Let me introduce you to a new word that I have come to love.
I now know that I am capable of experiencing overcare rather frequently in many areas in my life. Here’s a perfect example of overcare:
It’s 3:32am and I am wide awake. All I can think about is school. I’m structuring a lesson on making inferences and thinking of creative ways to present the concept. I’m crafting the perfect way to say x, y, or z during tomorrow’s faculty meeting. I’m making a list of the papers and tests that I *must* make sure to grade ASAP. The truth though is that I can’t teach the lesson, have the meeting, or grade the papers from my bed at 3:32am. (I suppose I could grade the papers… but that’s not realistically going to happen.) No matter how much I mentally prepare for these things, I am not going to check them off my list in the middle of the night. It is a true and complete waste of my energy. And in the meantime, I am losing sleep.
Losing sleep over work is just one example of overcare. Overcare can also manifest as obsessive thoughts over how to respond to an email, even when that email isn’t particularly urgent. It’s breaking down in tears over all the details that go into buying a car. It’s having a panic attack at the prospect of not packing the right things for the long trip.
Simply put, “overcare” is caring about something in a way that is excessive and ultimately detrimental to one’s sanity, well-being, or health. It is caring about something to a degree that actually harms you, because it’s resulting in lack of sleep, stress on the body, or significant wearing down of the emotions. I learned this in a book titled Transforming Anxiety: The HeartMath Solution for Overcoming Fear and Worry and Creating Serenity. Overcare is just one of the many causes of anxiety. I suppose overcare could be circumstantial, but I’m guessing that slews of people live their lives in a constant state of overcare and this is harmful to our collective well-being.
Of course it’s important to care about your work. I adore my work and I want to to give it the time and attention it needs. It’s also important to care about doing due diligence when you buy a car, prepare for a long trip, etc. Many things in our lives require that we give them care.
But the kind of care we need to give is balanced care.
Balanced care means that you are caring an appropriate amount about the situation and in a way that is balanced with the care you demonstrate for your physical and mental health.
Balanced care means applying perspective to a situation and asking yourself – am I going to be worrying about this one week from now? One month from now? One year from now? It means choosing not to sacrifice the yoga class or time with your family to slave over work that can easily be done tomorrow. It’s being aware of the ways in which the level of care you are giving affects you physically, mentally, spiritually, or any other way.
So when I find the panic rising or the obsessive thoughts creeping, I try to ask myself: Is this overcare? Am I overcaring about this situation? Because if my physical or mental health is suffering, if my energy is depleted, it doesn’t matter how much extra thought or preparation I’ve put towards the situation.
Take balanced care.