Empathy is one of our greatest gifts as human beings. It helps us relate to others, making them feel seen, heard, and understood. It allows us to connect with one another on deep and meaningful levels and to accept others with a more open mind and generous heart.
Those of us who identify as empathy sometimes feel the emotions of others so deeply that we take them on as our own. This level of sensitivity may prove challenging and burdensome when those feelings weigh us down and keep us from experiencing our own joy. To ensure that empathy remains a gift to ourselves and to others, it’s important to maintain balance. To make sure the emotional weight doesn’t become more than we can carry.
It can be helpful to process feelings to make sure they don’t overwhelm you. Try this exercise to help release from heavy emotions:
Feel it. Note the physical sensations of the emotion.
Name it. Sometimes multiple emotions feel similar. Anxiety, excitement, and stage fright can all manifest as butterflies in your stomach. Putting a name to the emotion can help reduce the overwhelm brought on by uncertainty.
Breathe through it. If you are overwhelmed at all by the feeling, inhale through the nose for a count of four and exhale through the nose for a count of six. Repeat as necessary. Conscious breathing calms our nervous system and lets it know we are not in danger.
Practice gratitude. Being grateful can help you acknowledge your ability to feel, notice, and name your feelings. Your gratitude can also be a powerful celebration of not being pulled under by the wave of emotion.