Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Nurse's Personal Dashboard

On a recent episode of RN.FM Radio, we were discussing nurses' wellness--both spiritual and physical--and the concept of one's personal "dashboard" came up in the course of the conversation. Are you aware that you have your own dashboard, and if so, do you heed the warning lights that occasionally light up?

We all know what a dashboard is, and we also know that a dashboard--like the cockpit of a plane, train or bus--gives us relevant and crucial information regarding the safety and function of the vehicle in question.

Now, we humans have dashboards too, but these dashboards are virtual rather than physical, and we have to learn to read the signs in order to react responsibly when something goes awry.

Your Inner Speedometer

In the car, you always know how fast you're going (unless your speedometer's broken, that is!), and you also know that there are speed limits for various roads that you must follow, or risk being pulled over by the police and issued a citation.

When you're going too fast in your life, how do you know it? What are the signs that you're moving too fast and taking too little time to rest? What mechanism alerts you that it's time to slow down? There's no external cop who'll do you the favor of pulling you over (unless your wife or husband acts the part!), so this is something you need to do yourself.

Signs of moving too fast are spiritual breathlessness, a feeling like you can never do enough, and the sense that you're on a treadmill and can't get off.

If you're moving too fast, it's time to take a break, shed some of your responsibilities, and otherwise reconfigure your life. Sometimes it can be as simple as scheduling rests and breaks throughout the day, or it can be much more complicated than that.

At any rate, you know if you need to slow down, so put on the brakes and rethink your way of being.

Check the Oil!

Now, I'm not talking mono-unsaturated fats, folks! When I talk about checking the oil, I mean the psycho-emotional-spiritual oil! And if your personal oil light goes on, how do you react? Do you ignore it, or do you pay attention and pull over?

When the going gets tough, the tough put their noses to the grindstone and soldier on. However, the thoughtful ones (who are also quite tough, mind you) take their personal vehicle into the shop for some spiritual and emotional lubrication.

What are the practices that lubricate your personal vehicle?  How do you keep all of the moving parts functioning and not wearing out prematurely? How does your psyche find respite? How does your emotional body find relief from its worries? Where does your spirit go for recharge?

For some, a massage doesn't only lubricate the muscles and connective tissue--it lubricates the soul. For others, a visit to their favorite member of the clergy or spiritual mentor soothes the psyche and offers solace in times of need. For still others, it's writing, walking, psychotherapy, coaching, prayer, meditation, music, dancing or art.

Whatever your choice, something needs to be put in place so that your inner self is lubricated, massaged, assuaged, chilled out, unwrinkled, and otherwise allowed to rest and rejuvenate.

(And a caveat here--this needs to happen more often than every 3,000 miles!)

Revolutions per Minute

Some foreign cars and sports cars have tachometers, that "other speedometer" that doesn't measure miles per hour, but rather revolutions per minute.

On a personal level, this is not just about speed, it's about how you rev your engines--even while you're not in motion!

I picture this as an inner tachometer that measures how much your mind is racing, even when your body is still. When you lie down to take a nap, are your engines spinning out of control? There are many practices that can bring your tachometer down to earth, including prayer, meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, conscious breathing, and many others.

Is your mind spinning? Check your inner tachometer now.

It's All About Fuel

When you're driving down the road, how low do you allow the fuel gauge to go before you pull into a gas station and fill the tank? Did anyone ever tell you that it's bad for your fuel pump to let the gas level in your tank go under 1/4? Well, it's true, and it's also true for your own personal fuel tank, as well.

We feed ourselves in many ways, including emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually. There is a quality to the fuel that we put in our stomachs, in our ears, in our eyes, and in our spirits, and that fuel is what helps us to continue on our way each day.

I won't go into my personal vision of nutrition during this particular post, but suffice it to say that what you put in your body means a lot on many levels. Whether it's sugar, water, soda, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, organic vegetables or chocolate, it all has an effect, both cumulative and short-term.

And when it comes to other forms of fuel, we could discuss music, sports, art, news, television, movies, video games, companionship, family, church, and all manner of ways that you "feed" yourself.

If you feel that your "tank" is "running on empty" (as Jackson Browne made famous in his song from the 1970s), then it's time to reevaluate the ways in which you feed yourself--and the ways in which you don't. You may be able to get away with the cheapest fuel for your car or truck, but when it comes to your body, mind and spirit, only "premium" fuel will really do the trick in the end!

There's So Much More....

Speaking in automobile metaphors about the human being, we could wax poetic about tune-ups, batteries, alignments, exhaust systems, carburetors, and other ways in which the various concepts of car maintenance are truly applicable to how we care for ourselves. This may very well become an ongoing series, so please watch for further posts that further elucidate and expand these endless metaphors for life in a human body.

Having said that, in the interest of space and time, I'll leave you with these thoughts:

If your body, mind, psyche and spirit were like classic cars that you absolutely love and cherish (and I hope that they actually are!), how much would you be willing to do in order to keep them running well and in tip-top condition? If you take your literal car for an oil change every 3,000 miles, how often do you take your psyche for its own lube job?

Our bodies and our less physical aspects are all part and parcel of who we are, and they are a reflection of how we live our lives. Granted, some of us have chronic illnesses or conditions over which we have little control, but how we conduct ourselves and care for ourselves in the day to day is entirely up to us.

Treat yourself--your whole self--like a classic car that needs babying, a clean garage, a waxing every Saturday, and the cleanest and purest of fuels.

This vehicle is the only one you have in this life. Give it the care and nurturing it deserves, and call the appropriate "mechanic" when you need support to get on the road again!

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