Have you ever felt resentment towards someone or something you cared about? They matter to you, yet they have mostly become a source of anxiety, anger, worry. You end up blaming them for your woes and overwhelmed by guilt as a result. Well, this could be a sign that you care too much!
The overcare syndrome
In their book called “Heart Intelligence”, Doc Childre and the team behind the Heart Math Institute (who’ve been doing fascinating research into the heart/brain connection), shared an insight that struck me: “numerous caregivers experience a high-rate energetic burnout from not being able to find the balance between care and overcare.”
Doc Childre describes overcare as: “that which happens when the mind and emotions cross the line of balanced care and get too bogged down with whomever or whatever you’re caring about. Overcare is when you become too entangled in another’s web and realize your energy is drained from overattachment.”
Caring is such a natural way to show our love and empathy, it’s hard to think that it’s possible to care too much, right? What if it was not a matter of caring too much, but rather not knowing how to manage your care?
Signs you may be overcaring
When you don’t manage your care, you pour everything you have into your loved ones, your job, your business, at the expense of your needs. You self-sacrifice. You believe that if you don’t worry or obsess over that person or that thing, you’re not caring “enough”. You’re not caring enough about your business if you’re not working on it 24/7. You’re not caring enough about your child if you’re not always available for her.
When you don’t manage your care, you become a “careaholic” who puts too much pressure on herself to prove she is indispensable. You believe that you’re the only one who can take care of your child’s needs, who can manage this task, or help that person you love. You feed your inflated egos, soothe your lack of confidence and protect yourself from the threat of not being needed by rendering others dependent on you.
When you don’t manage your care, you take over the other’s capacity to look after themselves. You resist delegating, sharing the load. You drain your energy and burn out. You become resentful and stressed. Because when there’s overcare at one end, there’s bound to be undercare at the other end! And who benefits from that? No one!
Caring with awareness
Awareness is always the first step towards change. There’s nothing wrong with caring but it’s worth asking: what is the motivation behind it? Whose needs are being met? When caring comes from a place of genuine love and selfless compassion, it will usually be invigorating and nourish our sense of meaning and contribution. When caring is self-serving, feeds our need to feel important or to control, that’s when it becomes depleting, draining and stressful.
Here are some common areas where we can tip into overcare: children, work, relationships, money, diet, health, how we look, what people think of us, regrets, etc. In what areas is care draining your energy right now? What are you over-attached to or over-identified with?
Overcaring doesn’t discriminate based on gender, however women and especially mothers, are often more prone to fall into the overcare trap because of society’s expectations of what a good mother should be and do. Remember that your worthiness comes from within: you don’t earn it through your mothering, your job, or your bank account.
And perhaps the most important question of all is: have you taken time to give to yourself first? How do you care for your own needs?
If you need support to better manage your care, including the one you give to yourself, you can book an introductory coaching session with me here.
Photo by Hassan Ouajbir for Pexels