Home > Mental Health > Pay Attention to the Signs

Drinking and driving is dangerous but thinking and driving can also be risky.  A wondering mind can lead to a wandering automobile if the driver doesn’t get refocused and stay in their lane.  Just the other morning while driving to the office, I missed my exit to highway 71 North.  Yes, I had my mind on other things, like my schedule for the next two weeks and my morphing to-do list that will take me into the next decade.

Such is life.  It’s easy to allow your mind to become lazy so that daydreaming can lead to nightmares. Or one can suffer from information overload and break down, like springs on a truck whose load is beyond its weight capacity.  God created boundaries for us to live within and if life gets out of balance, the overflow can lead to a flood of unhealthy emotions and destructive behaviors. Many car accidents could have been avoided if people would have kept their attention focused on their driving and obeyed the traffic signs.  Signs marking the speed limit, caution yellow lights, slow, curve ahead, exit, And STOP give us both direction and protection.

The medical community understands the importance of paying attention to warning signs that signal impending danger.  When I experienced my heart attack on August 18, 2016, I called 911 because I knew the signs.  If I would have ignored the indicators that my heart was experiencing duress I would have, could have perhaps moved onto higher ground, a place called Heaven.

Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter, who has her Doctorate in Psychology, has outlined “The Tell-Tale Signs of Burnout… Do You Have Them?” in an article she wrote for Psychology Today.  She states that burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to: physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.  She also shares that associated with these three major signs are other indicators that flow from its source.  Here’s a synopsis of Dr. Carter’s key points.

Signs of Physical and Emotional Exhaustion are evidenced by chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness/impaired concentration and attention, physical symptoms which may include chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, increased illness, and loss of appetite, anxiety, depression and anger which may present as irritability, which may turn into angry outbursts.

Signs of Cynicism and Detachment are evidenced by loss of enjoyment for things that once energized you, pessimism, isolation, and detachment that is evidenced by behavior that may precipitate calling in sick often, not returning calls and emails, or regularly coming in late.

Signs of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Accomplishment lead to feelings of apathy and hopelessness and a lack of productivity and poor performance. Despite long hours, chronic stress prevents you from being as productive as you once were.

Yes, paying attention to signs, be it road signs or medical signs, keep us cruising through life without crashing and burning.  By the way, are you paying attention to signs that may be trying to get your attention?  Signs that you need to take an exit, which some call taking time off or going on vacation?  Is the “slow down” sign there to remind you that the pace you are presently running is not sustainable over time? Marathon runners learn that setting a pace that’s sustainable is the key to successfully finishing the race.  Are you flirting with someone or something that has distracted you so that you are ignoring the caution sign?  Have you sensed that little voice inside your head saying STOP, yet you keep running red lights?

I felt impressed to share this message of the week for someone who is running through life but is perhaps running out of physical and emotional energy.   I’m here to remind you that, in light of the Akron Marathon this coming Saturday, life is a marathon, not a sprint.  My challenge is a sign that you need to yield to Jesus and give Him the right of way.  Slow down and enjoy life’s journey.  While you are being distracted by your schedule and to-do list, you are missing opportunities to exit and refuel.

By the way, don’t forget to fasten your seat belt.  Take my word for it, click it or ticket.  My failure to obey that sign cost me $125.  Your failure may cost you your life or could hurt the people most important to you.  Read the signs but do more than read them.  Follow them.