Stressed or Anxious? Try H.A.L.T.I.

anxiety panic attack stress Apr 02, 2021

When in the midst of a high-stress, high-stakes mission, it’s crucial for Green Beret soldiers to maintain focus.

To do this, all Special Operations forces are trained to manipulate their nervous systems to dial back their primal “fight or flight” instincts. This allows them to stay calm, collected, and focused while making split-second, life-or-death decisions.

Given the uncertainty and fear of our current times, we could all stand to learn more from people whose job it is to lead through chaos.

Recently on the Jim Donovan Show, I had the honor and pleasure of talking with retired Green Beret Lieutenant Colonel, Scott Mann, who spent nearly 23 years in the U.S. Army and over 18 years in Special Operations.

Retired Green Beret Lt. Col. Scott Mann

Lt. Col. Mann shared some of the most important lessons he’s learned during his challenging career—specifically how to make better decisions, no matter how stressful the circumstance.

He emphasized that this lesson can apply to anyone, particularly in these trying times.

So today, I wanted to share his words of wisdom with you—so that you can emerge on the other side of this pandemic better than ever.

The challenge of your fear response

Before we dive in, I want to talk a little bit about fear.

Fear is a healthy emotional response to a real threat.

And it’s a survival mechanism. This primal instinct has developed for hundreds of thousands of years, helping keep the human species alive.

But the problem is, your brain (specifically the amygdala) responds the same way to a real life-endangering threat as it does to something like a “Breaking News” headline…

Adrenaline floods the body. Your breathing speeds up. Your blood pressure and heart rate increase. And blood is pumped to your muscles, preparing you to flee or defend yourself.

When the body is in this heightened state, it becomes increasingly difficult to make rational, logic-based decisions. This often leads people to overreact in ways that only make their situation worse.

The most highly trained elite forces learn to override these responses in order to avoid danger. But you don’t have to be in a high-stakes combat situation to apply the methods they use.

In fact, one of their techniques—an acronym called H.A.L.T.I.—involves checking in with your body’s most basic needs. And it’s something you can do anytime, anywhere. Let’s take a closer look at what it entails…

Start with H.A.L.T.I.

This tool is most helpful in times where you’re not in danger, yet still feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. When that happens, use the acronym H.A.L.T.I. to ask yourself:

Am I:

  • Hungry? Nourish your body.
  • Angry? Do some deep breathing or exercise to break up that energy.
  • Lonely? Call or video chat with a friend.
  • Tired? Take a power nap!
  • Ill? Check in with your doctor.

If any of the above apply, take care of those issues before making any important decisions. For instance, if you’re hungry, have a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. If you’re angry, do some deep breathing exercises. If you’re lonely, call a friend. If you’re tired, take a power nap. And if you’re ill, check in with your doctor and get some rest.

Resolving these underlying issues can often go a long way in easing stress and anxiety. Then, after you’ve met your body’s basic needs, you can proceed with the next phase...

Reaffirm that you’re okay

Lt. Col. Mann refers to this phase as “re-attunement.” And it involves asking yourself one very simple question:

  • Am I okay?

If so, reaffirm it to yourself out loud a few times. Say: “I’m okay. Right now, everything’s all right.”

This signals to your brain that you’re safe.

Once you’ve reaffirmed that you’re okay, you can then move on to the final phase of this process.

Take inventory of your environment

This final step involves a series of questions that will help you “re-attune” to your environment, to decide what the best course of action is.

Ask yourself:

  • What’s changed?
  • What’s urgent?
  • Who needs me right now?

At first glance, this might seem like a lot to take stock of all at once.

But if you take a moment just to run through them, you’ll find that this analysis goes quickly, and helps put things into perspective in a matter of seconds.

From there, you can prioritize your actions accordingly.

Adopting a “leading through chaos” mindset

The main takeaway here is that mindset is everything.

It has the power to affect all aspects of your health: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

And it affects every decision you make—including decisions about your health.

So to stay healthy, your mindset must be positive and resilient.

In that same vein, Lt. Col. Mann also offered up this final nugget of wisdom that I wanted to share:

“This [pandemic] really is a marathon, not a sprint…

Here’s the way to think about it. When the “all clear” is given—and there will be an “all clear”— there’s going to be people who stagger out of the bunkers, holding their hand up to cover from the sun, blinking in the sunlight, trying to just figure out which way’s up.

And there’s going to be a smaller group of people who sprint out of the trenches and just go because they were ready, and they stayed healthy.”

Which one are you going to be?


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The material provided on this site is for educational purposes only and any recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your physician. You are encouraged to seek advice from a competent medical professional regarding the applicability of any recommendations with regard to your symptoms or condition.

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Newman, T., (2018). Dissecting terror: How does fear work? Medical News Today. Retrieved from:


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