3 Reasons Your Empathy is Exhausting You (And How to Combat Them)

I’ve yet to meet an empath who doesn’t struggle with exhaustion and I understand because I used to struggle with it too. I’d go through these emotional rollercoaster phases of being everything to everyone all the time and then having a complete meltdown and staying inside to watch indie movies for two weeks in order to recover.

I can’t remember exactly what snapped me out of it but it was probably my husband witnessing this occurring over and over again and then pulling me up on it. Once that happened, I took a look at what was going on for me, and here’s what I realized:

1. I didn’t take care of myself

I didn’t even know I needed to take care of myself. I guess I just thought the care fairy would do it for me, like every day I went to sleep a magical little creature came and wiped all the negative feelings, situations and complexes I had away with her starry wand. No one ever told me I needed to take time every week to go and find ways to do this for myself.

But underneath that was something much deeper. The real reason I didn’t take care of myself was because I didn’t believe I was worthy of doing so. I didn’t believe I was worthy of putting myself first.

Then, I just started doing it. I started scheduling me-time every week where I’d go do things that filled me up. At first, it was super angsty — I’d always want to bail at the last minute. But it got easier, and now I can’t live without it.  So figure out what fills you up and make it a non-negotiable.

3. I didn’t set boundaries.

Boundaries always seemed harsh and unnecessary to me, like I was building a brick wall between me and the world. I thought people who set boundaries were selfish and I definitely was not selfish.  

Instead, I was like Wonder Woman if she was less fit and more deluded. I unconsciously answered the distress calls of everything and everyone all the time, even when I wasn’t asked to. There was no separation between myself and the world — if someone was suffering, so was I. And I thought this was noble. But in reality, it was selfish and exhausting. Me suffering with endangered rhinos in Africa did nothing to help those rhinos unless I actually did something about it, which I didn’t because I was too overwhelmed because I couldn’t set boundaries.

Some things are not yours to deal with. We are finite humans with finite energy, we cannot deal with infinite things. This means we need to set boundaries — with the world and with people. Boundaries are not selfish, they are necessary for a healthy, happy existence, especially for empaths.  And they don’t have to cause separation, they can invoke love. Read my favorite blog on how to set boundaries, “The Connection Between Love & Boundaries,” here.

3. I didn’t process my emotions

Yesterday I went to my first yoga class in about a year. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and old patterns had gotten the best of me. I showed up to that class because I had unprocessed emotion in my body and I could feel it. I cried in class, and left feeling lighter.

If you’re an empath, you need to find ways to process your emotions and usually, it needs to be ways of the body. Talk therapy can be helpful but nothing beats physically working it out, especially if whatever is unprocessed inside isn’t yours.

My experience of this has been stark — me before consciously processing my emotions was a melty mess, me nowadays is strong, grounded and capable.

You are not meant to feel exhausted. You’re also probably not meant to work in radical cycles of distress and isolation. There’s stability in the middle, with only minor variations, where it’s likely you’re happier, more productive, and have a better impact on the world.

Go forth and try for yourself, then report back! I’d love to hear your experience.