Check Engine Light. Wish there was one for human stress.

This was a post I had been toying with for a while and finally felt like finishing my thoughts on.  It starts with, of all things, my little car.

My car showed me the other day* a light that makes any driver I’ve ever known groan in horrified anticipation of costly repairs: Check Engine.  While it is fun to joke about how all-encompassing this startling little warning light can be (so it could be that my gas-cap is loose…or my transmission box is cracked.  Awesome); it got me to thinking about how I wish that we as human beings could have any sort of similar warning-light indicator system for when things aren’t going quite right.  Oh don’t get me wrong.  Human bodies are amazingly adept at sending signals when things are bad.   Using just my own as an example, I know when I haven’t been getting enough exercise because I sleep worse and get a general sluggish feeling.  I know when I’m hungry because I feel hunger pains.

What I WISH I had though was a “Check Engine” light to indicate, “Hey, you’re getting stressed, watch those levels” or something similar.  As evidenced by the surprise bout of shinglesI’ve finally recovered from; it is sometimes difficult to see the forest for the trees; to realize how deep into everyday life stresses you’ve become mired through the haze of all that’s around you. It is one thing to try and make a conscious effort to respect your body, love your shape, feel confident in your daily food and movement choices and how they are chosen for YOU and you alone.  But when you combine that with the frantic mentality that I feel lingers over after a lifetime of dieting (calorie counting, obsessing over whether you’ve been “good” or “bad”, bemoaning chocolate chosen today and determining to fight back at it with 10 extra-power laps in the pool tomorrow), even something that should be a simple as self love can become a stressful battle.  And quite frankly, I don’t know how to handle that yet.

That previous “lifestyle” of calorie restriction, intense exercise, every waking moment spent pondering if I could maybe reduce that magic bathroom device’s evil number in the morning by thinking only “light” things.  Maybe a pensive could drain out a half-pound of heavy thoughts?  That mentality of order, organization, regimented control over every aspect of eating and moving; had to go somewhere.  When I began to turn against this tide of insane super-self-control it was like trying to swim upstream in a river of winter molassas with the current trying to push me back, push me towards what I knew would be so easy if only I took it back up, if I just turned back around and let the current of familiar patterns move me back downstream. 

How simple would it be to break that Weight Watchers card back out?  How quickly those point calculations come back to the mind.  And once again I’d get swept up in that “I can DO it!” mentality whereby my only real accomplishment in life would be to get back on that “band wagon” and fall back into old diet-habits and start that cycle again. So MUCH energy I spent in thinking and doing and controlling my life and now, trying to push away and out of that murky river of self-hate, I find myself languishing, unsure where to focus that large amount of now un-used mental power.  Wish I was a wizard.  FOZARE!  No?  Sorry.

But now I find that the energy that used to focus so intently on telling me to ignore my hungry stomach and continue dancing or walking that treadmill no matter how dizzy I was getting (Whee, just another 10 minutes, the dizzy is probably my body’s way of telling me the exercise is burning calories so fast it is leaving me spinning in circles!  Yea!), now that energy is starting to focus on other areas of my life.  It is starting to look at my budding self-confidence and body-love and the struggles I am having in making strides there, and with a cocked head it is thinking, “I could organize this you know.  Get you up to tip-top shape in no time, ya know?  Dude it would be so easy.  Just let me draw something up…” And I know where that leads: mental or even post-it note lists of “tips” and “tricks”.  Instead of concentrating on counting how many calories were in that last meal and how many remain if I want to stay under 1500 or 1000 calories, that previous diet-centric mental energy is calculating how far along I am in the path of self-love; how far I’ve come, how to boost “numbers” more quickly to show more results…..spiraling and taking the joy out of the entire process….damn it. 

This is what is stressing to me I think.  My mind is trying to make loving my body as it IS…..into WORK!  I have no pithy way to address that right now, and all the complex little ways that it is affecting my life.  All I can say is “Oh no.  Not again…..” That’s why I wish I had that “Stressed Mental Engine” light; so I could know for sure that, “Yep, the old mental kicker is into hyperactive hyper-drive mode, trying to control things again” without spending months of self-analysis to figure it out.  

*This was back in early December.  The car has since been repaired and is running fine.  Though she REALLY didn’t like that snap of frigid weather we just had and refused to start on Saturday!

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3 thoughts on “Check Engine Light. Wish there was one for human stress.

  1. I so wish I had a warning light just for stress. I’ve always lived this insanely high stress lifestyle, and I’m getting ready to take on a part-time job that’ll have me working another 20 hours a week on top of 40, so I’m going to have to be really careful. I got really sick over Christmas and had to go to an emergency clinic, and the routine check they did there showed that my blood pressure was dangerously high. It was probably mostly caused by days of coughing, plus not eating or sleeping, plus OTC meds, but now I’m really worried about it and am trying to reduce my stress. I’ve always been so stressed out, though, that I don’t even know what “normal” levels should be!

  2. Caffeine I too often wonder what a “normal” level of stress should feel like. Good luck with the part time job. I have one that adds 3.5 hours a week and one Saturday a month and that is frazzling enough with my Master’s degree classes starting up again next week. Since we DON’T have a check-stress levels light it becomes a sort of balancing game to try to make sure we’re not too stressed AND not too stressed about BEING stressed. Fun stuff.

  3. Pingback: Balancing Points: On taking a rest « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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