Something that came up in my life coaching sessions last month was empathy. I was asked to think about the emotions I feel the most and empathy immediately came to mind. I wasn’t surprised but it did get me thinking a lot about empathy, what it means to be an empath and how to deal with being an empath.
Photo by Taisiia Stupak on Unsplash
Empathy is described as, “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.” And unless you’re a sociopath, then most people have the capability to feel empathy.
And you probably will feel empathy towards certain people or circumstances throughout their lives.
An empath however is someone that feels MORE empathy than the regular person. They can recognize emotions easier and are more affected by other people’s emotions. Some signs that you might be an empath are:
- You take on other people’s emotions as your own
- You can experience sudden or extreme emotions
- You can “feel the room” so to speak and the energy of a room matters to you
- You have a hard time not caring and have a “fix it” mentality
- You are a highly sensitive person (to emotions, sounds, sensations etc)
- You often need time to recharge
These are just a handful of signs that you might be an empath and I personally fall under a number of those categories. I’ve always been a sensitive person. I’ve always FELT things quite deeply and found deep meaning in stuff that others might not.
And I’ve DEFINITELY taken on other people’s emotions as my own. In fact, I had such a torrid time of this a few years back, that I found myself seeking help from The Samaritans because I couldn’t cope and didn’t know HOW to cope.
A quick back story about that situation: My boyfriend was having an awful time at work for quite a long period of time. His boss was awful, he was under a ton of pressure and wasn’t making enough money for it to even be worth it. Rightly so, he was exhausted and miserable.
And I freaking felt it. I felt it every single day when he would ring me on his lunch break. I’d spend my entire day worrying about how he was getting on at work and if he rung me to say things weren’t going well, then I couldn’t function for the rest of the day.
This sounds dramatic and will sound really odd to people who aren’t empaths but I just couldn’t separate myself from my boyfriend’s emotions.
It was awful.
Knowing how to deal with being an empath is so important. It’s THE MOST important thing you can do. So today I want to take what I’ve learned over the last few years (and from my coaching) and share some tips on how to deal with being an empath.
How to deal with being an empath in 7 helpful ways:
Remember that there’s nothing wrong with you
Before we even get into feeling the emotions of others, let’s just take a minute to remember that being an empath isn’t right or wrong. It’s just another thing that we are. Of course it can certainly turn into a hindrance if we let it (like I did) but on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re an empath.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries
Boundaries are probably THE MOST important thing you will need when learning how to deal with being an empath. Because as empaths, we will let the emotions take over if we don’t have those boundaries. A boundary in this instance could be as simple as limiting your time spent with someone who drains your energy.
Related read: How To Manage Relationships That Don’t Align With You Anymore
Identify your energy gainers and drainers
A really helpful activity that I learned during my coaching was energy gainers and energy drainers. Identifying these will also help you set those boundaries. It’s pretty simple, all you need to do is write two lists: the people/places/emotions/circumstances/activities that GIVE you energy and those that drain it.
Create an energy shield
This will take a little practice on your part but creating an invisible energy shield between you and the other people can be really helpful in managing their emotions.
It’ll take a little visualization practice but next time you’re having a conversation with someone that you can feel is impacting your empathetic state, try imagining a shield in front of you or an invisible wall in-between you. See their emotions knocking into the wall or shield and flying away – thus not ending up in you.
Have emergency procedures in place
Sometimes, it gets too much. I’m a good example of that. So of course it’s important to learn how to manage it but it’s equally as important to learn what to do if things get out of hand. Like I said, I ended up seeking solace in The Samaritan. But you might consider creating a self care kit, doing a helpful meditation or speaking to someone.
Release the emotions
This is a good tip to learn whether you’re an empath or not. Because we all have emotions that build up from time to time. It’s very easy to absorb negative emotions but what goes in, must come out. So learning how to release them is just as important.
You might try a visualization technique (I personally like the image of a cat swatting something off a table), meditation, writing these emotions down and burning them (but be careful!) or journaling it out. It’s all about finding what works for you.
Related read: 30 Journal Prompts for Mental Health
Self care to the max
And finally, I couldn’t not have a point about self care in here, could I? Self care will be SO IMPORTANT for empaths. Especially after a period of extreme emotion. Schedule in some you time. Dedicate a whole damn day to it if you have to. Do all the things you love. Get cozy. Cry. Do what you gotta do.
