When stress levels spike, our relationships are first in line to feel the impact. Stress can cause us to feel lonely, tired, overwhelmed and irritable. That’s why it’s important to know how to run interference and reduce the effects of stress before it creeps into other areas of our lives.
We’ve all been there: a friend says the wrong thing, a roommate forgets to take out the trash, and after a long week you’re ready to snap. If it feels like this is about to happen, press pause. This is the moment to take a deep breath and check in with yourself using the HALT method.
H: Are you hungry?
If the answer is yes, take a moment to have a healthy snack. This will help relieve any “hangry” feelings and give your body an energy boost. When your basic needs are fulfilled, it may be easier to look at situations in a more calm and productive way.
A: Are you angry?
If the answer is yes, it’s important to identify why and how to address it. Are you upset about taking the trash out or is it really something else? Take a moment to yourself to think through your emotions. It can be helpful to journal about it to find out what’s really bothering you. Once you’ve identified the root of your anger, let yourself calm down and find a way to address it in a productive way. Check out our article about how to have important conversations for ideas.
L: Are you lonely?
This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re alone, but do you feel distant, isolated, withdrawn or disconnected? This might be a clue that it’s time to reach out and have a conversation about what you’re going through with someone you trust. Even if you’re upset with a friend in the moment, sharing what is stressing you out and what you’ve been dealing with may help you feel better and reconnect.
T: Are you tired?
Not just physically—are you mentally exhausted? If so, it may be time to take a break, do a quick meditation, stretch, lie down or simply close your eyes for a few minutes. All-nighters are known to put people in sour moods, but even a few hours of missed sleep or a mentally challenging day can have the same effect.
Have a conversation
The HALT method doesn’t replace dealing with problems that exist in a relationship. If you’re upset, you still need to talk with your friends, family, roommates or significant others about your stress and what you need from these relationships to get through it. That being said, snapping or responding with words and actions you may later regret can add to your stress levels and make it more difficult to deal with things later on.
Make it a habit to check in with yourself. Look for signs of stress and acknowledge your needs in the moment using HALT (you can also try journaling or ask yourself specifically how you are doing in your classes, relationships, etc.). Once you can recognize what your triggers and responses are, you will be better suited to handle stressful situations in a positive way.
If you find that your stress levels and interpersonal relationships are feeling out of control, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) offers free workshops on relationships, communication skills and more. Students can also seek out tools from Conflict Resolution on campus, which provides free coaching for students experiencing conflict.