5 Self-Care Tips if You’re Highly Empathetic

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last week, i shared the difference between sympathy and empathy. today i want to share self-care tips if you’re highly empathetic, like myself!

being highly empathetic means i often shoulder the burden of other people’s emotions; like the circumstances are actually happening to me. i also feel and internalize the tragedies and cruelness of the world on a very deep level.

it can be completely exhausting to feel most everything so deeply.

i remember being this way as a child and at first assuming everyone else interprets the world in the same way. these have all been said to me throughout my life, multiple times.

“you’re too sensitive.”

“wait, why are you crying?!”

“…but those characters aren’t even real!”

“…get over it, that didn’t actually happen to you!”

it wasn’t until college and studying social work that i learned more about empathy. i know being super empathetic is part of what lead me to social work because i’m a giver. i want to help.

tips if you're highly empathetic

however, it’s incredibly hard to internalize so many people’s hardships especially when working in social services. in hindsight, a lot of me numbing out my emotions and feelings was because of this. i didn’t know how to safeguard myself when working with people in crisis.

also, perfect strangers tend to spill their guts to me. whether it’s on an airplane, at the grocery store or someone i’m meeting for the first time – people tell me private things like we’ve known each other forever.

my husband regularly says “it’s crazy how many people flat out tell you their most personal things!”

i spent years missing out on my full life because of anxiety and numbing out. i think that’s a big part of why it was so important for me to have a natural birth.

over the past few years, i’ve done a lot of self-discovery (starting a business with your husband and becoming a mom will do that to you). i’ve learned that feeling deeply is what makes me me and i shouldn’t try to bury that.

if you’re finding yourself agreeing with what i’m talking about, chances are you’re highly empathetic too. if not, keep reading so you can better understand people in your life who may feel this way!

 

5 self-care tips if you’re highly empathetic:

 

1. put yourself first

this is often counterintuitive for us highly empathetic and sensitive people. i know for me, this initially felt selfish. turns out – all those overused examples of having to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with their masks are true.

in order to help best help others, you need to put yourself first so that you can be healthy.

this means self-care. figure out what we energizes and reenergizes you. maybe it’s spending time in nature, taking an art class, going to a comedy show, working out, listening to music, a bubble bath – figure out what you need to restore your balance.

2. set boundaries with people

because we are often the go-to person for many of our friends and family (and strangers on the bus), we need to set boundaries. if you have a friend that needs to process her unhealthy relationship be there for her. also say “okay, let’s get it all out for these next 30 minutes and then move on to the happier things in life.”

3. guard against unnecessary crap

unfortunately, natural disasters, violence and assholes are going to keep existing in our world. however, this doesn’t mean you need to watch it unfold constantly. turn off the news and remind yourself there is always good to be found in our world.

this is why i started ‘tell me something good fridays!’ they used to be on here but did you know i post them every friday on TNW facebook page?

this also applies to the fictional TV shows, movies or books you choose to consume.

i recently felt like i had to finish a book (i let you go, in case you were curious) even when about half-way through i knew it was negatively affecting me because of the domestic violence twist.

my husband totally called me out when we used to watch the show ‘shameless.’ i would always be upset, bitchy, worn out and snarky whenever we finished an episode. i was internalizing too much of their f’d-up family.

we are allowed to stop reading a book, watching a movie or removing ourselves from a situation. do it!

4. process your own emotions

i am someone that neeeeeds to process everything many things. sometimes this is with a friends, often times it’s my husband. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, counselors and therapists are the very best for this.

take the time to process your emotions with another human being.

5. embrace it

as i mentioned previously, trying to shut off this sensitive side will do you no good. those of us who are highly empathetic people, let’s work on embracing it. it’s part of what makes us great listeners, easy to talk to and bring a unique perspective to how others can interact with the world!

 

what other tips if you’re highly empathetic work for you? or, who do you know that sounds like this?

tips if you're highly empathetic

6 Comments

  1. Claire

    April 25, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I LOVE this. I am sure this resonates with many people, it certainly does for me. I really like the tip about boundaries (so hard and so important) and also about finding out what re-energizes you. Thanks again for sharing your insights, they really are helpful.

  2. Steph

    April 25, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Yessss to this post! I am a licensed clinical social worker and did outpatient counseling as my first job out of graduate school. Your post was my stuggle. My anxiety was so high those two years working as a counselor, not only worrying about my clients (i worked with low income,inner city clients so trauma abound!) but also questioning myself, my feelings, and feeling terrified to make a mistake. i got a new job last year for a fresh change, but man i learned about my own empathy and limits those two years.

  3. Audrey

    April 25, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Right there with you. I am a fixer. I want to fix everyone’s problems so that I can heal their emotions (which become my emotions). So frustrating sometimes. I don’t watch a lot of violence or drama because I 100% internalize it.
    I spent SO MUCH TIME being numb (as a teen/young adult) because I didn’t want to feel all those emotions. Gah.
    I am constantly trying to embrace my emotions now. I analyze my feelings A LOT to my husband and he’s great about letting me air them out. I definitely filter the types of entertainment I consume, too. So important! Great tips, Chelsea!!

  4. Jennifer Haston

    April 26, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Great post!I especially love the bit about you can let go of a book or tv show or movie if it’s not serving you.. what a trap we fall into with that!! I started reading this book, so I MUST finish it. Says who? You made that up, no told you that. It’s not like the author will know and shame you for putting down their book. I have a few tv shows that I really could stand to give up. I am not an empathetic person to the same degree you are, AND it’s a definitely something I can relate to. I do have strangers spilling their beans over and over and I just don’t know what causes it and it’s up to me to manage it in aid of better self-care.

    Thank you!

  5. chelsea jacobs

    May 1, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    THIS IS ME AND I SO NEEDED THIS. Especially number 3, so so good.

  6. Charlene Maugeri

    May 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Girl. I am certainly more on the empathetic side of the spectrum. Do you think it is a spectrum? Anyway, for a while now I’ve been contemplating going back to school to be a Family and Marriage counselor. And I am always the one people come to for anything. Pearson always tells me that I care too much (in a loving way). And once, while we were watching FRIENDS completely through, I was saying my prayers one night and I literally caught myself praying for Joey when his parents were going through a divorce on the show. lol Once I realized what I had said I cracked up and got super embarrassed but that story and the way Matt LeBlanc portrayed Joey’e reaction really got to me on a subconscious level. haha

    Anyway, I’m done rambling about my own experience. I just wanted to thank you for writing these posts! I am really bad about doing all these things you’ve listed. Except I have actually become good at turning off the news and shutting things out when the current events get bad. But then I just feel super guilty. Ugh

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