How to Cope With Being an Empath

Karen Frazier
Mother and daughter holding hands on sofa

Many people with empathic psychic abilities consider them both their greatest superpower and their most difficult gift. Empathic abilities allow you a deeper understanding into the feelings and motivations of others, serving as a genuine psychic gift that allows you to feel more connection and compassion towards fellow humans. At the same time, feeling the emotions and sometimes physical sensations of others can be disconcerting, difficult, and even painful. Because of this, people with empathic abilities need to develop coping strategies to help them stay even-keeled.

Why Empathic Abilities Can Be Painful

If you feel your empathic abilities are slowly killing you or causing you deep pain, you're not alone. Many empaths feel the hurts of the world more deeply than their non-empathic counterparts. As an empath, I (the author) have experienced the many challenges associated with empathy as a psychic ability. I have had these abilities all of my life and at times, especially before I realized I was an empath, my emotions were so extreme and rapidly changing that sometimes I thought I was losing my mind. This led to a lot of tumult and anxiety until I came to recognize my abilities. Once I understood them, I learned to control them.

Empaths Pick up on Emotions of People Around Them

One of the key features of being empathic is that you feel the emotions of others as your own. When everyone is happy and excited, such as at a fun event or a festival, this is energizing and fun, and you are likely to feel energized and excited yourself. However, when you are around people who are experiencing negative emotions such as anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, or fear, this can make you feel deep sadness or even anxiety and depression. This can be especially true in people with empathic abilities who do not realize they are empaths.

People Who Are Empathic May Experience the Physical Sensations of Others

Some empaths not only experience others' emotions, but they also feel their physical sensations including pain and discomfort. For an empathic person who lives or works with someone with a chronic illness or who is around a number of people with chronic aches and pains, this is a physical drain. As a result, many people with empathic abilities are prone to any number of physical complaints such as random aches and pains, autoimmune disease, headaches, exhaustion, fibromyalgia, and similar conditions. Experiencing others' physical symptoms is extremely taxing on an empath's body and because of this, many empaths pay the price with their health and life force energy.

Young woman holding one hand on forehead

Empaths Often Wind up in Toxic or Difficult Relationships

In spite of their highly sensitive natures (or perhaps because of them), empaths commonly wind up in difficult relationships. For example, it is common for empaths to enter a relationship with someone who has a cluster B personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder. These types of relationships can become toxic and even emotionally abusive with the empath giving away significant amounts of energy and becoming spiritually, emotionally, and physical devastated. Many people have advanced hypotheses about why empath-cluster B relationships are so common, but the exact reasons this pairing occurs so frequently remain unclear. One suggested hypothesis is that empaths are compassionate, and people with cluster B personality disorders thrive on the attention an empath offers. Another hypothesis is because people with cluster B personalities seem to feel emotions differently, particularly in early phases of relationships, empaths may be drawn to emotions that feel highly positive and even addictive.

People Who Are Empathic May Struggle in Highly Populated Environments

Many empaths are introverts who avoid being around a large number of people because in large groups, there is such a mix of emotions it becomes overwhelming. Because of this, empaths who live in large cities or multi-family housing may find it especially difficult to get any emotional peace as they are continuously surrounded by people in varying emotional states. For example, on a recent trip to Las Vegas (my first visit there), I felt extremely uncomfortable the entire time I was in the city because all I could feel was the desperation of the people around me. As soon as we left the city, I immediately felt relief from the agitation.

Group Of People Walking

Coping Strategies for People With Empathic Abilities

The most important coping strategy for people with empathic abilities is to realize you are, indeed, empathic. You may also see empaths labeled as highly sensitive persons (HSPs), but the experiences are common. However, until one realizes he or she is an empath, they will feel at the mercy of random sensations, emotions, and connections over which they believe they have no control. Therefore, as an empath who recognizes himself or herself as such, one of the greatest gifts you can offer to others is to help them come to understand themselves as empaths so they can develop their own coping strategies. At the same time, self-care is extremely important for you as well. Try the following coping strategies and adopt those that work best for you.

Learn to Discern Your Emotions and Physical Sensations From Empathic Impressions

Once you recognize you are empathic, the most important coping strategy is discernment. It is important to attempt to distinguish your own emotions and physical sensations from empathic connections. This may seem difficult or even impossible at first because the nature of empathy is that you experience the sensations from others as your own. However, careful attention and journaling can help you recognize patterns that allow you to distinguish when you are feeling others' emotions instead of your own. In time, you may even be able to recognize the subtle differences between others' sensations and emotions and your own.

