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Learning to H.A.L.T during the Pandemic


by Blair Johnston, Adoptions Family Caseworker

Early 2020 we probably didn’t know what the word “Pandemic” even meant. For that matter, I don’t think I’d ever used the words “unprecedented” or “Zoom”, or said the phrase “you’re on mute” either.

I’ve heard that disappointment comes from unmet expectations. I’m not sure what my expectations were for the last year exactly, but I can guarantee that a pandemic was not in my list. I did not expect to be working from home or homeschooling my children. I did not expect to be going to Gatorland when I had planned to be going to Disney World. Nor did I expect to be carrying masks of various different colors in my purse.

True connectivity.

I’m not saying anything profound here by saying that my expectations have not been met. But I want to be vulnerable in admitting what led to my disappointment in hopes that you may say, “Oh yeah, me too.” Isn’t that what connectivity is about? Hearing someone share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences and getting to respond with, “Wow, me too. I’m so glad to realize that I’m not the only one.” I think our spirits long for this type of vulnerability and connectivity. We crave to know that we are not alone; not the only ones with these thoughts and feelings.

Fighting to meet our needs.

Over the past year I’ve had to fight within myself to find the motivation or the time or the vulnerability to admit what I really need. Some days I might just need a shower. Other days I might need a run. Some days I might need to be brave enough to have a hard conversation with a friend or family member. Regardless, I’ve found that I’m almost constantly in need of something. 

Learning to H.A.L.T.

Somewhere in the course of this year I’ve learned to evaluate myself by saying H.A.L.T. when I’m feeling off. This reminds me to ask myself: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Too often I’ve found that the answer is yes to all four of these questions. It’s hard work taking care of me, and like most adults, I’m not the only person I’m responsible for.

While I don’t feel that I have any great words of wisdom for helping others to cope in a pandemic, I do know this – we all have needs every day. Usually we have multiple needs throughout the day. As an Enneagram 3, I am very goal oriented. Sometimes I can push right past my hunger or the dirty dishes or returning a text message if it means getting to finish something “more important” on my to-do list. Knowing this about myself, I also keep a mental list of things I can do each day that help me feel better. 

Taking care of me.

In the helping profession, we call this self-care. My list looks something like: read my Bible, work out, take a shower, call a friend, read a book, clean the house, cook something delicious, paint my nails. You get the picture. The point is this – I’ve had to figure out how to prioritize my needs on a day-to-day basis because I’m the best employee, wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend when I’m taken care of. 

A mental list and goal-setting are certainly not everyone’s style, but I know taking care of one another starts with taking care of ourselves. When we are taken care of and do not have to constantly ask ourselves to H.A.L.T, we have more capacity to care for one another. We are more able to say the things that lead to the, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one,” moments.

Learning to pause and ask.

Take a few moments the next time you are not feeling your best to H.A.L.T and ask yourself: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Maybe you’ll only have to say yes to one of those four, and you can quickly identify your need. Maybe you’re feeling great and things are simple for you right now, but you can still ask yourself: How can I care for myself better today? What do I need? 

Ask yourself these questions and be open to whatever the answer may be. You might find that your spirit was trying to tell you all along, but you just had yourself on mute. Then, the next time you have the opportunity for connectivity, you can share honestly. You can also show care for those around you by giving them a chance to say, “Wow, me too. I’m so glad to realize that I’m not the only one.”