How to Handle Emotional Overwhelm as an Empath in a Crisis

Published by
Becky Storey

Being an empath means constantly picking up on the emotions of other people. Be it positive, or more often negative, empaths can feel and manifest emotions that aren’t their own. This is usually uncomfortable but manageable under typical circumstances. Unfortunately, we aren’t under typical circumstances right now, and negative emotions are everywhere. Empaths everywhere are taking on more feelings than ever, and rapidly developing emotional overwhelm.

The whole world is under constant stress. I can’t imagine there are many people who are handling the current coronavirus pandemic with ease. For an emotional empath, this means being constantly exposed to very intense emotions.

Empaths are often able to pick up on the emotions of others through means other than being up close and personal with others. Television, posts online and phone calls are all possible sources of emotional overwhelm.

What Is Emotional Overwhelm?

You enter a state of emotional overwhelm when the intensity of emotions you feel outweigh your ability to handle them. When empaths are exposed to a lot of serious negative emotions, they can be quickly overwhelmed and find themselves unable to process what they’re experiencing.

In a state of emotional overwhelm, your ability to think and be rational is hindered because of the mess of thoughts in your mind. This painful state of mind can get in the way of daily life if it’s not addressed well. It could even disrupt relationships if it prevents proper rationalization and communication.

It’s common for non-empaths to experience emotional overwhelm too. There are a whole host of possible causes, such as stress, trauma, difficult relationships. Major life changes or events, just as we’re all experiencing right now, can bring on emotional overwhelm for anybody. This means empaths could be taking on multiple doses.

Signs You’re Suffering from Emotional Overwhelm

In any situation, it’s important to be able to detect when you’re developing emotional overwhelm before it’s too late. Most notably, emotional overwhelm will cause a big reaction to seemingly small problems. When your bucket is full, even the smallest droplets will cause it to overflow.

When your mind is cluttered with too many thoughts, feelings, and emotions, as empaths often are, you might have difficulty focusing on tasks you’re supposed to be doing. You might even find yourself struggling to sleep, despite feeling more tired.

Emotional overwhelm can be similar to depression. The inability to process negative thoughts means you might not feel the same joy during usually “good” experiences.

Emotional overwhelm, much like any mental health issue, can cause physical symptoms. The tension in your body caused by being under inescapable stress can lead to headaches and muscle pains and even nausea and dizziness.

Ultimately, emotional overwhelm can result in missed meals, failed work projects and lost relationships. Fortunately, emotional overwhelm doesn’t have to be a long-term issue. There are ways to cope with it.

How to Cope with Emotional Overwhelm

There’s no need to let the emotional overwhelm take over your life. Handling emotions as an empath is almost second nature, but in very tense situations like we’re in right now, even the most experienced empath needs some guidance.

Remove the Stimuli

The easiest way to cope with emotional overwhelm is to reduce the influx of negative stimuli. Try to stay away from places online where people might be sharing their negative feelings. It might feel wrong at first, but any empath should also consider limiting their time as a friend’s “shoulder to cry on”.

Right now, everyone has very intense emotions and if it’s not going to be healthy for you to take on multiple cases of distress, it might be best to be honest and admit you can’t be their go-to for now.

Obviously, no one should be out in public now unless it’s really essential, but if you needed more reasons to stay in, here’s one. As an empath, you’re going to pick up on an awful lot of stress and sadness even if you’re only visiting the store.

Learn to Release It

Of course, it’s easier said than done for anyone, especially empath, but it’s very beneficial to learn to let go of those emotions. Letting negative emotions, especially the ones that don’t belong to you, sink too deep will really harm your mental state.

To reduce your emotional overwhelm you could try a number of activities, like meditation or yoga, or even screaming loudly to release the tension if that’s your kind of thing. When you feel those emotions bubble up, breathe and release them. It’s important to remind yourself that they aren’t yours to harbor.

Let It in

You know what they say – if you can’t beat them, join them. If you find yourself totally unable to release the emotions you’ve taken on that have caused emotional overwhelm, then let them in. Don’t wallow in them, simply acknowledge and greet them.

Note what each feeling is, be it anger, sadness or anxiety. Note whether you feel they’re your own or something you picked up from the external world.

File those emotions in their correct place, and suddenly you’ll find it easier to think straight. A cluttered mind is hard to function with. Consider journaling, or just opening up and confiding in someone. Once you can see things more clearly, the emotional overwhelm will reduce significantly.

Mental Distractions

When processing and talking, meditation or other mindfulness activities don’t seem to be doing the job, you can always try distractions to reduce the impact of emotional overwhelm. Everyone needs some peace in their minds at times. There’s nothing wrong with involving yourself in something that will occupy your mind.

Reading, drawing and other arts are great for absorbing your attention. There’s also nothing wrong with video games and computers if you aren’t of the arty persuasion.

Physical Distractions

When you feel the negative effects of emotional overwhelm coming on, try bringing your attention back to your body instead of your mind. You could try fidget device for a momentary distraction. Exercise of any form is a great physical distraction.

For immediate distraction and a return to your body, not your mind, try extreme sensations. You could put your hands in hot or cold water, or even pinch yourself a little when you feel like your mind is running away from you.

Times are incredibly uneasy right now. None of us are handling it particularly well, and empaths can feel that. If, as an empath, you’re falling quickly into a state of emotional overwhelm, take it easy on yourself. Look after your mind and preserve your own mental health first. Times like these are difficult but not impossible.


Published by
Becky Storey