An empath is a person who is highly attuned to the feelings and emotions to people, animals, and the environment around them. Sometimes the empath might feel so much, they ignore their own feelings and emotions all the while pleasing others, even strangers. It can be difficult for an empath to communicate what they are feeling due to trust issues. Although the empath might know they are feeling all the feelings, but they don't understand what to do with the excess of the energy.
It's normal to feel emotionally exhausted, as an empath is always in a "helping role." To a non-empath, it's easy for them to step back and take care of themselves first. An empath, however, might feel guilty, or that it is their "job" to put everyone else first—a loved one or stranger alike.
An empath often walks around open to all the energy: good, bad, and indifferent. Think of it this way: an empath carries an empty, flimsy paper plate throughout their day. By the end of the day, that plate is heavy, leaking, and overflowing with every else's stuff. The empath is covered in the ick but feels guilty for taking an "energy" shower because that would require taking some "you" time, something an empath isn't good at doing.
If you've ever been around a child as they get sleepy, the signs are clear. The child might be extra whiney. Or even cry for no real reason. The child might rub their eyes, as if magically wishing they could stay alert. The child doesn't want to eat, even if it is a favorite food. And when their parent/caregiver tells the child that it's time for bed, the child often calls out, "But I'm not tired!" An empath who is feeling burned out with whatever life situation they are feeling often has a similar reaction. An empath often feels as if they are hiding their burnout, but it's just as prevalent to those who know them. Instead of, "But I'm not tired!," like a child might cry, an empath often replies with an, "I'm fine." Yet they aren't.
Empathy burnout is often from a person hoarding too much emotional, mental, and physical energy, and can cause negative consequences that could can burnout.
5 Signs You Are a Burned-Out Empath
There are many signs to identify you are a burned-out empath, and you might just feel that this is simply normal, but it is a sign that you are imbalanced.
- You feel overwhelmed. The worry, stress, and "to do" list is overwhelming morning, noon, and night. You are waking up in the morning just as stressed as you were the night before when you went to bed. Every task feels heavier than it should. Every conversation feels exhausting.
- You are resentful. You've lost your empathy and are snapping at the people you love. Those you usually feel sympathetic for, you don't. You might even be feeling resentful and angry when anyone asks you to help them, even with the simplest of requests.
- You are avoiding the people and things you love. You might be saying, "I literally can't anymore," or, "I can't adult today," or, "I can't people right now" and you are telling the truth. If you feel this in your soul, your empath filter is full. You might be avoiding others or isolating yourself from things you used to love. You have a million excuses, and then feel guilty for saying "no," making that plate you are carrying heavier and heavier.
- You are having physical symptoms. You might be having physical symptoms of headaches, insomnia, chronic fatigue, gut issues, muscle aches and pains, and/or weight changes. You might be going to sleep especially early or staying up late until you finally fall asleep.
- You are crying or raging. Your drive-thru order is wrong, or a car cut in front of you and normally you'd blow it off, but instead you burst into tears, or burst into rage. You are burned out.
5 Ways to Heal the Burned-Out Empath
Sometimes the energy gets heavy, loaded with pollution from everything around us. It might be from other people, the environment, or emotional baggage from the past and present. You can heal, though; it just takes practice. As much as it would be best to stop the burn out before it gets to that point, an empath is just doing what is normal for them, and before they know it, the burn out creeps in. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows, and this can happen fast. So, it is beneficial to create go-to ways when the burn out happens.
- The Worry Window. Sit quietly and let the waves over worry flow around you. Sit with it and allow yourself to be carried into the energy. Allow yourself to feel your buried rage, grief, sadness, and frustration. Cry hard and long. Then set a timer for 10 minutes and write down every single worry you are feeling at that moment. It helps you to stay mindful of what is realistic and what isn't.
- Flurry of Solutions. Set another timer for 10 minutes and next to each worry, write down a solution. If you can't problem solve it, prioritize who might be able to If there are no solutions, mindfully release it.
- Prepare a Soothe Kit. Before you are burned out, create a go-to solution for when you are. Focus on the sensations around you—sights, smells, sounds—this helps you be present in the moment. This might be a worry stone that you stroke with your thumb and index finger. It might be bookmarking Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) that you can listen to (YouTube and TikTok have plenty). You might simply rub your feet together while saying an affirmation. Or ground yourself with your hands in the dirt, cutting vegetables, aromatherapy, or take a bubble bath. It might be a walk or a short exercise program. It could be listening to an uplifting podcast, or a happy song that shifts your mood.
- Create a Mantra. It's important to stop carrying the weight of others, setting up boundaries, and resetting your boundaries every day. Creating an affirmation and saying it 10 times (at once), will help. Such as: "I will not carry the weight of others. My boundaries are strong. I release that which is not mine to carry. My energy naturally returns to me like a boomerang." And now say it 9 more times.
- Self-Care. Yes, you might be Dear Abby or Dear Allen, but nobody can stay on all the time and not feel overwhelmed. There's an old saying that says, "You can't pour from an empty cup," but it's true and when you are burned out there's nothing for you and there's nothing more for you either. You are not responsible to fix everyone, but you are responsible for taking time for self-care. Don't roll your eyes at me. Self-care is truly an act of self-love. You can't be good for anyone else if you aren't good to yourself. Self-care isn't indulgent, it's about self-preservation.
I would also like to note that if you are having concerning physical symptoms, seek out a medical doctor. And if you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek out help immediately. There is hope. Empaths can be Oscar-worthy actors. There are some of you who face the challenges of getting up, pasting a smile on your face, and doing a routine called life, going to sleep, and doing it all over again. You make it look easy, but really, it's the hardest thing in the world and you don't want anyone to know the monsters you face along the way. To those of you fighting the fight of burnout, I believe in you, and know there is help.
If you are feeling alone or frustrated in a crowded world, and the weight of negativity is overwhelming, please see my book, Embrace Your Empathy: Make Sensitivity Your Strength. It helps you decipher which type of empath you might be and offers suggestions, including meditations, crystals, and even essential oil that can re-align your soul to help you better the empath within you.