Much is said about caring for others, but less is said about when we care too much.
We all care about many things. Our families, friends, projects, career. These are important to us.
Let’s be frank. The well-being of the world is in a state of crisis. The Pandemic continues to divide us. The burnout epidemic is worse than it has ever been. The war in Ukraine is compounding the rising and seemingly never-ending global uncertainty we are all feeling.
The conflict is stressing us out big time.
If you’re an empath like me, the accumulation of these events has the ability to cause you a great deal of unease.
In some cases, the effects are visible: perpetually worried, anxious, afraid, or concerned.
In some cases, angry, resentful, and downright P.O.’d.
This can’t be helpful, can it? Is there such a thing as perhaps caring too much?
To answer that question, I fall back on the research completed by the HeartMath Institute, for which I am a Certified HeartMath Resilience Advantage Trainer. In short, the HeartMath System is an evidence-based methodology used by businesses, nonprofits, schools, universities, and Olympic teams and elite athletes who want to gain an advantage in their performance and build stress resilience.
Let’s look more closely at how the HeartMath System defines balanced care vs overcare.
Balanced Care Vs Overcare
There is often a very fine line between balanced care and overcare, but you can learn to distinguish them by how you feel.
Overcare feels heavy and can lead to anxiety, burnout, fatigue, giving up, apathy and simply not caring anymore. As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership, I see this often with my clients when they begin working with me.
Overcare feels stressful. We are in overcare every time we second-guess ourselves, our decisions, and our work. We are in overcare when we are slow to make decisions for fear of making mistakes or when we worry about what others will think of us. We are in overcare when we are driven by external validation.
When overcare adds up, our ability to handle challenges diminishes. We are on a constant rollercoaster of emotion, one that is highly dependent on certain conditions being met. For example, if I submit a proposal and I receive verbal accolades for a job well done, then I’m feeling great.
However, if instead of the verbal praise, you look at me with a confused expression on your face, then I’m not so good. I screwed up. Adrenalin spikes up once again.
Up, down, up, down. The rollercoaster.
Sounds bloody exhausting, right? I feel you. I’ve been there.
Balanced care, on the other hand, renews.
When we are flexible and resilient under pressure, we flow much more easily as challenges come our way. We accept that stressful situations are going to occur. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel adrenalin course through our veins, but it’s the difference between days of overcare vs a minute or two of an adrenalin spike.
The frequency and length are a distinguishing factor. Usually, when successful women come to see me, they have already crossed the line from balanced care to overcare.
When we are in balanced care, we have much more emotional stamina and increased access to solutions. Responding to business or team problems comes a lot easier.
I like the analogy HeartMath uses. Think of care as an oil that lubricates the entire mental, emotional, and physical system.
Running your system without care is like running your car without oil:
You get friction and breakdown. It drains our system, and it doesn’t feel good.
This has a cumulative effect and can lead to burnout and high pressure.
We rarely notice when we cross the line from genuine care into a draining, counterproductive state of overcare.
It can be subtle and that’s often when I hear a lot of rationalization. “Oh, it’s nothing”.
It most certainly is not, “nothing”.
Making the distinction between the two can be tricky. Balanced care and overcare vary from person to person.
According to Doc Childre, the signs of overcare include:
- Unrealistic Expectations
- Emotional Attachment
- Worry, Anxiety, Guilt
- Mental Preoccupation
- Performance Anxiety
Remember, we usually don’t experience overcare about things we don’t care about. Which is why we often don’t notice it or accept it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal. The problem arises when the symptoms of overcare dilute the effectiveness of any action we may take to genuinely serve ourselves or others.
Here’s how it plays out in my coaching practise:
- Somebody’s got to do it.
- I can’t submit this until it’s perfect.
- It never works out.
- I have a right to worry.
- It will get better once I am able to hire someone.
- When I go on vacation, then I will relax.
- I have no choice.
- You don’t understand, it has to get done.
What’s The Takeaway?
It’s important to be aware of when our balanced care turns into overcare because it can lead to depletion. We can become so drained that we start to withdraw, become resentful, and give up. If this is you, don’t fret. It’s not uncommon. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been there at one time or another. In fact, I am convinced overcare is one of the contributing causes of burnout among high achieving professionals.
So, to answer the question, is there such a thing as caring too much? The answer is yes, when it yields anxiety, resentment, and a feeling of depletion, then it has crossed a very important emotional line. How do we solve for it?
That, my friends, will be answered in my next blog post that comes out next week.
I will end with this quote from Doc Childre:
“Be on the lookout for strain in each other, and with care, compassion and understanding, lend a helping hand and a mature heart. Helping each other manage emotional strain can yield creative alternatives and build a new foundation for heart-based communication and hope.”
If you know someone who needs to hear this right now, do them and me a solid and pass it along. In the spirit of caring. ❤️