A red indicator light appeared on the instrument panel. It said, “Oil”. I slowed down a little. I knew there was a gas station at the top of the hill and when the warning light lit up I thought, “I can make it to the top of the hill and get oil at the station.”

It didn’t happen. The engine shuddered and died before I made it up the hill to the exit ramp.

Without enough oil in the engine, the friction of the moving pistons generated so much heat that parts of the engine actually melted together into an block of useless metal.

Warning indicators are important.

Years ago I identified my personal warning indicator for stress. When stress grows and I fail to pay attention to it, the muscles below my right eyelid begin twitching.

When the muscles twitch beneath my eye, it feels like everyone around me should be staring at my face and wondering why my lower eyelid is bouncing up and down. But no one else notices it. The twitches are too small to be seen by others. But I notice.

Just like with the red “Oil” light on the dashboard, I must decide what to do about the stress and when to do it. Can I make it to the top of the hill? Or should I pull off and give it a rest?

When my eye-twitching warning indicator goes off, I’ll try grabbing an extra hour of sleep that night. I’ve also found other ways to relieve the effects of too much stress. Taking a walk around the neighborhood with my daughters is good.

Reading Psalms 23 and Ecclesiastes helps. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” includes a time for relaxing and taking care of yourself.

Sitting beneath the stars with a good cup of coffee works, too. You’ll want to brew decaf coffee if caffeine wires you. You don’t need the extra caffeine-induced agitation.

While the temptation for a caregiver to ignore a stress warning indicator may be great, it’s important for caregivers to remember: if you burn up your engine, you can help no one.

Caregiver Tip: If you have not yet discovered it, find your warning indicator for stress and pay attention to it. Learning how to recognize signs of too much stress and knowing how to reduce the effects of stress are important skills for caregivers who are in it for the long haul.

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