds need 8 hours of restful sleep to be at our best.

I know what you’re thinking. I don’t know your life. There’s no way you can get 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night. There are seasons of life when the idea of that much sleep is pure fantasy. I get that. But for lots of people (maybe most people), there are ways to get more sleep than they’re getting right now. At the top of the list for this is going to bed earlier. Turn the TV off. Shut your computer down. Put your smart phone and your tablet in time out earlier. Go to bed. Don’t go read in bed. Don’t go watch more TV in bed. Go to bed. When your kids are young, they should be going to bed early. Why don’t you try going to bed when they do? DVR your must-see TV and watch it on the weekend. The point is, figure out how to go to bed earlier, and see what might happen with more sleep.

I didn’t plan on solving all your problems with Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired in a blog. That’s not possible. But if you start tugging at the edges of it, you’ll find that God has already joined you as you address these four things that can make life go sideways. Partner with Him and see what might happen.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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