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When We Care Too Much

“Overcare” was a new term to me when I learned about The HeartMath Institute a few years back. I knew that “caring” was generally a good thing, but the idea that it could become unhelpful if taken to the extreme was not so familiar. Yet the more I’ve explored this concept, the more I see its tremendous value. 

Doc Childre (founder of HeartMath) explains that, “When the nurturing feeling of care turns into a disturbed feeling of worry, anxiety, and stacks of stress, it has become overcare.” Besides feeling lousy, overcare impedes our ability to think and act clearly and to find reasonable solutions. It also tends to repel those who we are excessively worrying about (think about the teenager whose mother keeps calling repeatedly to check on him).

As adults, we can unintentionally pass on this unhelpful habit of “overcaring” to children through our own actions. This only serves to continue the fruitless cycle of incessant worry and stress. 

So what can we do to interrupt this pattern? The HeartMath Institute offers a simple, yet powerful process called “The Cut-Thru Tool.” I use it often, and I hope you will find it to be helpful as well. Here are the steps: 

  1. Recognize feelings of overcare. If you notice distressing emotions of anxiety, fear, or worry, know that by choosing to do “The Cut Thru Tool”, you can find a more helpful perspective. 

  2. Hold the feelings of overcare in the heart. Imagine breathing in and out of your heart, softening the emotions and allowing them to dissipate as you continue to breathe slowly and deeply. (Resist the tendency to get into a story about the feelings or analyze them. This prolongs the stress and drains your system. Simply breathe and create space for the emotion to release as it blends with the calming energy of the heart).

  3. Find your peace. As the charged energy of distress dissipates, allow a new sense of peace and clarity to enter your body and mind. You might imagine going to your heart and reassessing the situation from this new perspective. Are there any assumptions or perceptions you might want to release? Trust in the wisdom of your heart to guide you with compassion and truth.

  4. Recall the original care. Ask yourself, “Why did I originally care?” Remember and appreciate that overcare always stems from care. Then ask, “How did my original care slowly leak away due to overcare and drain me?” Allow yourself to see how your care was taken to insufficient extremes. 

  5. Follow your Heart Intelligence. As your clear perception and sense of calm return, listen to your heart to know what true, balanced care would be in this situation. Follow the wisdom of your heart to guide you toward true care for self and others. 

As Childre reminds us, the signals of the heart are often subtler than those of the mind (especially as we are learning to listen to our heart intelligence). Be willing to pause, slow down, and deeply listen to hear the wisdom of your heart. I have found that, when combined with the clarity of the mind, this beautiful heart intelligence will not lead us astray. 

Wishing you all of the blessings of the heart on your journey,

~Dr. Abby Ampuja


Childre, L.C. (1996). Teaching Children to Love. Boulder Creek: Planetary Publications.

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