Every car has a dashboard to give you information on the health and safety of the vehicle. Most dashboards give you information on oil pressure, engine coolant temperature, air pressure of the tires, and battery voltage to name a few. You can ignore the warning lights and the car may operate safely for a while, but sooner or later you will pay a price.
Thirty years ago, I was riding on Interstate 94 from Minneapolis to Jamestown, N.D., with my brother-in-law. He was driving his Ford LTD and pulling a U-Haul trailer. Around Alexandria, Minn., his engine temperature light came on. I looked over at him as he continued driving. I asked him if he saw the temp light was on. He said he did and kept driving the same speed. Ten minutes later we started to smell burning rubber and oil. Fifteen minutes later he pulled over. When he opened the hood, fire was shooting up from the spark plugs and the rubber spark plug covers were on fire. Now that is a hot engine! That car never started or ran again. The engine was toast, burnt toast!
When you go to the doctor, what does the nurse always do? She or he checks your vitals: weight, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate. The vitals give an indication of the health of the patient.
The same principle is true emotionally. It is important to check our vitals.
Here are questions I regularly ask myself:
- How is my outlook for the future?
- Am I often discouraged and gloomy or hopeful and optimistic?
- How is my stress level?
- Am I consistently anxious and worried or more often calm and peaceful?
- How is my energy level?
- Am I tired throughout the day even when I get plenty of sleep?
- Or am I highly active with sufficient energy for most of my day?
- How is my confidence?
- Do I have a consistent feeling of fear and tentativeness or am I typically confident and ready for ongoing and new challenges?
We all have days where we feel gloomy, anxious, tired or tentative. We are human. However, when we are consistently feeling many or all of these emotions for an extended time, we best pull over and get help.
For those of us who grew up or live in the upper Midwest, I want to encourage you with this. It is OK to not be OK! Do not hide it. Do not ignore your dashboard or vital signs. Don’t assume things will “just get better” and try to plow your way through it. Reach out. Reach out to God. Reach out to someone. You matter. You are loved!
I bottomed out in early September; Sept. 4 to be exact. I reached out to a counselor I hadn’t talked to for a long time. I emailed a contact I received from an organization I am a part of. That email led to a meeting with someone I had never talked to before. I shared with a friend how I was feeling, and we had a great conversation over breakfast. These connections and conversations got me heading in the right direction and now, over four months later, I realize what a huge difference reaching out made.
Hauser is a pastor and leadership coach and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org