Are you someone who cares too much about everyone and everything in your world? Have you ever wondered how to stop caring so much, establish healthy boundaries, and take better care of your mental health?
Whether you care too much about your friendships, your dating life, or your job, there is a point where excessive caring can become overwhelming and have a negative impact on your health and well-being. In this article, I’ll explore whether it’s actually possible to care too much and give you some tips on how to stop caring so much all the damn time.
Can You Care Too Much?
Let’s be clear: caring is not a flaw or weakness. To be able to care deeply about someone else or something else requires deep love and compassion, and there’s nothing weak about that. For example, let’s say your girlfriend has a particularly stressful week at work, and on Friday night you decide to surprise her with a three-course home-cooked meal filled with all the food she loves. This will probably bring her a lot of joy and happiness and make her feel loved and taken care of. But at the same time, when you do nice things for someone else, it can have benefits for you too, including reduced stress and increased happiness.
However, it is possible to become overwhelmed by how much you care about everything and this can lead to over-worrying, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and lack of sleep. This is what is called “compassion fatigue.” Not only are there potential physical and mental diseases, but also increased chances of others taking advantage of your good nature and using and abusing you for their own needs, leaving you energetically and emotionally depleted.
If this sounds familiar, I want you to know you’re not alone, and there are some simple steps you can take to stop crossing the line of compassion into “over-caring” territory, while still being the amazing, kind, loving human that you are.
13 Ways to Stop Caring So Much in Relationships
Why do you care so much?
Caring too much in relationships and other situations is typically caused by one of the following:
- Traumatic experiences (usually in childhood)
- Codependency in relationships
- Fear (of not being liked/loved)
- Mental issues and disorders
- Low self-worth or self-confidence (which leads you to de-prioritize yourself and your needs)
- A very sensitive/empathetic personality type
Take some time to uncover the real root of why you show up the way that you do.
Become aware of the negative effects of excessive caring
Have you ever been used, cheated on, or lied to? Or have you ever ended up in unnecessary arguments or fits of blinding rage? Whether it’s mental health issues, relationship issues, or general negative energy, examine all the ways that your excessive caring harms your life. Only once you do this can you start to grasp the cost of caring too much.
Set healthy boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries in all areas of our lives is essential if we want to have healthy relationships. The problem is most of us are not taught what healthy boundaries are, or how to create them! Your boundaries relate to what you deem acceptable and unacceptable in terms of behavior and actions in another person, and how you expect to be treated. Your boundaries will prevent friends from using you as a dumping ground for all their gossip or trash-talking. They will help you be more assertive when dating and with colleagues and managers at work.
Once you know what your boundaries are, it’s important to communicate these in your relationships, whether it’s romantic, familial, or work. If someone knows your boundaries and then crosses them, it’s up to you to take action. If someone continues to cross your boundaries, it’s likely that they don’t respect your boundaries (or you) and this is a sign it’s time to end that relationship.
Take care of yourself first
How to stop caring so much about other people? Put yourself first. A lot of us focus our attention and energy on things outside of us (the news, social media, relationships, material possessions, etc.) because we are avoiding looking at ourselves. It’s merely a distraction from the inner work we need to do but don’t want to face.
The problem is, just because you don’t meet your flaws, doesn’t mean they’re not there. They are. And they will affect all of your relationships. A classic example of this is the person who cares too much ends up feeling hurt or betrayed by their partner because, in their eyes, they don’t care enough about them. Usually, this is a reflection of low self-worth and a lack of self-care and self-love. While it is possible to love someone without loving yourself, it makes it incredibly difficult to have a healthy, mature, balanced relationship.
So my invitation to you is to make yourself your number one priority. Take care of your needs and wants and do the inner work so that you get to a place where you are content and comfortable with yourself, and can then show up in a healthy, independent way in a relationship.
Have your own dreams and goals
When you don’t have any ambitions, dreams, or goals to focus on, it can lead to caring too much about what others are doing, including friends, family, and romantic partners. For a relationship to be healthy and balanced, both people have to remain independent and have their own lives going on outside of the relationship.
So think about what you have going on that is completely your own. What are your dreams and desires and are you devoting time and energy to them? If you don’t have any dreams of your own, now is the time to start dreaming and stop caring so much about everything going on around you.
