Homeostasis Check: HALT

The OS works best when the hardware has stability within certain environmental parameters… not to hot, not too cold, not too many yaks yodeling in the alleyway outside.

This is as true for our bodies as it is for computers.

HALT is a handy mnemonic I learned when I was working with kids in a residential treatment program to check parameters of their operating environment. It works by noticing that you feel dysregulated, down, or otherwise kind of out of sorts or off kilter. Then asking yourself:

  • Am I HUNGRY?
  • Am I ANGRY?
  • Am I LONELY?
  • Am I TIRED?

Trouble shooting these four items can solve a significant amount of distress.

A mentor of mine also added some other basic functions like

  • Do I need to pee or poop?
  • Should I drink some water?
  • Do I need to take a break from what I’m doing right now?
  • When was the last time I moved my body?

Those questions still get at the same basic principles as HALT. They just don’t fit as nicely into the mnemonic.

But I think you get the idea.

Humans don’t come with indicator panels, or alarms that go “bing” when we get low on fuel or full of information. But with a bit of practice, we can learn to recognize the early indicators of dysregulation to prevent a full-scale meltdown.

Especially when at hack-a-thons, all night coding parties, or other projects where you are working intensely for long periods of time, having an easy way to remind yourself about basic needs can be a lifesaver.

So make time to check in with yourself. Scan the environmental parameters of your operating system. It will function a lot more smoothly when you pay attention to it.