  • Sudden onset emotions that are unrelated to anything happening in your life at the moment are likely someone else's emotions.
  • Random aches and pains that come on suddenly in the presence of others or that have no apparent physical cause likely belong to others.
  • Anxiety, rapid mood swings, anger, or irritability that occurs when you are in a highly populated environment, such as when you enter a large city or when you visit a friend in a high-rise apartment, are likely caused by empathic connections to the sheer number of people around you.
  • Swirling emotions or inability to settle on an emotion when you would otherwise be feeling even keeled may suggest you are experiencing the emotions of others.
  • Overwhelming fear, sadness, or anger during scary world events (such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City) may feel even stronger to you because of the collective emotion of everyone around you, so while some of the feeling may be yours, they may be amped up because of the emotions of others around you.

Recognize Environments That Are Likely to Trigger Your Empathy

Just as there are different types of psychics, there are also different types of empaths. While all empaths experience their connection as physical sensation, emotion, or both, different empaths may connect to different types of energy, and some may connect to many or all types of energy. Common types of energy empaths might connect to include human emotion, physical sensations, plant or animal connections, planetary connections, or specific environments. Therefore, it is essential to begin to recognize and understand whether certain environments are more likely to trigger these empathic connections than others. To do this, keep a journal. When you experience feelings you don't recognize as your own, make note of where you were, who or what was around you, what was happening in the world at the time, and how you felt. Then, look for patterns to see if you can discern the specific environments that serve as triggers of your empathic connections. When you recognize the triggers, you can better manage them.

Become a Third-Party Observer of Your Emotions

One of the best ways to separate your emotions from those of others is to establish a baseline a few times a day. This involves stepping into a peaceful environment, closing your eyes, breathing deeply, and tuning into your own feelings. You can do this as a meditation or as a simple five minute check-in a few times a day. Then, when you notice your emotions moving away from the baseline, determine whether it is a natural swing of emotions based on something that is happening in your life, or if it feels random and out of place. Stepping back and observing your emotions from a distance like this can help you to gain more control over your empathic abilities.

Young man meditating in teepee

Ask Yourself, "Does This Feeling Belong to Me?"

When you do notice your emotions running out of control, stop for a moment and center yourself. Close your eyes, take a deep breath or two, place your hands over your heart, and ask, "Is this feeling mine? Does it belong to me?" As you breathe, focus on the sensations and messages you receive. Often, you will be able to tell on quiet reflection whether a feeling is your own or if it belongs to someone else.

Techniques to Gain Better Control of Your Empathic Abilities

Once you've learned to discern your own emotions from empathic feelings, you can apply techniques that will help you control when you use your abilities and when you quiet them. This can help you feel more in control of your own life and feelings.

Create and Repeat an Affirmation

Come up with an affirmation that reminds you to stay centered in your own emotions. This should be a positive statement such as, "I am centered in my own emotions, and I set aside everyone else's," or, "I release any emotion or sensation that is not mine," as opposed to a negative one such as, "I don't feel anyone else's emotions." Repeat the affirmation in the morning and the evening as part of meditation. Any time you feel yourself slipping into someone else's emotions, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and repeat your affirmation.

Apply a Filter

One of my favorite techniques for gaining better control of my empathy is creating a filter. I do this by visualizing two volume knobs or slider switches in my head, one labeled "me" and one labeled "everyone else." Every morning in my meditation, I visualize me turning my volume up to the maximum and turning everyone else's down to the minimum. Then, if I am in a situation where I need to use my empathy, such as when I am working with an energy healing partner or someone who wants a reading, I turn my volume down and theirs up, resetting it after the session. This has been a highly effective strategy for me because it allows me control of when I allow others' feelings into my experience. You may notice when you start doing this you need to reset your volumes several times a day, but with practice it will remain in place throughout the day.

