Empaths feel their way through the world. They navigate life by tapping into their strong intuitive nature to guide their decisions while serving as a beacon for good or bad things to come. Along their journey, thanks to their high level of sensitivity, they not only sense, but often take on or absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms.

These two characteristics make empaths both amazing partners and friends as they will often signal trouble before you know it – serving as a sort of “canary in the coal mine of life” – while also possessing the enduring capacity to understand your emotional and physical landscape. But because they are so prone to intuiting and embodying the emotions of others, they can easily become overwhelmed by it all – often unable to recognize on their own that they are in too deep and at risk of being consumed by the energies of others.

If you’re an empath, these signs of overwhelm will be a familiar list as you’ve likely experienced many, it not all, of them before. From this point forward, they can serve as prompts for when it’s time to take a step back and create healthy distance between yourself and the situation. If you are not an empath but are in a close relationship with one, these signs will be your cue to gently prod your empath to engage in some immediate self-care.


The Five Signs of Overwhelm

Sign #1: Chronic Fatigue
Taking on the energies of others is exhausting work, especially when those emotions are of lower vibrations such as grief, anxiety, fear, and anger. These energies create quiet stress within the body that will, in time, exhaust the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous system without the host even realizing it. That is, until you can’t seem to keep your eyes open! If you find yourself dragging physically, chances are you have internalized too much of what surrounds you and it’s time to declutter.

Sign #2: Self-Medication
When an empath has taken on too heavy a dose of lower vibration emotions, he or she will begin to mirror and embody these emotions, often resulting in bouts of depression or anxiety. In these caes, an empath may turn to self-medicating such as binging on alcohol, food, or another substance as a means to regulate their internal landscape. They often aren’t aware of why they’re reaching for a numbing or mood-enhancing substance, they just know they want to get back to feeling their usual self.

Sign #3: Sudden shift in mood
If your gregarious empath has suddenly turned into a weighted boulder of sadness and lethargy, then there’s a good chance the emotions of others have morphed into overwhelm. Again, empaths will often mirror the emotional state of the one(s) they are energetically attached to which can be fine in moments, but when it turns into a chronic or schizophrenic display, it’s a clear sign that it has become too much and it’s time to step away.

Sign #4: Skin Issues
The body will often display what is occurring on the inside and chart it out like a map on our body. Our skin is especially susceptible to this and will light up like a christmas tree if left unchecked. Sudden rashes, breakouts, hives, and other skin anomalies are the most common signal that are bodies have become over-stressed due to harboring too many negative emotions. If you spot a significant shift on the outside, it’s time to scan the inside.

Sign #5: Panic Attacks
For those that are hyper-sensitive, panic attacks or panic disorder is an unfortunate but common bedfellow. Being in tune with others while also being hyper in tune with self can create a vortex of emotions that can easily snowball into panic attacks.


What You Can Do

As an empath myself, I’ve learned that being consumed by other’s emotions is not at all helpful to either myself or the one in pain. We both end up at the bottom of a dark, emotional well leaving me unable and unclear on how to help the one I’m with. Yes, misery loves company but only for so long!

Instead, an empath’s rare gift and strength is best realized when we use our ability to deeply connect with the experience of another, but only for the few moments it takes to ascertain what is needed to assist their healing. Once we connect to what we believe would be helpful, we can, and should, disconnect from embodying their energy while offering our healing gift. This doesn’t mean we shut them out emotionally, rather it means we move alongside them so we can be with them during the healing process, rather than enmeshed in their experience of it.

Each empath has his or her own point of overwhelm and you will discover yours in time, if you haven’t already. Should you find yourself displaying one of the five signs above, take a quick pause from the relationship or connection point and engage in some immediate self-care. I have found acupuncture, body work, exercise, and meditation to be powerful tools for both regaining and maintaining a healthy and balanced emotional world.


What are your signs of overwhelm? And what tools do you employ to recover?

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Halley Bock is the author and founder of Life, Incorporated.

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