How to stop caring when they don’t care enough to work on themselves
Have you ever had a friend who keeps complaining to you about a shitty partner or friend or situation, but literally does nothing to change it? You give them the best advice over and over again, but they keep coming back to you with the same problem. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.
This can be a sign that you care too much and that your thoughtful advice and support are being ignored and wasted. Take a step back. Be honest with that person and set a boundary. E.g. “Look, John, I’ve given you so much advice about this and it’s really frustrating to not see you take any action to move past this problem. I don’t want to hear about this problem you’re having any more until you’ve taken a step to change it. For now, let’s talk about something else.”
Engage in self-care together
Sometimes your partner or friend might need you, but you feel too drained to be there for them in the capacity you’d like to be. This is when engaging in some form of self-care together can benefit you both and avoid an exhausting conversation. Pick something that you both enjoy—watching a sports game, going to the movies, or heading to the gym—that requires minimal conversation and you know will lift your spirits.
Only offer what you have to give
Here’s how to stop caring: only offer what you have to give, and when your cup feels full enough to do so. You can empathize with someone’s struggle or pain without giving anything to them. After empathizing, communicate what you have to give.
Here’s an example: “I’m really sorry to hear you’re having a shitty time at work right now. Shall we arrange to grab coffee for an hour after work to chat?” Or, “I don’t feel up for an intense, emotional conversation right now, but do you want to go for a swim together and then chill in the sauna after?”
Pay attention to imbalances in your relationships
When you’re someone who cares too much, it’s often coupled with a lack of healthy boundaries (as mentioned earlier) which can lead to you attracting people who want to take from you and use you. These relationships are not equal. They are based on that person knowing they can come to you to complain about a shitty day, or ask you for advice on their relationship, or have you run an errand for them, and there’s no intention of reversing those roles and being there for you when you need them.
They may or may not care about you, but either way, they don’t have the capacity to deal with any of your issues because they are 100% focused on themselves. Start to reign back what you’ve invested in this person, and match what they invest in you.
Stop spending time with people who don’t make you feel good
You would think it would be easy to stop the excessive caring when it’s over that same friend who continues to dump all their problems and complaints on you. But for people who care too much, it can be challenging. You might not even realize that you are being used as a dumping ground for their toxicity, and you might excuse them because they’re your friend/family member. Or, you might think that you can somehow solve their problems and worries. But the trouble is, these kinds of people are never out of problems. They enjoy complaining. And when they complain to other people, it makes them feel slightly better. But the result of that is they poison that person with their negativity and bring them down.
So take a look at the people in your circle. How do they make you feel? And if they don’t make you feel good, it’s time to put some space between you so that you don’t devote so much of your precious energy to their toxicity.
Learn to say no
People who care too much often have difficulty saying no, in other words, they are people pleasers. They usually lack self-worth and self-confidence which prevents them from taking care of their own needs and going out of their way to take care of others out of fear of letting them down or ending up in conflict.
If you can’t say, “no” and mean it, other people will continuously invade your space and time, take advantage of you, and damage your peace of mind. Once you do start saying no, you’ll notice how people change around you. Some will get angry, and others will stop contacting you so much (because they can no longer use you). But the people who genuinely love you will get it, and they’ll stick around.
Manage your expectations
Another way that caring too much can show up in a relationship is unrealistic expectations for your partner. You try to change someone to match the perfect vision in your head or force them to change or grow in some way that makes you happy. Sure, it’s good to encourage your partner with their goals and desires, but forcing them to do anything will never end well. That’s not your place, and it will only lead to resentment, rejection, or the feeling that who they are is not enough for you. So manage your expectations. Of course, have expectations and standards. But don’t expect anyone to change for you - they have to want to change for themselves.
Work on your trust issues
Sometimes, the label of “caring too much” is used to cover over paranoia and trust issues. So, how do you know if you have trust issues? Well, do you constantly text or call your partner (or expect them to do the same) when you’re apart, just so you can keep tabs on what they’re up to and who they’re with? Do you get jealous when they’re at an event or party where there are other men? Do you worry about what they’re up to when you’re not around, or check their phone?
