My “Check Engine” Light

I’m feeling pretty out-of-sorts today. If I were a car, my “check engine” light would definitely be lit. (If I were a car, I’d also be red and zippy… but I digress.) My “check engine” light is on today and so it’s time for me to pull out my self-diagnostic tool.There are times when I’m definitely not running on all cylinders. I’m tired, grouchy, short-tempered, hopeless, unmotivated… well, you get the picture. Sometimes there’s a big reason why I feel under the weather, like I’m fighting a virus. But sometimes, I’m just “yucky.”

I used to muddle through those times, biting heads off (sorry!) and mistakenly believing there was nothing I could do to feel better. But then, happily, I realized there might just be something that could help.

Enter, my diagnostic tool. Nope, I don’t get to plug myself into anything. (But man, if science could come up with something like that, it could be awesome!) My tool is as simple as a piece of paper with a list on it. Simple, but powerful.

On this list are all of the areas where I might be lacking something that I need to feel my best. The way my mechanic determines if my car (the red zippy one) needs more transmission fluid, or brake pads, or a whole new battery, I can look at my list and determine what needs some adjusting.

Here is My Diagnostic Tool:

  1. Water – The first thing I check is if I’ve had enough water to drink. Dehydration does all sorts of not-so-good things to the body and drinking water is my first line of defense.  The rule of thumb is 8 – 8 oz glasses of water a day, but obviously that varies with activity level, weather, your health, etc. If I need some water, I’ll down a glass.
  2. Food – Next I check in with what I’ve eaten (or not eaten). As I tell my boys regularly, bodies can’t do what they need to do without good fuel. Did you catch the “good” part? I’ve figured out the hard way that processed sugar makes me feel real bad. If I need food, I’ll grab some food that nourishes me and I’ll try to eat it at regular intervals.
  3. Rest – Oh sleep, how I love thee. The ultimate rest is, of course, deep, uninterrupted sleep. But sometimes, I need something more simple. Do I just need to lie down for a few minutes, or even just sit still? Maybe I just need to slow down the pace of whatever it is I’m working on, so that it’s more deliberate and less frantic.
  4. Movement – On the flip side, maybe I need to move! Maybe I’ve been sitting too long and my body is craving movement. Do I need to stretch my muscles? Go for a short walk? Crank up some music and dance?
  5. Connection – Sometimes I just really need another human being. Preferably one who is older than age 4. Do I need to call a friend? Do I need some one-on-one time with my husband? I make a connection happen.
  6. Disconnection – And sometimes I need the opposite! If I’m feeling over-connected (4-year old twin boys, anyone?) I may just need some quiet, alone time. Time to think, maybe read or journal. Time to stay away from the screens and their incessant feeds. Unplugged.
  7. Creation – Sometimes my brain feels like it’s turning into oatmeal. That’s a sure sign that I need to crank it up and use it! I may need a chance to create something. Write, draw, sew, whatever it is that my brain feels like creating.
  8. Exploration – There is something so enjoyable about learning something new. I love to watch TED talks, or read books on topics that I’m curious about. I love to stroll through travel websites. My brain loves new information! Fire up the neurons! Banish the oatmeal!
  9. Nature – Have I been outside today? It’s amazing to me what a difference that makes. Sometimes I just need some sun on my face. Fresh air. Looking at all the amazing plants and animals. If I’ve been inside four walls too long, I need to go outside.
  10. Hormones – It’s too real to dismiss. Sometimes, my hormones are responsible for my feeling of “yuck.” But when I acknowledge that, and cut myself a little slack during those times when I know my hormones are responsible, I can boost up all the other areas and keep my expectations reasonable.

There’s my diagnostic list! When I find myself feeling off, I’ll read through these and see what might need attention. Often, it’s just a few things that can make the difference for me. If you’d like a copy of the checklist, click the link below to download the free pdf file.

Click Here to Download the Free Printable

Reality check. Sometimes this will work better than others. As I said before, if I’m sick, or if I’ve been up all night with a sick boy, or if life throws me a curve ball that takes a bit more than a simple diagnostic, I’m going to have to do a lot more than this. That’s real life, I totally get it.

But, for those times when a little tweak truly helps, this is a clear list of areas I know I need to be aware of, in order to feel the best I can. It’s genuinely helped me to know where to look and what to do in order to help me run as smoothly as a red, zippy car.

Do you have any areas you check when your “check engine” light is on?


4 thoughts on “My “Check Engine” Light

  1. Perfect! I love that list. I’m not a list maker but I could sure use that one right about now. With all the changes happening in my life I find myself needed to “check” myself a bit more often.


  2. Yes, yes! For me, connection and getting OUT are two of my big triggers (well, all of the ones you listed are). I think the key is to realize, like you said, that there ARE triggers for your mood, and it’s something you can improve with small changes that make a big difference. Thanks for the reminder!


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