The L in HALT: Late or lonely?

Our in-house Counselling Psychologist and self-care guru, Dr Annie Campbell, shares her wise and wonderful insights on the issues surrounding lateness (rushing) and loneliness (isolation), and how the associated emotions can affect our wellbeing.

HALT is a reminder to take a brief pause, step back and try to recognise the key physical or mental factors that could affect how you feel and function. When it comes to being late or lonely, this is particularly important because they can be hard to notice and understand without a conscious step away from our busy lives in which our ‘doing’ mode blocks our ‘being’ mode. When we HALT and allow ourselves to just ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ we can observe and only then have a chance to address the underlying issues.

Veterinary life is complex. How do we respond to this complexity and the vast range of demands being made on us every day? We know that we don’t have infinite resources, and yet we can put massive demands on ourselves without even realising we’re doing it. Running late has an array of emotions attached for yourself and your colleagues which can make your working life more difficult. Some factors associated with lateness and rushing are out of your control, but some may be less out of your control than you might have previously thought.

Rushing and ‘multi-tasking’ can seem to get things done more quickly, yet in reality it can actually slow us down, make us more prone to error and increase stress. Rushing often happens when we have unrealistic expectations, or because we find it hard to say ‘no’. This leads to stress which impairs concentration; that’s the time to HALT!

If you are able to pause and recognise your ‘doing’ mode taking over, try asking yourself a few questions; what’s the main outcome you’re seeking? How can you achieve this in the time you now have available? How can you communicate this to your colleagues?

Loneliness and isolation are also major factors associated with our wellbeing, however recognition of their impact on your life is the first step.

We are social beings, and recent research confirms that feeling connected and supported can have a major effect on health and wellbeing, and even indicates that loneliness poses more of a risk to health than smoking(1).

The key component to this is not the number of people we know, but more the quality of the relationships. Feeling understood and being treated as if we are valued improves our mood - and our physiology. Face to face contact has the most powerful effect as we were designed to live in a group and to support, share and ‘watch each other’s backs’!

Both expressing and receiving kindness reduces anxiety and stress, whereas feeling alone, judged and misunderstood increase these feelings. Lack of contact and hostile judgemental interactions do us harm, therefore finding ways to spend time with people we feel accepted by, and relaxed with, is time well spent and improves every aspect of our lives. As we are all unique, finding your own way to combat loneliness or feelings of isolation is important; what helps one person may leave someone else feeling worse. What may help an extroverted person such as group activities or bustling environments may not necessarily suit more introverted people. Neither is ‘better’ – we need to value and celebrate difference. Being quiet need not stop you joining a group with shared interests, engaging in some voluntary work or just having a coffee with a work colleague.

The key is to let go of unreasonable expectations of yourself and trust that being you, just the way you are, is acceptable. Others too may prefer a quieter approach, and just a smile can help us feel connected and valued. Taking the pressure off yourself to speak up or to say something amazing, and just letting yourself take time to say something when you feel able can help you feel more relaxed. Our own expectations of ourselves are often very different from the expectations others have of us.


1. Holt-Lunstad J, et al. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2015;10(2):227-37.