I hope these tips helped you learn how to deal with being an empath. If you’re an empath, I’d love to know if you have any additional tips to add to this list!
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Thank you for this post. Definitely can relate to it because I often deal with carrying someone else’s emotions at times without realizing it and reading this helped me figure out some other ways of dealing with taking care of myself whenever it happens. Very helpful post!
So glad this helped!
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Such a wonderful post! As a fellow empath I absorb other people’s emotions. I remember the first time I realised that the emotions I were feeling were actually foreign to me – they weren’t mine. My boundaries are pretty bulletproof these days, but I still automatically absorb emotions.
Learning about MBTI has been a huge help too. I’m INFJ-T – basically a bit of a rare weirdo, aha. I guess different is good, however 🙂
Thanks for sharing these tips, learning how to re-charge is so important 🙂
It really is!
Thank you for this post. I very much felt this in my heart and I am also empathic and this can transition to poor mental health as I take on board the emotions of others. I appreciate the article and once again thanks.
I’m glad you found it helpful!
I can really understand this me and my partner had a similar issues with job, my previous job was highly stressful (but I loved it) and ridiculously unsociable hours! So now we limit what we talk about about work. These are some awesome tips x
That sounds like a healthy thing to do!
I love your idea about creating two lists…this is a great tip for anyone! Writing down the things that energize us juxtaposed to the things that drain us is great. That way, we can be sure to incorporate more of the uplifting stuff! Boundaries are so very important, and this is something I am working on…the journal-writing helps me so much in getting a clear perspective on things. My father gave me some very good advice when I was a young girl. He said that your feelings are your feelings. Don’t ever let someone else tell you how you feel, or that your feelings are somehow ‘wrong’. You are who you are and you are entitled to feel the way you do, and if someone else cannot respect that, then they don’t respect you.
Your father was a very wise man! Excellent advice 🙂
This sounds incredibly difficult to deal with. I’m not sure I can directly relate (obviously okay lol), but I can definitely relate to be drained by certain people of social interactions. Becoming aware of it seems so important, and the first step in making any subsequent changes
It’s definitely hard to deal with at times!
I like the idea of identifying energy gainers/ drainers and also creating an energy shield. I think for a long time I would block out all my emotions, but that is just not a healthy way to cope. Once I allowed myself to actually feel things, I realized how sensitive and empathetic I am.
You’re absolutely right!
As a fellow empath I see you, I hear you and I feel this on so many different levels. Boundaries are 100% my biggest failing and yet I shout about them all the time. I just have such a hard time when it comes to setting up my falls and sticking by my guns.
An excellent read!
Thanks lovely. I hope you can establish some stronger boundaries for yourself – you deserve them!
Something my partner pointed out to me and I think it’s true: A lot of empathy is assumption. You can never TRULY know exactly how someone else feels, because we each only have our own experience of the world. Especially true when you’re empathizing with someone who hasn’t explicitly told you how they are feeling. So being an empath and highly sensitive person often leads us to assume how others feel and this can sometimes hurt our feelings unnecessarily. As an empath who struggles BPD and is on the spectrum, I often assume how people feel incorrectly, especially when it comes to feelings like irritation and anger. When I act on my assumptions on other people’s feelings, it often leads to arguments.
So with all that said: part of the way I cope with being an empath is slowing myself down, reminding myself that I can’t truly know how someone feels without asking (and even then I can only know from my own frame of reference!) And I have to remind myself that however they are feeling, it never has 100% to do with me. For example: Even if I make someone angry, they have their own reasons for reacting that way, I can’t change that and I have to just accept that as it is. All I can do at that point is try to come to an understanding with the person and try not to let my feeling their feelings overwhelm me! Other people’s anger is probably the feeling I feel the most, and it’s probably the feeling that takes the most toll on my well being.
Wow this comment was a lot longer than I expected it to be! 😅
Wow that’s an excellent point that your partner made! Definitely food for thought!
Ironically this exact thing bit me in the arse today, when will I learn!?
Such a great post and it’s true that being an empath can be very draining. Having time to recharge and be alone is important.
