It is always so wonderful to meet people who are kind and caring. Being compassionate is one of the best qualities any human being can have. Some people care for their own family or community, while there are others who care for the whole humanity. If caring is noble, whether it is for one’s family or community or the whole humanity, then how can someone care too much?
In my clinical practice I have met so many men and women who suffer because they care too much. Some worry a lot about their family. Others become preoccupied with the sick and the disabled in their community. While there are still others who ruminate about all those who are the victims of violence and war. When they see violent crimes on television, they experience sleepless nights, as they cannot get those images out of their minds.
When I interview such people in my clinical practice, I realize that some of them have highly sensitive personalities while others suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. They obsess and analyze a situation so much that their analysis turns into paralysis. Since they cannot do anything concrete to improve the situation they feel frustrated, distressed, disappointed and disheartened.
I share with them that there is a difference between caring and carrying. Caring for other people is noble but carrying other people in one’s mind all the time can lead to resentment and anger, and finally depression and desperation.
I suggest to them to set limits and define their area of interest and expertise. I give them my own example. I share that I am a psychotherapist and enjoy helping my patients in their emotional struggles. But if someone has a neurological problem, then I refer them to a neurologist. Knowing one’s limit is very important in caring for others. I ask people to learn to say ‘no’ when they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable. Those people who can say, ‘no’ without feeling guilty and know their limits of caring, can easily find a balance between their own needs and needs of others.
Those people who care too much, far more than they can emotionally afford, finally get tired and exhausted. These are the early signs of burnout. Such people overuse and abuse themselves. They are driving on an empty emotional tank and they need to learn to fill their emotional tank if they want to care for others. One cannot keep on giving without receiving. I suggest that they to do things that they like to do, want to do and love to do, as such activities fill our emotional tanks and then we have extra energy to care and serve others.
To help my patients fill their tanks during the day, I get involved in recreational and creative activities with my creative friends in the evening to fill my own emotional tank. The more our emotional tanks are full, the more we enjoy life and the more we are able to care for others without feeling overwhelmed and getting burnt out. Caring for others out of love is different than caring out of obligation and guilt. Those who love themselves in a healthy way are able to care for others in a loving way.