How to HALT a Relapse: 7 Actionable Tips & Strategies

February 28, 2024

4 mins

Jackie Rosu


Recovering from substance use disorder takes time and effort. But when someone forgets to take care of themselves, the risk of relapse increases.

Recovering from substance use disorder takes time and effort. But when someone forgets to take care of themselves, the risk of relapse increases. That’s why when in recovery, the acronym HALT helps a person engage in self-care. By remembering to HALT, a person can stop and examine their needs and, in the process, prevent a relapse.

In this post, we’ll explore how self-care can help someone stay sober and offer tips. Read on for 7 actionable strategies for how to halt a relapse.

Why is it so Hard to Prevent a Relapse?

A relapse can be triggered by psychological and physical influences that build up over time. While it may seem like a person relapses in the moment that they take drugs or alcohol again, in truth, relapse occurs in stages. First, an individual will experience emotional relapse, where their self-care diminishes, and they isolate themselves from support. Following this, a person will experience mental relapse, in which they begin to think about relapsing and seek opportunities to do so. Finally, they will experience physical relapse and begin to use again. Because the individual was unable to recognize the process of relapse, they were unable to stop it. 

How to HALT a Relapse

While relapsing might feel inevitable, it is important to remember that it is preventable through diligent self-care. And while it might be challenging to remember self-care during a difficult time, therapists have coined the acronym HALT to help. HALT is a reminder to engage in basic self-care, preventing poor mental health that can lead to relapse down the line.

HALT stands for:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

A patient in recovery will be encouraged to halt and pay attention to smaller, everyday triggers that can build up and lead to relapse. By stopping to examine their feelings, the patient will be able to give themselves the mental space to understand their needs and address relapse symptoms.

Some patients will only need to think of physical self-care, like ensuring a healthy sleep schedule, good hygiene, or a healthy diet. Other patients will need to engage in emotional self-care, which involves making time for themselves, being kind to themselves, and giving themselves permission to have fun.

"Symptoms of hunger can often be mistaken for substance cravings.”

However, sometimes it is difficult to examine one’s own needs. In those cases, having actionable strategies can help someone engage in self-care. For instance, they could:

1. Carry Around Healthy Snacks

A person can actually feel more intense withdrawal if they haven’t eaten recently. Plus, symptoms of hunger can often be mistaken for substance cravings. As a result, therapists even encourage patients to think they may be hungry when their cravings are strong. 

Because hunger can lead to relapse, it’s important to make sure to eat well. One strategy to prevent intense feelings of hunger is to always carry around a healthy snack like fruit or a granola bar. That way, when hunger arises, there will always be a quick solution to address it.

2. Eat Regular, Nutritious Meals

Snacks aren’t the only way a person can stave off hunger. Planning healthy meals is another great way to keep from relapsing. Eating regular meals can keep a person from getting hungry unexpectedly, which will help reduce confusion between hunger and cravings. As well, healthy foods rich in macronutrients, vitamins and minerals can help prevent relapse symptoms by reducing the urge to use. 

3. Practice Daily Exercise

Negative feelings play a big role in emotional relapse. Just as people need to manage their hunger with a healthy diet, they must also regulate emotions like anger. For example, a recent study suggests that exercise can play a role in emotion regulation and anger management. 

A person in recovery might consider going for a daily walk or run. However, just 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3 days out of every week can improve mood, improve mental health, relieve stress, and promote healthier sleep patterns.

4. Practice Mindfulness a Few Minutes a Day

Pausing daily to examine one’s emotions is as important as monitoring hunger. That’s why it is useful to schedule time to perform a body scan meditation. Taking a few minutes each day to note one’s own sensations can help a person understand their body’s feelings and even their mood. This tool can help a person in recovery address their emotional and physical needs.

5. Set Up Regular Hangouts with Loved Ones

Social support can be a powerful tool for maintaining sobriety. Thus, it’s important for someone in recovery to stay connected to a quality support network. Because people in emotional relapse can often isolate themselves, it may be useful for them to plan weekly social interactions. For example, an individual could schedule movie or game nights with trusted friends every weekend, ensuring a regular schedule of positive social interactions.

6. Set Regular Bedtimes

Like meals and exercise, regular sleep is important for preventing relapse. Insomnia is linked with substance use and withdrawal. Chronic fatigue can make you more vulnerable to relapse by reducing your sense of willpower and motivation for recovery. A person could set a healthy sleep schedule by going to bed, getting up at the same time, and avoiding long naps during the day.

7. Limit Screen an Hour Time Before Bed

A regular sleep schedule is vital to recovery, and so is making sure that sleep is good quality. As it turns out, there is an association between screen use in the final hour before sleep and a shorter overall sleep duration. Not to mention, the more screens present in the bedroom, the higher the likelihood of insomnia. By putting electronics away an hour before bedtime and keeping them on silent overnight so they can’t interrupt, a person can improve their sleep and thus lower their chance of relapse.


By engaging in self-care and pausing to examine their needs, a patient can HALT relapse in its tracks. Though taking care of oneself can be difficult without guidance, these strategies will always be there to help. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with maintaining self-care in recovery or with substance use disorder, there is no shame in asking for help. With an online support group and access to addiction recovery consultants, Never Alone Recovery has the resources to set you on the path to recovery. Follow us on social media and call us at our toll-free number, 844 364 4445, to learn which Never Alone program is right for you.

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