Wow These are amazing tips some of which I never knew can be done! Also so grateful someone addressed this!
Personally journaling has worked wonders for me. Also dancing .
Sometimes I also quit some social medias or take a break from news reading when I get too overwhelmed and emotional by the happenings around me!
I’ve had to quit social media altogether (unless you count WordPress, it just feels different to me though, but I suppose it is media and it is social!) Because it’s gotten to a point where I just can’t handle the constant stream of information, a lot of which is specifically tailored to make us feel very emotional!
Omg agreed! I always blamed myself for being “old fashioned”. But Now I ak realising too how much important it is to remove toxicity. Instead of blaming things on our empathising nature its ok to work or remove unwanted stimulations!
This was such an interesting read! I know a lot of people who are like this so it’s always great to understand it and know some tips! Thanks for sharing!xx
Thank you x
Love this post so much Jen! I’m an ambivert and quite sensitive. Sometimes people I just met get misunderstood because at one time I talk a lot and at other times I can stay in a corner and watch my friends having fun. I found myself became heavily drains by other’s situation. I keep reminding myself that is okay to be empath and self-care to the max is so important. Thanks for sharing these x
Thank you for sharing. I definitely relate to being heavily drained by other people’s situations!
I thoroughly love this post! I’m an empath and I often find being an empath difficult. It’s good to know what I can do x
Thank you 🙂 It can definitely be difficult x
I’m an empath as well & have written about what it’s like & the commonality is this sense of setting boundaries. ever since i started setting boundaries i’ve been able to handle my empathic ways. i see being an empath as a form of superpower really. if you keep a healthy balance, you can use it to your advantage.
thanks for sharing you experience 🙂
Boundaries are so important!
Brilliant tips! I really like the energy shield idea! I used it today and it works! Boundaries are a big one for me at the moment, I’m learning so much. Thanks for sharing, I am loving these posts x
Wow yay! That’s great news 🙂 The energy shield can be used in so many different situations!
This is a wonderful post – I definitely have some empath in me and these tips speak right to me. Years ago I learned the power of journaling and taking the time needed to recharge batteries and that really helped me. I love your tip about not being hard on yourself, its so easy to fall into that habit at times. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you 🙂 Journaling can be an excellent tool. I need to utilizie it more.
I always love that you never can predict what is coming up on your blog next! This was SO interesting, and I love the coping mechanisms, especially about visualising a shield. Great post!
Haha yay! Thank you 🙂 x
These tips are amazing, and especially the points about boundaries!
Love, Amie ❤
The Curvaceous Vegan
Thank you 🙂 x
When I was younger, I was always told how sensitive I was. It wasn’t until I was an adult and going through therapy sessions that I came to the realization that I was an empath, through and through. My therapist at the time really helped me navigate some of it and basically shared everything you have in this post, buuut years later, I still find it really challenging to handle on a daily basis (and I can’t afford therapy anymore). So, your reminders in this article were really beneficial and I’m so thankful that you posted this!
It’s definitely an on-going thing. Not something you can just snap out of with therapy, so keeping consistent with the techniques is so important!
Great tips, I can definitely feel myself taking on foster kids’ trauma sometimes. We take advantage of breaks between foster kids and learn to say ‘no’ as needed. I also just need a ton of alone time to recharge. Exercising and getting creative help me the most with coping. And some days I just don’t watch the news because it’s simply too much negativity.
I totally understand the point about the news. It’s sooo draining!
I’ve had to cut out the news entirely. What I need to know will always make it’s way around to me through word of mouth!
I’m definitely an empath, other people’s energies really get to me. It makes being a teacher so hard because I’m exposed all day to all sorts of energies all clashing and I go home absolutely exhausted and miserable. Self care has helped a lot but definitely I will use some of these other tips when I return to work. Thanks for sharing!
Gosh yes I imagine it was tough being a teacher but also you have a really great power to be able to connect with kids!
Great tips! When I first learned I was an empath there was not a lot of information out there. I felt very alone and frustrated. Seeing posts like this make me so happy. Just knowing the information is out there for people who need it and there is support is so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing!