Use an Anchor

Anchoring is a technique used in neurolinguistic programming (NLP), which is a form of behavior modification. With the anchoring technique, you create a gesture that resets your thinking. To anchor:

  1. Find a quiet space where you won't be disturbed. Sit or lie quietly with your eyes closed, breathing deeply until you feel relaxed and comfortable.
  2. Next, visualize something that makes you feel happy and peaceful. This can be a place, a loved one, or an experience; it's anything that brings you to a genuinely relaxed and peaceful place. When I do this, I connect to the feeling I have about my dog, Monkey.
  3. As soon as you achieve the peaceful, relaxed, and loving feeling, create a gesture (choose one you don't perform regularly) such as bringing the tips of your ring finger and thumb of your left hand together and making a circle with your fingers or making a mudra. Hold this gesture as you continue to feel peaceful, relaxed, and loving. As soon as the feeling begins to subside, release the gesture. This anchors the feeling.
  4. Now, any time you recognize you are caught up in empathic emotions that aren't your own, make the gesture. It will bring you back to that feeling and help you release any emotions that are not your own.
Woman meditating in lotus position near lit candles

Create a Bubble or a Shield

In some circumstances, the best thing to do is to block others' emotions and feelings altogether. For example, if you are traveling to a large city, going to a sporting event or rock concert, or know you will be around deep negative emotion such as at a funeral, it is likely in your best interests to block everything temporarily and center in your own emotions. You can do this by creating a bubble or a shield. To do so, close your eyes and visualize pushing a shield out from your core and completely surrounding you. Until you push out your first shield, you won't know what form it will take. Everyone's shield is a little different. For example, mine is a clear bubble so I can see out but nothing can come in. Other people have pushed out brick walls, knight armor, or even warm fuzzy blankets. It's important you push this from your core to surround you completely as opposed to building it around you so you don't inadvertently trap something inside of your shield.

Wear Protective Crystals

Wear some type of protective crystal as jewelry or carry a protective crystal with you. Crystals that offer psychic protection include black opaque crystals such as black tourmaline, hematite, and obsidian. If the crystal breaks, it means it has absorbed all the energy it can. Return it to the earth (bury it) and replace it with a new crystal. It is important that empaths who wear protective crystals cleanse those crystals daily to restore them to their highest protective potential.

Make Your Home a Safe Space

Because there is so much emotion in the outside world, it's essential you create a safe space in your home where you can relax and live in peace so you can recharge for your next trip out into the world. Try to find a space in your home that is solely yours. Make it a quiet, calming, and relaxing space and place protective crystals all around, as well as things that bring you peace such as plants, art, or calming scents. I practice the principles of feng shui in my home, and I have a meditation space that is all my own. I have also sprinkled smoky quartz crystal chips all around the perimeter of my home and property to transmute negative energy into positive before it reaches me in my home. Empaths should also perform an energetic cleanse in their homes at least weekly, as well as any time there is negativity in your home, such as after an illness or argument.

Woman holding a feather and ritual incense

More Tips for Empaths

Some other quick tips for empaths to consider follow.

  • Try to live in a single family home. If you live in a multi-family home such as a condo or an apartment complex, then be sure as soon as you get home you create a bubble that expands from your core all around your living space.
  • Don't forget your car. If your morning and afternoon commutes trigger empathic episodes, then you can also place protective crystals in your car or hang them from your rearview mirror.
  • Develop a daily practice that brings you peace. Whether this is doing yoga, meditating, visualizing, or something else, try to start each day with at least five minutes of your practice so you can begin your day centered and calm.
  • Allow your own emotions to pass through you and not rule you. Don't ever block your own emotions or they will get stuck in you. Instead, allow yourself to feel how you are feeling.
  • Understand it is not your job to heal everyone. While you can be kind and compassionate to others, you cannot fix them; they must fix themselves. It's important to set boundaries so you don't give too much of yourself away to others and wind up with nothing left for yourself.
  • If you are in a toxic relationship, seek help. It is important for your own spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being that you release toxicity in your life and remove yourself from toxic situations.
  • Look out for your physical health. Nourish yourself appropriately, get plenty of exercise and rest, and stay hydrated. You are much better able to cope with everything that comes with being an empath if you are physically as healthy as you can be.
  • Find out what recharges you and spend as much time there as you can. Whether it is getting out in nature, the mountains, the ocean, plants, pets, crystals, or something else, everyone has things that recharge them. Make these things and places a regular part of your life.
Ultra violet yoga exercise

Make Your Empathy Your Greatest Strength

Finally, remember empathy is ultimately a gift, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like one. Once you are able to control your abilities, you can begin to tune into your empathy selectively as a source of kindness, compassion, understanding, and deep strength. When you have empathy under control, you can bring these qualities to every aspect of your life in order to make the world a better and kinder place.

How to Cope With Being an Empath