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Your Emotions Are Your "Check Engine" Light

Think about an old car, let’s say one from the 90’s. Gonna have a lot of things to keep up with right?

There’s the motor oil, the engine, spark plugs, belts, starter, alternator………I’m sure you could identify quite a bit that may have to be checked out and gotten into good working condition.

And even after it’s in good condition, there’s a lot more “upkeep” to it than getting a newer car right?

So let’s say you have this old car, and you are using it daily, like almost non-stop. Almost as if you are running it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What do you think is going to happen with that check engine light??? Yup, it’s gonna light up, and stay lit up — as long as you keep overworking this old car. And maybe some other lights on that dash board will light up right along with it, making your car look like a disco on the inside. But the car keeps running, keeps turning over, and keeps letting you get to and from your destinations.

Some might look at it like, “well nothing is happening yet, so I have a little more time”, and others might be feeling as if “I don’t know what’s wrong, and I’ve fixed everything I can think of”. And a few of us may take it to a friend who knows a little more about cars, to try and help. But that light stays on, you keep driving, and nothing has happened — yet.

I’m using this analogy, because I think we can all relate in some way. If the check engine light is on, you gotta figure out why, get it fixed, and hope that the light goes off.

Our own emotional and mental health work in a similar way, but we let that “check engine” light stay on for way too long. And just like that old car, we keep pushing through our days, pushing through our responsibilities, and dragging ourselves from one thing to another. We keep going because we have to, and we don’t have time to figure out what that “check engine” light is about.

We don’t have the time

We don’t have the resources

And we don’t have the information to do what is necessary.

That “check engine” light is our emotions, and they are a brief events that tell us something is off. Each day we experience something that isn’t okay (like a rock in our brakes, or no oil in the tank), and we push forward as long as we can — and hope that in a week or two, we will “feel” better.

Well we all know about rocks in our brakes, and how they just don’t seem to fall out (like they “fell in”), and we know what happens when we don’t put oil in our car.

The same is true when we don’t acknowledge or accept our emotions, or we don’t take good care of ourselves. Eventually something breaks down, and now it’s an even bigger problem to fix.

I usually end my sessions with clients with the phrase “take good care of yourself”. This is not spoken lightly, or as a form of saying good-bye. It’s my reminder to my clients to take good care.

Because what our world sees as “self-care” and “time to yourself”, and “me time”, isn’t really all that “good care” means. Taking good care speaks to hearing, and learning yourself, and not taking for granted that while you are stressed, you can still keep going. Taking good care is doing the preventative stuff, the maintenance; like with that old car, it’s about checking fluids regularly, and looking at the tire tread.

When it comes to yourself, taking good care is allowing for rest, allowing for reflection, and allowing for your emotional state to take a break from time to time.

Don’t keep running your “old car” just because it can run —- take good care of it, and yourself.


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