Identifying Care Vs. Overcare

Posted by Tawna - September 21st, 2011

So I am preparing to present a workshop in Louisville, Kentucky in October to a national group of medical professionals. My topic is about coming back home to the heart. The heart has the ability to accurately balance our thoughts and feelings to create clarity, effectiveness, real solutions, and true caring. It seems that the medical model has been teaching professionals to turn off their emotions—or hearts—in order to avoid becoming burned-out in their jobs. That would be a lovely solution, if it worked.

                Here’s the truth about caring vs. overcaring. Care is a function of the heart. Really. Science can now back that up with spectrum read-outs of the electromagnetic fields from both hearts and brains. It turns out that a heart that is coherent and firmly in the field of caring will instantly entrain the brain to it—not the other way around as we have believed for far too long. Recently, I read a fascinating seventy-page medical research paper on this very subject from the Institute of HeartMath. But one needn’t do all that. Just visit their website at and browse around. It is so interesting! There are numerous implications from this work, but today I will focus on the art of heart-caring.

                Think of someone, or something, for which you deeply care. Feel that feeling for a moment and then notice what those thoughts have done to your body. What has happened to your pulse, your breathing, your state of tension, your general feeling of wellbeing? Care is more valuable to us than we realize. It revitalizes and soothes the whole human system. It acts to motivate us. It gently reassures us, leading to feelings of security, support, and, most important of all, connection. Not only is it wonderful for our physical health, but it feels good—whether we are giving it or receiving it.

                A genuine core heart emotion like sincere care creates a bounce in your step, a glow in your eyes and an emanation of happiness from your being. And the physiological effects are equally dramatic. It increases the synchronization and coherent heart rhythmic patterns, which are not only good for the heart itself but for the nervous system and brain function. We have all had times of feeling this caring emotion deeply. Sometimes it can feel like a random visitor in our lives, though, and that we are victims to its illusive timing.

                The opposite of these genuine feelings of care is what is called over-care. Overcare occurs when our care goes too far and becomes burdensome, accompanied by worry, anxiety or insecurity. It leaves us feeling overloaded, overwhelmed, and overboard. The key thing to know is that this is actually a function of the brain and not the heart at all. People mistakenly attribute these negative feelings to the heart and assume that it mars professional or rational decision-making. Nothing could be further from the truth! What has actually happened is that the heart-fields have been abandoned in favor of the brain where we rehash, revisit, and just fret it out.  The truth is that abandoning the heart weakens us.

                “Balanced care paves the way for intuition. Overcare eats up the pavement, and then we don’t have a road to travel on anymore. That’s why we don’t get anywhere.” (Institute of HeartMath). Overcare doesn’t help. It squelches clarity, incapacitates people, induces panic and dilutes creative thinking. Here is a simple question to ask ourselves in determining if we are wandering in states of overcare, “Is what I am caring about adding quality to my life or is it adding stress?” When we have the answer to that question, we can be on the lookout for overcare. Notice if you are slipping into judgment, excessive drama, or feelings of resignation. These are sure indicators of overcare.

                In the event that we should find ourselves laden with the resultant stress of overcaring, there are three easy steps one can employ to bring back a balanced, heart-centered caring that adds quality to our days. They are as follows:

Step 1: Heart Focus

Focus your attention around your heart in the center of your chest.

(At first, you may want to put your hand over your heart area.)

Step 2: Heart Breathing

Breathe deeply but normally and feel as if your breath is coming in and out through your heart area.

(Breathe slowly and casually until you find a natural inner rhythm that feels good to you.)

 Step 3: Heart Feeling

This is the most important step!

As you maintain your heart focus and heart breathing, activate a positive feeling.

(Recall a positive feeling, like sincere gratitude, or remember a special place you’ve been to, the love you feel for a close friend, family member, or pet.) Really embrace this heart feeling. Then notice how the stressful overcare thoughts have dialed down several notches.

                It is important to remember to employ these three simple steps anytime we catch ourselves in the grip of stress. It can be done in under a minute when we become practiced at it. We need not be subject to random feelings of care. We can recall and use them at will. It is good medicine! I invite us all to get out of our heads so much and back into the wisdom of our hearts as we deal with the rigors and stressors of daily life. Good luck!

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