My murmur is mild, which means that it’s not likely my heart will actually beat through my chest — at least that’s what my practitioner promised me after I was repeatedly woken up by palpitations. But my anxiety often exacerbates my condition. I think it's because I care too much. About everything.
It's usually about appeasing everyone. This time, it's about me. I’ve just left my full-time job and have taken a deep dive into the hustle and bustle of freelance. I’ve rented my Brooklyn apartment to another woman who’ll be taking over my lease. I’ve booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand leaving in a few weeks. There’s been a lot about which to be anxious, and it’s all happening fast.
And I’ve cared, and still care, about what it all means. I care that I’m neither mentally nor financially prepared to have taken this leap, but did so because I know I may never feel ready. I care that I might feel lonely, lost or unfulfilled — that my own dream might disappoint me. I care that this journey could culminate with an empty bank account, even though I've been preparing myself for months to be freelancing remotely. I care that traveling will inevitably prolong my singleness while friends are getting married, despite how much I preach my independence. I care that, whenever I move back to Brooklyn, the life I’ve cultivated here likely won't be the same, even though I anticipate that it'll have changed for the better.
I also worry about what other people will think of my plans. I care that they may think I’m foolish or reckless, irresponsible, remiss, negligent, impetuous, not knowing how much thought I've actually put into all of this. I care about the ways in which they perceive my life via social media and otherwise, even though I know it won't all be glorious — and that's okay.
I even care that I’m admitting all of this, because none of these are “real problems.”
I care a heck of a lot about myself, and I always have. So much so that it’s manifested in the physical form of palpitations. So I do “self-care” rituals to self medicate by meditating in the mornings, kickboxing, cutting back on carbohydrates and getting regular massages. In other words, I care too much about myself that I actually have to self care to treat… self caring.
Articles inundate the internet about the importance of making time for oneself — self care prevents burn out, reduces stress, rejuvenates the mind. “Practice good emotional hygiene” and “emotional first aid.” Remove toxic relationships from your life; journal; focus on your breathing; say “no” more; say “yes” more; eat more greens; get more sleep; hit the gym; laugh a lot.
As a society, we’re obsessed with self care. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that millennials made more personal improvement commitments than any generation before them, and we’d spent twice as much as boomers on self-care essentials like gyms, diet plans, life coaches, therapy and apps to improve personal well-being. I’m guilty of all of the above, except for hiring a professional life coach; rather, my friends who get daily earfuls are my designated (most often against their will) personal life coaches.
So self care, to me, means thinking less about what life means or could mean or will mean or won’t mean. It means letting my life pan out rather than stressing about the “what ifs,” and it means caring less about what anyone else thinks of how exactly my life pans out. It means spending less time worrying about how to "carefully" live my life and spending more time just living it.
Caring less is self care.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.