By Stephenie Craig, LCSW
As you’re driving down the road, your car dashboard tells you your speed, engine temperature, gas level, and oil needs. Maybe you never let your gas dip blow ¼ tank and change your oil every 3,000 miles. Maybe you like to push the limits and see how far you can go before you’re on empty. Maybe life is really busy and it’s hard to find the time to take care of your car. Regardless of your personality, failing to tend to your dashboard indicators long-term usually results in trouble on the side of the road.
Life also has a dashboard with measurable indicators that provide you with useful information about how you’re functioning at a basic level. When you tend to your life dashboard indicators regularly, you set yourself up to feel more stable, calm, energetic, and ready to face life’s challenges in health. When you ignore your life dashboard indicators, you are more likely to feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and stressed often resulting in unhealthy coping behaviors like excessive drinking, drug use, unhealthy relationships, excessive spending, and other addictive patterns.
Most people don’t intentionally pursue living on empty and stalling out in life and relationships, however, without intentional effort, we are all vulnerable to finding ourselves there. So how do you know what your dashboard is telling you?
6 Life Dashboard Indicators to keep you on the healthy road:
- Sleep: Most people need 7-9 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep per night to maximize body and brain function. Prioritizing healthy sleep provides a necessary foundation for all daily interactions and decisions. If you’re struggling to sleep, deep breathing before bed, sleeping in a dark room, refraining from screens an hour before bed, and use of Valerian Tea and calming essential oils are places to begin trouble shooting.
- Health: Seeing a doctor regularly for a physical and blood work can provide useful information about any ongoing health needs that might be impairing your daily energy level. If you are prescribed medications, take them consistently as prescribed and check in with your doctor about any negative side effects or physical changes.
- Exercise: Regular heart-elevating exercise for 20-30 minutes, 4-6x per week helps your physical health and stimulates your brain’s release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin supporting stress and mood regulation.
- Nutrition: Drinking enough water and consuming more healthy foods daily including fruits, vegetables, and lean meats most often contributes to better overall health, decreased brain fog, and increased energy. What you eat and drink is directly related to how your brain and body function.
- Spiritual Life: Personal faith activities and involvement in faith community increase feelings of hope, connection, and seeing yourself as part of a greater whole in the world. Spiritual practices most often lead to generous living and feeling a sense of life purpose.
- Relationships: Surrounding yourself with supportive, healthy relationships adds meaning to life. Healthy relationships are friendships and/or family relationships that have a give and take dynamic, provide/request support when needed, and encourage you toward health.
As you read through the life dashboard indicators, notice how you’re doing in each area. Choose one or two indicators to address if you’re noticing you’ve been ignoring your dashboard. Begin actively tending to your life dashboard by telling one trusted person your indicator of focus (I want to prioritize sleep) and one action step you’ll do consistently over the next 3 weeks (I will go to bed by 10 each night with no screens). Ask your trusted person to check in with you periodically about your progress.
While tending to indicators can feel like an annoying nuisance, not doing so puts you at risk for an exhausted, isolated, stalled-out life. As you develop habits for checking your dashboard daily, weekly, and monthly, you’ll begin to find, being proactive with your life dashboard indicators isn’t so hard after all and keeps you moving along your journey much more smoothly! Connect on the journeybravely.com Resources page to get your free Life Dashboard Indicator Worksheet PDF.
Stephenie Craig is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Therapist of 18 years, specializing in emotional/relational health. She loves hearing others’ stories and helping people find new perspective that produces peace, healing, and connection through counseling. Stephenie provides treatment for adults, teenagers, couples, and families with anxiety symptoms, parenting struggles, teen issues, depression, grief, divorce, and other life transitions. Connect with Stephenie at Journeybravely.com.