Empathy is a value we wish to instill in our children from a very young age, but it’s important that we realize that it’s possible to be too empathetic at times. Many times, empaths find themselves putting others before themselves to the point that they feel emotionally and physically uncomfortable for absolutely no reason. Empaths carry other people’s burdens with them wherever they go, and find it hard to shrug these feelings off even when they become overwhelming. If you ever feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, there are steps you can take to alleviate the problem before it becomes too much to handle.
1. Evaluate your feelings
Empaths tend to take other people’s feelings on as their own, and find it hard to separate themselves from the feeling once it takes hold of them. It’s important for you to be able to evaluate whether what you’re feeling is due to an internal or external stimulus, and act accordingly. Realizing you’re getting worked up over something that doesn’t directly affect you is the first step toward alleviating those dreadful feelings.
2. Distance yourself
Once you realize the external source of your distress, move away from it physically and emotionally. If a couple begins arguing in a public place and you find yourself getting anxious, find another place to continue whatever activity you were engaged in. If a friend is going through a tough time, it’s definitely okay to help them out, but remember that it’s not your problem to deal with. Of course, you’ll feel bad for your friend, but you also need to watch out for your own well-being as well. There’s no sense in both of you being dragged down.
3. Know your vulnerabilities
It’s important that you know you’re an empath in order to avoid putting yourself in emotionally-driven situations that can be detrimental to your overall well-being. Also, take notice of where you physically start to ache when you start feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Some people get butterflies in their stomach, others get migraine headaches. Whatever the case may be, be sure to notice when this happens so you are able to immediately distance yourself from a stressful situation the second it becomes too much to handle.
4. Concentrate on your breathing
Remind yourself that the problem around you is not your problem by focusing on your own breathing. Taking controlled, even breaths will help realign your mindset, and help you realize you don’t need to be involved in the situation at hand. After you’ve regained control, you’ll be able to remove yourself from the situation to avoid any further panic.
5. Set boundaries
As an empath, you obviously care deeply for those around you. But you still have to look out for number one. Set physical and emotional boundaries when you start to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to an invite to coffee if you know it will result in the other party laying out their troubles in front of you. Don’t feel like you need to pick up the phone every time someone needs something from you. You want to be a good friend, but you shouldn’t do so at the expense of your own well-being.
6. Visualize boundaries
When you do choose to be the shoulder for a friend to cry on, you also need to visualize symbolic boundaries between the two of you. Create an imaginary wall that allows you to see and hear your friend’s plight, but keeps you from taking on their problems as your own. Remind yourself that no matter how much you help, you can only do so much for them. It’s up to them to truly take the reins and solve their own problems.
7. Focus on own emotions
It’s okay to feel bad for a friend, but remember: you’re feeling bad for a friend, not for yourself. Don’t let their troubles ruin the rest of your day. You can empathize with them while you’re spending time with them, but once you leave the situation, you should also leave the feelings behind as well. Like I said before, there’s no point in both of you feeling down. If your friend drags you into a pit of despair with them, it becomes impossible for either of you to help each other out of it.
8. Do whatever calms you
We all have coping mechanisms for when we’re upset for legitimate reasons. When you find yourself emotionally distressed for any reason at all, do whatever it is that helps you get back to baseline. Take a long bath, hit some golf balls at the driving range, eat some ice cream. Treat yourself! Focusing on pleasure will almost certainly alleviate any sympathy pains you’ve been feeling for a friend.
Featured photo credit: New York City | NYC | June 2010 / Nan Palmero via farm5.staticflickr.com