Thank you so much and I’m so glad you found this helpful 🙂 x
This is a really interesting post, and I have definitely always seen myself as an empathetic and quite sensitive person. I think that these are some very important tips- if you are someone that finds it hard to separate emotions or recharge, you need to take yourself away from people who are negative, or who will drain you! Thank you for sharing this post x
Thank you 🙂 I agree. x
Another wonderful post that I can relate. I have a mother and ex who are narcissist and they adored coming to me to dump their issues, their emotions, sucking the life out of me because i was always there to their rescue and holding their hand. Because I felt them and emotionally i was there for them. I had to set strong boundaries and start taking car of me first. So important and yet so neglected. It took me years to break the habit. It is taking me years to keep the boundaries up as it is so easy for an empath to go back to the old pattern, at least for me it is.
Thank you Jenny!
Gosh I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you!
I am definitely an empath and very sensitive as well so I really appreciate these tips Jenny! I love the idea of setting up a shield and will definitely be practicing this. Thanks for sharing.
Glad you found this helpful!
I love all these tips. This is a lovely post.
Thank you 🙂
Some amazing tips Jenny! I’m an empath myself and I will be taking these tips on board! x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Thank you 🙂 Hope they help!
Lovely tips, I am an empath and the tips you mention works for me 😉 thanks for sharing this post.
Glad they help!
Such great advice Jenny! I consider myself to be an empath and worry a lot, I think this comes with having an anxiety disorder.
I remember when my mum became unwell last Autumn I honestly feel like I felt her pain with her. I ended up having to visit the doctors. I felt so overwhelmed and became so paranoid I was also unwell. It happened again just a couple of weeks ago too when she went to hospital for an operation. It’s a feeling or a heavy mood I’ll never forget.
Kate | kindlyk.co.uk
Oh gosh I’m so sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine how hard that was for you x
These are super helpful Jenny. This is something that both myself and Rob struggle with and it can really have a huge effect on our relationship because we completely take on each others ‘stuff’
I think finding a balance is so important. I want to be able to support him and empathise with whatever he has going on but I need to manage how I approach that for my own well-being and vice-versa for him.
I will read this to him later x x
Thank you 🙂 I imagine it can! Finding that balance is so important!
These are some really helpful tips! I’m definitely an empath so I’m going to take some of these on board – thanks for sharing x
Thank you 🙂 Hope they help!
This is such an interesting post. As I was reading it, I was thinking of someone I know who is 100% an empath but may not even know!
Yep you definitely can find people who are but no realise it!
Thank you so much for that! I am such an empath myself and I’ve always thought there is something inherently wrong with me. After doing some research, talking with people and reading about it, it turns out I am just a very highly sensitive and emphatic person! Now I also know there are other people like me, and it’s always nice to hear other stories and pieces of advice like that 🙂
It’s great to know that there are others like you, isn’t it!
Wow, Jenny, such a fab post. I’m not sure if I’d class myself as an empath but I do recognise a few of the symptoms. And I love the idea of an energy shield, that is such a good tip, I can see me putting that into practice a lot at the moment. Also the cat swatting something away is definitely an image I can get on board with too. Thank you! xxx
Haha I love the cat swatting image, it REALLY helps me!
Love all these tips! Not sure if I fall into the empath category, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed by emotions suddenly as well as having the need to always fix it, so these will come very helpful! I learned the hard way that boundaries are a must and adding self care in my routine every other day, thank you for sharing x
These things will definitely help even if you’re not a full-on empath!
You are amazing 🙂
Aw, thank you!
Most Welcome 🙂
Amazing Tips <3 <3 <3
Thank you 🙂 x
This is a lovely post, Jenny! I’m an introvert and every time I made friends, I found myself becoming heavily drained by other people’s emotions and situations to the point that my life was changing due to it. It took me a while to understand that I’m absorbing other people’s emotions and figure out a way to save myself from it. At this point, I’ve made sure to identify energy drainers and always have a plan to recharge afterwards, and I do journalling to let my emotions out. I didn’t know that I was an empath due to all this until recently but it feels good to be able to name it and understand that I’m not alone in this!
Thank you 🙂 You sound like you have a lot of tools in place to cope with this!
I love these tips, I definitely im an empath in someway and the tips you’ve suggested always work for me! Working out what drains me so I know when to recharge with some self-care is so important, thank you for sharing these!xx
Thank you 🙂 Glad these help you too!