Are you an empath? 5 ways to avoid emotional burnout

Do you feel others’ emotions deeply? Is it easy to sense someone else’s sadness or happiness? If so, you may be an empath.

An empath is a person that has a special ability to feel the emotions of others around them. For the most part, being an empath is great. It allows you to connect with people and create amazingly honest friendships and relationships. However, there’s a dark side of being an empath too.

Empaths often feel overwhelmed and discouraged, struck down by the emotions that they’re constantly processing. When you’re feeling someone else’s emotions, it can be draining. Over time, it can lead to emotional burnout.

Have you ever felt exhausted or that you can’t catch up? Maybe you feel like everyone comes to you as their personal therapist, but you don’t get to process your own emotions. If so, you’ve probably experienced, or are currently experiencing, emotional burnout.

While you don’t want to change your empath personality, you do need to protect yourself. In this article, I’ll talk all about what being an empath really means and how you can shield yourself from others so you don’t get emotional burnout.

You’re not too sensitive

Something that a lot of empaths get told is that they’re too sensitive. I’m here to tell you that’s a big, fat lie. Empaths are amazing people who can literally feel the emotions in the air. It’s an energy current that they may not be able to see but they can definitely feel.

Some people even think that empaths have a sort of mystical power. If you’re an empath yourself, you might think that too.

Emotions can be hard. There are people all over the world who can’t process their own emotions, but the opposite of that are empaths. Empaths are so in tune with emotions that they can be standing next to someone they don’t know and feel what they’re feeling.

It does sound pretty mystical, right?

So, empaths are far from being “too sensitive.” While their ability to sense emotions may be sensitive, their own personalities shouldn’t be brushed off as so. Empaths may feel deeper than others, which means sometimes they may feel upset or frustrated about things. This is normal and nothing to be embarrassed by.

If you’re an empath, the next time someone tells you you’re too sensitive, don’t listen. Your empath abilities are needed and a huge gift to others.

Signs you may be an empath

While everyone experiences empathy for others, empaths are different. They experience empathy on a different, more cosmic level. Of course, even empaths differ from each other. Some may experience one emotion strongest or seem to just have a “sixth sense” about others.

That being said, there are some common signs that empaths share with each other:

  • You feel when others are upset
  • Strong noises, smells, or loud conversations put you on edge
  • You can easily tell when someone is lying to you
  • You take on others’ mannerisms or body language without realizing
  • You have a hard time saying no without feeling guilty
  • You know when there’s more to the story than said
  • You enjoy time alone after being in a large group
  • You take on a lot and are afraid of not being able to complete it all
  • After spending time with others, you may feel the need to recharge

If you have one or more of these signs, chances are that you’re an empath.

Empaths are not new

In recent years, the word “empath” has gotten a lot of coverage. It’s meant to describe someone hyper-sensitive or hyperaware of situations, but empaths aren’t new. In fact, empaths have been described in psychology for decades.

We often think of emotions being something that you can catch. When you’re next to someone who is angry, it’s pretty hard to be happy. Psychologist Carl Jung coined the phrase, “Emotions are contagious.”

This may not be true for everyone, but it is for us empaths. In psychology, emotional contagion is a real thing. It was discovered back in 1964 thanks to psychologist Stanley Schachter. He found that when others are around you, your own feelings can be manipulated and then change to whatever everyone else is feeling. The two common emotions this happened for were anger and euphoria.

This could explain why empaths can feel these strong emotions from others. It can also explain how empaths may feel overwhelmed by these emotions.

Empaths are like sponges

As great as being an empath is, there is a dark side to it as well. See, empaths are like sponges. It may sound strange, but basically, they absorb the emotions of others around them.

Imagine putting a sponge into a bowl of warm water. Immediately, the sponge absorbs the water. However, what if there is too much water in the bowl? The sponge still absorbs the water, but then it sits there in the too-full bowl, unable to suck up any more water but still sopping wet with more water begging to be absorbed.

Now, imagine that the sponge is you as an empath. When put into a situation with one or two people, you absorb their emotions. Just like a sponge in a shallow bowl of water, you can absorb the emotions without being at full capacity.

However, if you’re put into a situation with ten or twenty people, you absorb as many emotions as you can, and yet, there are still emotions flowing around you. There’s nothing you can do, you’re at full capacity, and others’ emotions are begging to be absorbed.

This tires you mentally and physically. If you keep yourself in a situation with many emotions surrounding you, it leads to the dark side of empathy that no one wants…

Emotional burnout.

What is emotional burnout?

Emotional burnout is when you feel exhausted with your emotions. While anyone can experience it, empaths are especially vulnerable because of their ability to absorb emotions from others. Most people only deal with their own emotions or the emotions of those closest to them. However, empaths deal with emotions from everyone around them.

Excess emotions, even good ones, can bring on stress for empaths. You may often feel overwhelmed or at a loss of what to do. Sometimes, it can even feel like you’re trapped. This is different than feeling tired or the need to “recharge” emotionally.

Emotional burnout is pure and utter exhaustion with any and all emotions.

People experience emotional burnout in different ways. However, some of the common symptoms of emotional burnout are:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling physically tired
  • Headache
  • Being overly pessimistic
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling withdrawn from life

Choose self-love

If you’re an empath struggling with the weekly or monthly dose of emotional burnout, I get it. It can sometimes feel like we’re holding the whole world above us and that everyone we love can only survive by talking to us. This is because oftentimes, we’re labeled as the knowledgeable person to come to for advice. While we might like giving advice here and there, it can be draining and exhausting to constantly give advice to everyone around us.

