At 27, I thought I had my life all figured out.

I had just graduated from physical therapy school, had a new job in a city I loved (Austin), and a serious boyfriend who was talking about proposing.

My life was going EXACTLY according to plan.

There was only one small problem…..my body wasn’t going along with the plan.

About two months after I moved to Austin, I started getting migraine headaches. I explained it away as normal stress….new career, lots of the change….no biggie.

But they kept coming back, about two or three a month. I also noticed I was tired a lot.

After another few months, I started crying at odd times. And throwing up occasionally, too.

The “check engine” light was going off in my life. (If there were sirens associated with this signal, the sirens would have gone off, too).

But I was doing my best to ignore it because I didn’t want to face the possibility that things might not work out in my life the way I had planned that they should.

I was having doubts about getting engaged to my boyfriend…..but I was so scared about what would happen if I didn’t “stick to the plan”.

My mind was determined to make things work.

My body was determined to do anything to make it NOT work.

For several months, I lived in turmoil, as my mind and body had a standoff over what path my future was going to take.

In the end, my mind raised the white flag. I broke up with my boyfriend because I simply could not take the physical discomfort associated with my unhappiness anymore.

(And just to be clear, he wasn’t a mean or bad guy…we just weren’t right for each other.)

My mind was guiding me in the direction I thought I SHOULD go, while my body was acting to guide me in the direction that was actually right for me.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but our bodies are often a sensor for how things are going in our lives.

For example, when things in your life are going well, you feel lighter on the inside. When things aren’t going well, you feel clenched up or heavy inside.

Some people refer to this instinctive feeling about something being good or bad for us as a gut feeling.

In her book Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about this gut feeling as a part of your “Body Compass”, your soul’s way of partnering with your body to guide you to the experiences in life that will fulfill your purpose and give you a deep sense of peace and happiness.

I believe that we get off course in our lives when we are either doing something that isn’t in line with our purpose, or when we work so hard we forget to relax and have fun. The engine we use to run our lives, which is our body, starts to break down.

The “check engine” light comes on to warn you of impending engine damage, and when your engine (body) gets damaged, your life gets damaged, too.

Here are a few of the most common ways your “check engine” light may go off:

  • You feel tired all the time, regardless of how much sleep you get.
  • When people casually ask “how are you doing?”, you get irritated. Or you cry.
  • You get frequent headaches, stomach aches or general body aches.
  • You feel short of breath or feel like your heart is racing when you are just sitting down.

When your check engine light goes off, the best thing to do is to start the repair process immediately. (I can say from experience that I’ve tried to ignore it, and it doesn’t work.)

These are the steps I have found helpful to repair my engine (and my life):

1. Give yourself some breathing room.

When you are stuck in a cycle of stress and overwhelm, it’s hard to know what to do because nothing feels right. Your body needs some space to rest and relax in order to start working properly again.

Take a look at your schedule and cut out at least one thing that makes you feel tense or heavy inside. Block off that time as “recharge time.”

During your recharge time, don’t plan anything. Allow yourself to just chill out….take a nap, read a book, or something else that feels relaxing and low-stress.

2. Let go of any “shoulds” about your situation.

One thing that kept me stuck in the relationship I mentioned earlier was the thought that “I SHOULD be able to make this work.”

I have found that my “should” statements often blind me to the reality that certain situations are not working for me. It’s like my brain can’t figure out why my body is rebelling and it forces me to keep trying, like a nasty little dictator.

Letting go of the “shoulds” has allowed me to see more clearly what is and isn’t working for me, which speeds up the repair process for my life.

3. Reconnect with people that make you feel happy and peaceful.

After I got out of the relationship that wasn’t working for me, I felt kind of lost and aimless. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore because I had forced myself to try and be someone different for many months.

Spending time with my close friends helped me to reconnect with the parts of myself that I couldn’t find on my own.

4. Repeat as necessary until your check engine light goes off.

There is no specific time frame for this process. And from experience, I can tell you it often takes longer than you think it will. But it is so, so worth it to go through the repair process. When our engines are running well, we are truly unstoppable!

Our lives, like our cars, need maintenance and repairs from time to time. When the “check engine” light comes on, try not to think of it as a bad thing or a step backward. It’s a necessary step to moving forward.

What else have you found to be helpful when the “check engine” light goes off in your life?

PS- If the “check engine” light is going off in your life(or might be soon), please consider signing up for my Oasis Workshop this weekend! There are two spots left for the workshop this Saturday! Click here to get all the details.