The Power of Pause

May 19, 2020

Editor's NoteThis is part of Nancy's Resilience series. Please see other posts in this series.

The days are feeling long and indistinguishable.  That’s because the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the headlines and everyday life.

“Is this ever going to end?” my teenage daughter Rebecca asks me at least three times a week.

I know how she feels because the mass uncertainty created by the pandemic stretches out like an endless runway. One day morphs into the next.

This is a familiar feeling to those whose lives have been uprooted by cancer.  And it’s downright exhausting…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  

Years ago, a friend shared a powerful acronym with me: HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). She’d been in recovery and was learning gentler ways to care for herself.  “Don’t let yourself get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired,” her group told her.

My friend passed this wisdom on to me some months after my husband Brett died of brain cancer. I was worn down by all the years of caregiving, the pressures of single parenting, and the realities of my new life as a young widow. What I liked about the advice —and still like—is how concrete it is. I noticed a difference in my mood, for instance, when I reached out to a friend for support instead of suffering alone.

I’ve taken to using the HALT acronym with my own kids and during periods of stress. This IS such a time, especially for cancer patients and their families dealing with personal crises in the midst of global ones. I can’t even imagine how daunting this must feel because cancer is terrifying under the best of circumstances, and these aren’t them.

So, let me offer the gift of HALT, the promise of pausing to take care of ourselves—body, spirit, and mind. When we tend to our needs, we have so much more to give to others.

I’ve decided to practice HALT every day. I’m doing it literally by making sure I eat healthy, meditate to keep myself calm, call, FaceTime, or Zoom loved ones and friends, and get to bed at a decent hour.  But I’m also exploring HALT by reflecting on deeper kinds of questions that challenge me to examine my needs from a more nuanced perspective. Resilience, after all, requires a hefty dose of self-awareness; see if looking at HALT in this way energizes you.

Hunger –  First ask yourself: Am I hungry? Have I nourished my body well today?

Then dive deeper: What do you hunger for now? Who nourishes you?

Anger –  First ask yourself: What’s making me angry? Is this something I can address and move on from? Then dive deeper: Is anger serving you? If not, can you choose to let it go in the interest of your peace of mind? Would you consider forgiveness for anyone in your life?

Loneliness – First ask yourself: Have I interacted with anyone today? Is there someone I can call or meet with?  Then dive deeper: What can you do to be seen and heard today?  

Tiredness – First ask yourself: Am I well-rested? If not, is there something I can do to help myself sleep better at night? Then dive deeper: Can you give yourself permission to recharge during the day? How?

Sometimes the best course of action is easy does it. HALT. It might just give you the boost of resilience you need to face the day.

Learn how CSC is offering support here:

MyLifeLine – Connect with your friends and family to sustain yourself through community.

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