We have to learn to care for ourselves and stop emotional burnout from happening. So, how do we do this?

Stopping emotional burnout might seem easy—all you need to do is just stop talking to people, right?

Well, as empaths, we don’t like that answer. We thoroughly enjoy being around others, talking to them, and giving advice. It’s how we got ourselves into this mess. Unfortunately, our mental health depends on us.

If you continue to be around large crowds, empathize, and talk to everyone around you, your emotional burnout is going to get worse. You have to prioritize self-love and care before you sacrifice your mental health.

5 ways to prevent emotional burnout

Emotional burnout isn’t going to disappear overnight. As empaths, we’ve worked hard to connect with people. Plus, we’ve probably said yes to about a thousand things in our future, and getting rid of those things won’t be easy.

Being an empath means you’re going to connect with amazing people, and that’s the best part of our extra sense. However, it also means we’re exhausted on a daily basis. To love being an empath and also protect ourselves, practice these five things:

1) Take a break

Sometimes, you just need a break. Maybe that means you spend a night in instead of going to a work function, friend’s house, or party. Maybe that means booking a ticket to a favorite vacation spot and having a blast. Whether it’s a quiet movie night in or a week-long trip around the world, take a break. You’re so deserving of it!

2) Meet with a professional

How many of your friends or family members use you as their personal therapist? Chances are, a lot of them. While it’s great lending an open ear or handing out advice, it’s not great for our mental health. Sometimes, we need someone to listen to us too. Unfortunately, not a lot of us are empaths, and our friends and family may not pick up on that.

When we’re exhausted and tired with life, we need to talk to someone. A professional therapist is the best option out there. Many empaths benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy to learn how to cope with our empathy sensitivity and live our best lives. Plus, therapy is totally in right now and more people are choosing to seek help.

3) Get rid of high-stress

One interesting thing is that empaths are often in jobs that help other people. We like helping, so it’s no surprise we seek out jobs in that profession, like doctors, lawyers, or teachers. However, these jobs can be high in stress. We put ourselves into a high-stress environment and it can constantly lead to emotional burnout.

While empaths can succeed in any career field, the high-stress is what gets us. The problem is that we often don’t know how to control stress.

If you have a lot of stress in your life, it’s time to turn to mindfulness. As empaths, mindfulness is something that can really benefit us. We can let the worries and cares of the world slide off our backs and just enjoy being alone. Try meditating every day for at least 10 minutes. Meditation isn’t only good for your mind, it can also make your body healthier too.

4) Set boundaries

One thing that empaths suck at? Saying no.

We hate disappointing others, and when we see that people are stressed out, we take their work on ourselves. This is a horrible thing to do. We get so overwhelmed that it can lead to a mini-breakdown.

If you’ve set yourself up for disaster by never saying no, it’s time to take your control back. Learning to say no is one of the most difficult things you’ll do, but when you prioritize your self-care, you’ll see a difference. Learn to set boundaries with other people.

If your friends constantly unload their emotions on you, tell them that you need it to stop. If people at work ask you to do their jobs for them, say no. Healthy boundaries mean that you value yourself. When you tell someone they need to stop coming to you with their problems, they should be accepting and understanding. If they aren’t, they probably don’t respect you very much.

Boundaries don’t mean you completely stop helping people. It just means that you’re conscious of how much you can take on and that your friends and family understand that as well.

5) Keep yourself healthy

Keeping yourself healthy is so important, and many things go into this. First, eat healthy. Filling your body with the vitamins and nutrients that you need is the first step. However, health goes so far beyond that.

Try to get outside every day and enjoy nature. There’s something fulfilling about being in nature and enjoying the quiet sounds. Since we often get overwhelmed with loud and artificial noises, the soft rustling of leaves and quiet humming of animals is everything we could possibly ask for. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing or the sun’s shining, there’s always something to enjoy outside.

Exercise is also important for our mental health. Avoiding emotional burnout means having a healthy mind that can better control outside influences. Since exercise releases endorphins, which helps us to be happier, exercise is another great step toward your self-care.

Last, but definitely not least, get some sleep. How often do we stay up late watching TV, talking to a friend, or scrolling on social media? Honestly, it’s probably nearly every night. If we want to be healthy, we have to get enough sleep. Shoot for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Since our bodies love routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is also important.

Are you an empath?

If you’re an empath, congratulations. Seriously, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about feeling others’ emotions. It’s one of the greatest gifts in the world.

If you love an empath, go easy on us. We take on a lot of extra work and emotions without realizing it, and empaths have to work that much harder to detach ourselves from situations.

Emotional burnout doesn’t have to be a dreaded monthly occurrence. With a few steps (and a whole lot of hard work) we empaths can live happier, healthier lives without sacrificing our relationships in the process.

Learning to love yourself can be difficult. Believe me, I get it. That’s why I recommend Ideapod’s free masterclass on love and intimacy. It has great strategies that teach you to develop healthy relationships, which is something all empaths need.

Picture of Jess Carpenter

Jess Carpenter

I studied at The University of Utah where I earned both my B.S. and M.S. and am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES certified). My favorite spot to write is wherever I can see my toddlers to ensure they aren’t jumping from the second story or coloring on the walls.

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