If you are reading this, there’s a chance that you might be an empath. Even though we all feel a certain level of empathy, an “empath” is someone who connects and identifies intensely and easily with other people and stimuli.
Signs you are an empath
If you are an empath, you have probably been labeled as “too sensitive” more times than you can remember. Being an empath can feel like you are an “emotional sponge”: not only do you understand and identify with other people’s emotions, but you also connect with those emotions to the point of “absorbing” those feelings as your own.
There are many signs that point to you being an empath. For example:
The downside of being an empath
Being an empath has its beauty, but it can also be pretty hard to deal with. Being highly aware of, and absorbing emotions of others can easily take its toll in many areas of your life: from work and relationships down to your own mental health, After a long day of absorbing others’ emotions, you likely cannot distinguish which emotions are truly yours, and are feeling emotionally drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
If you don’t know how to protect yourself from taking on too much, you might be experiencing the costs:
Just because you are an empath doesn’t mean you have to “take” other people’s emotions until you are feeling drained. There are ways in which you can set healthy limits so that you can empathise with others, but also protect your well-being, feelings, and energy.
How to protect yourself
1. Set up some boundaries
As an empath, connecting and empathising with others is a part of your nature. However, doing so continuously is bound to leave you feeling drained. It might be a good idea to get to know yourself and your limits. Define where your tipping point is: find out how much you can handle, if certain topics are more triggering for you, and which people have a stronger effect on you.
Knowing this can help you empathise with others, but say “no” before the situation becomes too much and exhausts you. It can also help you put a time limit for people you find draining, or to define which topics are too sensitive for you and would be better not to engage in.
Setting boundaries can help prioritise your needs and preserve your well-being by limiting the time spent in situations that affect your mental and emotional energy.
2. What is and isn’t mine
When you are an empath, it is easy to take on the emotions of others. That is why it is important to separate feelings that are yours from those that aren’t. Tune into your feelings: throughout the day, especially when you notice a change in your mood. Ask yourself: “What am I feeling right now?”; “Where is this feeling coming from?”.
If you are struggling to pinpoint where your feeling is coming from, or if the answer is that it is coming from another person, the chances are that the feeling is not yours, but someone else’s instead. You can practice detaching from this absorbed feeling by saying to yourself: “This feeling is not mine and I am not going to take it”. Asking the other person about how they are feeling and what they are going through can also help you detach while being supportive and empathic.
3. Practice grounding
Practising grounding techniques such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, or focusing on your senses can be a quick but useful way to gain some distance from your thoughts and emotions. It can also help you bring yourself into the present moment and gain a sense of calmness.
From the grounding exercises, mindfulness can also be a quite helpful exercise if you find it difficult to recognise and name your feelings.
4. Engage in self-soothing and self-care
The truth is, it might happen that, from time to time, you end up feeling overwhelmed from absorbing someone’s emotions. And that is okay. It might be a good idea to create a mental or physical list of things and activities that help you recover when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. Think about what helps you calm down, recharge your batteries, and recover from the emotional overwhelm:
I imagine being an empath can be tough sometimes: it can be overwhelming, exhausting, and draining. However, your empathy also has its good side: it allows you to connect with others easily, and helps you deeply enjoy even the small things that others might not even pay attention to. Empathy truly is beautiful, but just as it is with everything in life: you can have too much of a good thing. That is why we need boundaries. To create some balance. To witness the full beauty of what empathy brings, without it negatively affecting our quality of life. You can work creating a healthy balance by following the tips above. And if you ever need an extra hand, here at Antiloneliness we are happy to support you on your journey.
Written by Tena Mijić, Intern Psychologist at AntiLoneliness
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