Sure, maybe you do care about your partner and want to make sure she’s safe. But this behavior is controlling and toxic. Without trust, there is no relationship. So if you struggle to trust them even though they have given you no reason to doubt, think about where those trust issues come from so you can come back to a healthy level of caring in your relationship.
Be mindful of what you consume
Social media is a strange vortex where the extreme highs and lows of the world are shared, all in an attempt to keep you on the apps. But if you’re a sensitive, caring type of person, social media can be even more damaging because you are being bombarded with news stories and people’s opinions. Watching or reading the latest headlines has a similar, horrifying effect. These media companies know that fear is addictive, so they continue to share harrowing stories that spread fear and keep you coming back for more. You will struggle to not care about the people you see on the screen, even if they're complete strangers on the other side of the world. This means that your energy is being invested into those people and those stories, and too many of these leave you drained.
So while you may not want to go on a total news detox or delete Instagram just yet, can you be more mindful about how much energy you give to these things each day? Can you turn your notifications off? Can you set a time limit for how long you’ll spend on an app? Are you willing to unfollow any accounts that have a toxic effect on your mental health and well-being?
Just like we must be careful with who we spend time with, we must also be mindful about what we consume, whether it’s ideas, content, music, film, TV, etc.
How to Stop Caring So Much at Work
Get clear on what success looks like to you
Want to know how to stop caring so much in your job to protect your mental health? The first step is to define what success means to you. Success can be measured in so many ways, whether it’s meeting deadlines, exceeding expectations, hitting KPIs, building strong relationships, climbing the career ladder, making more money, etc.
When you care a lot, there can be a tendency to work excessive hours, always be the first in and last to leave the office, and difficult to say no to extra requests from managers and colleagues even when you’re already swamped. But being overworked and underpaid is typically not what success looks like to anyone!
So take some time to define what success at work looks like to you. And if your current job doesn’t allow you to feel this kind of success while appreciating you and caring about your mental health and well-being, it’s time to switch jobs.
Don’t think about work when you’re not at work
Some people love to tell others about how “busy” they are at work, how they receive hundreds of emails each day, regularly work through dinner on the weekdays, and tackle errands on the weekends or even on vacation (if they ever take a vacation at all). They wear this “busyness” like a badge of honor. It makes them feel good and worthy and like they are valuable.
Other people would love to switch off when they’re not at work but really struggle to do so, and these tend to be the ones who care a lot and lack boundaries. But healthy boundaries are essential to maintain separation between your work and personal life. This is why working from home has made this even more challenging.
I recommend taking all breaks and vacation days you’re entitled to. When you’re not at work, don’t think about work, don’t check your phone or laptop. If you’re out with colleagues after work there can be a tendency to talk about work, but try to avoid this and have fun!
Remember that you are probably easily replaceable
When you care too much about your job, you might stress over projects and deadlines, push yourself to increase your productivity (even at the cost of your health), and volunteer for all extra tasks because you want everyone to see you as proactive and willing to get stuck in. But there’s a real cost to this: your health and wellness.
What I want you to remember is that pretty much everyone who is employed is easily replaceable and just another cog in a very big machine. The office will not fall apart if you take your lunch break, stay home because you’re sick, or make it home in time for dinner with your family. I hope this helps you to stop caring so much and to put yourself first ahead of any job or company.
Focus on what you are great at
Everyone has their own set of gifts, strengths, interests, and experiences to bring to a job. The problem is, that a lot of jobs will require you to operate outside of this “genius” zone, which can really bog you down and convince you that you aren’t good at your job.
If there are parts of your job you love, then think about some of the things you don’t excel at that could potentially be delegated or outsourced. And if you can’t think about how much you enjoy your job, it’s time to reassess your career path.
Let go of what you cannot control
In life, there will always be so many things we cannot control. And in an office environment, there will be a lot that is out of your control, particularly other people. You may find yourself frustrated thinking, “Why do they behave like that? How can they not see that this process is inefficient? Why do we continue to have hour-long meetings where nothing is achieved?”
When you care too much, you might find yourself worrying endlessly about all of these things and maybe trying to fix them. But the reality is you can offer guidance and suggestions, but you have to ensure you are not invested in the outcome of other people’s choices. They are not yours to make.