Easily impacted by other people’s emotions? You could be an empath. Here we look at what that means, and suggest ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed

Empathy is a wonderful trait. It allows you to understand and share the feelings of others, to appreciate what someone else may be going through, and to support them.

For some, however, the level of empathy felt is intense. Often referred to as empaths, these people can feel truly affected by other people’s emotions – almost taking on their feelings. While this certainly has positive aspects (empaths are often deeply caring and form strong connections) there can be challenges to overcome.

For an empath, walking into a crowded room can feel overwhelming. Talking to someone who is stressed or angry can be draining. Loud noises, strong scents, and bright lights can be overstimulating. Even particularly harrowing TV shows, movies or books can be a challenge. If you feel especially sensitive to other people’s emotions, and can relate to the challenges mentioned, you may well be an empath. To navigate these challenges, it can help to have some tools and techniques to help protect your energy levels. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Set boundaries

holding hands

Having healthy boundaries is important for all of us, but if you’re an empath it can be particularly useful. Empaths often feel so full of other people’s emotions that they lose track of their own needs. Learning to say ‘no’ more, knowing when to step away from situations, and prioritising self-care, is key.

For example, if you have a person in your life who you find particularly draining, set boundaries and decide how much of your energy you’re going to give them. This could mean pointing them to other forms of support, or simply turning down a social invitation now and then.

2. Give journaling a go

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion, it can help to get it out in some way. There are lots of different options, but one enjoyable way is journaling.

Putting pen to paper, and writing whatever’s on your mind, can not only be a release, but can also reconnect you with your own emotions, and help you to focus on how you’re feeling. To get into the habit, perhaps start by writing a few lines every evening to process the day and any lingering emotions.

3. Start a mindfulness practice

Getting to know what you need, and recognising your own feelings, is important – and mindfulness can help with this. Whether you do this through meditation, or an activity like mindful colouring, knitting, or walking, it’s helpful to set aside time to be quiet and present.

This can help you replenish your energy levels too, making you more resilient and able to handle other people’s emotions.

4. Try visualisation techniques

Embrace your empathic side, and see the many positives that come alongside the challenges

If you’re going into a scenario that you know is going to be draining – a big party, for example, or a particularly difficult conversation – it’s worth trying a visualisation technique. Imagine you have a glass wall between you and the person you’re speaking to, so while you can continue to engage in conversation, you’re protected from taking on their emotions.

Other visualisations you could try include picturing yourself in a protective bubble, imagining other people’s emotions as water that flows over you, or even seeing their emotions as a balloon and letting that balloon go.

5. Get back to nature regularly

Nature has a wonderfully grounding effect, helping you to clear your mind and feel closer to the earth. If you can, aim to get outside often and seek out green areas. Taking time to notice the leaves on a tree, or clouds in the sky, can help you anchor yourself in the moment and feel more connected to yourself and your emotions.

6. Plan for emotion overload

Being prepared can help to avoid unexpected emotion overload. The trick is to note down what triggers your empathic tendencies, and having a plan for each.

Some of these will involve the boundary work, others will need a recovery plan, such as keeping the day after an event free for rest and self-care. Having these plans can save a lot of time (and energy) when a situation presents itself. The more prepared you are, the more you can embrace your empathic side, and see the many positives that come alongside the challenges. You have a gift, and now’s the time to master it.