Are you Stressed? Time to HALT!

Everyone who has a job today is working very hard. (Okay, okay, for those of you who immediately thought of someone who’s not pulling his weight, let me rephrase.) Most people who have jobs today are working very hard.

I hear about impossible workloads, frustration, anger, illness and stress. And I ask, “Why are you doing that to yourself?”

“What!?!?” you may very well cry, “I’m not doing this to myself – my organization is.”

I know it seems like that but it’s simply not true. Allow me to explain.

While it’s true that you are being given impossible amounts of work to do, only you have the power to generate stress within yourself.

The state of stress is a reaction to outside stimuli. When the stimulus is comprised of spoken words or behavior we witness, that alone cannot generate the stress—that comes from you and your internal/external dialogue.

The exception to this, of course, is if someone were to do something physical to you. While there are people who have trained themselves to detach and not react to beatings or other means of torture, it is a natural human instinct for the brain to release stress hormones in reaction to physical duress. These same hormones are released when the danger is not real if we manage to convince our minds that it is real (as in how we react when there is too much work to do).

The Law of Attraction says that you get more of what you focus on. By focusing on how difficult everything is, how impossible the demands are and how much you dislike what you are currently doing, you are causing yourself more stress than any other person could IF they had the power to cause you stress, which they don’t.

I once attended a class in human behavior and the professor, a Ph.D. in psychology taught us that, when you react to any situation, the adult has vacated your body and a small child has taken its place. Stress is a reaction, not a response.

When you take the time to come up with a strategy of response to challenging stimuli, your stress will begin to dissipate and could eventually disappear. But what do we most often do? We whip ourselves into frenzy by thinking or telling anyone who will listen how wrong all of this is and how much we are suffering. And yet, the only one who can relieve your suffering is you. This is actually very good news because that puts you in the driver’s seat.

Train yourself to notice the symptoms of stress; they are different for everyone. I unconsciously clench my fists. I have one friend who whistles and another who nervously taps her pen.

Once you’ve noticed that you are under stress, HALT. This is an acronym I borrowed from 12-step programs. Ask yourself:

H – Are you hungry? Low blood sugar contributes to stress in all sorts of ways. If you are hungry, eat something that is good for you. A chocolate bar may taste yummy but will spike your blood sugar and you’ll crash even lower. Some form of protein is your best bet.

A – Are you angry? If you are, figure out what to do about it but make sure it isn’t something that will escalate the problem. What helps me is to figure out what’s funny about the situation. Most of the things I get really angry about are pretty funny in the bigger scheme of things.

L – Are you lonely? Oftentimes, we are stressed because we feel unsupported. Reach out to someone who always makes you feel appreciated.

T – Are you tired? This is a tough one because so often we ignore fatigue in favor of getting more work done. The best thing you can do for yourself when you realize you are tired is to make plans to go to bed at least 1-2 hours earlier than normal that same night and get some sleep. You will be much more productive for the remainder of the week.

There is no doubt that these are stressful times. If you use the power of your mind coupled with the Law of Attraction, you’ll find that, not only will you weather the storm; you can actually reside within the eye where all is peaceful and calm.

Download a PDF of this column