Only around 2% of the population are true empaths though many of us can attest to having empathic traits.
While some of these traits such as keen intuition, creativity, and problem-solving are great to have, being an empath is definitely a double-edged sword.
One of the biggest problems that empaths face is empath fatigue.
Empath fatigue or burnout can be due to a short-term stressful situation but most often it happens over time as a steady drain of your energy reserves.
Empath fatigue can have huge ramifications on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing and is something that all empathic individuals need to learn to spot and prevent.
An Empaths True Experience…
This article was inspired by an email I received recently from a fellow empath. (It’s ironic that despite an empaths uncanny ability to ‘get’ others, few people outside of other empaths actually understand us!)
Said empath was experiencing empath fatigue and feeling drained due to circumstance placing them in a caring role; something which we previously explored when looking at the best careers for each type of empath.
It’s a common misconception that care roles are best suited to empaths due to our loving and caring nature, but in reality, empaths can become completely burnt out due to caring ‘too much’ and never having a chance to ‘turn off’ their abilities.
This got me thinking about why empath fatigue happens, and what can be done to prevent it or recover from it.
Why Do Empaths Experience Fatigue and Burnout?
We’ve already touched on one of the most common reasons for empath fatigue; finding yourself in the wrong societal role and acting as the emotional/mental/physical caregiver.
While at times where family or friends are concerned this largely can’t be avoided, if you’re the type of empath that finds themselves caring ‘too much’ or not being able to get someone else’s struggles out of your head; then avoiding careers and volunteering involving long-term care is wise.
Empaths are also inherently laid back or passive people; we like to watch and understand as opposed to inserting our opinions.
We also like to put the emotional needs of the room above our own.
This can mean that an empath that is struggling finds it a challenge to get their voice heard and their needs met, meaning that many empaths suffer from fatigue and burnout in silence.
Empaths also often fall prey to the expectations or assumptions of others which can drastically drain them.
Empaths are valuable to friends and family groups and are usually the ones people turn to for support and the glue that sticks a group together.
However, this can often cause others to unintentionally take the gifts of the empath for granted and neglect to reciprocate emotional care leaving the empath feeling drained.
Few people outside of fellow empaths realize that natural empathic abilities cannot be turned on and off, instead, full-blown empaths are ‘tuned-in’ to the emotional needs of others 24/7.
Like a machine working day in and day out, without the correct care cracks are going to show and parts will break down. This is why it’s so important for empaths to manage their energy levels carefully.
How to Tell if You’re Suffering from Empath Fatigue or Burnout
The following list are all things that you may experience as an empath suffering from empath fatigue or emotional burnout:
- Instead of empathy and compassion, you experience irritability or numbness
- You feel emotionally or mentally exhausted
- You struggle to fall asleep and don’t feel rested when you wake
- You experience hypersensitivity towards emotional scenes in movies, TV, and books
- You struggle to show intimacy with your partner
- You’ve become more withdrawn or keep seeking to isolate yourself
- You’re experiencing intrusive thoughts or brain fog
- You dread your place of work or hanging out with your friend group
- You’re using unhealthy coping mechanisms i.e. over/under eating, smoking, drinking
- Your skin is in poor condition, you may break out or notice a change in skin texture or complexion
Answering yes to multiple points on this list likely indicates that you’re struggling with some degree of empath fatigue.
A Note on Adrenal Fatigue
When burnout becomes severe empaths can experience a condition known as ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Symptoms of this include exhaustion, aches and pains, anxiety, brain fog, and insomnia.
This happens when the adrenal glands cannot keep up with external stresses leaving your body depleted of hormones like cortisol which makes us feel energized.
If you’re feeling this way or are concerned about your energy levels then it’s definitely worth speaking to your doctor or holistic specialist.
7 Secrets to Fight Empath Fatigue and Stop Feeling Drained
While all empaths will probably experience some level of empath fatigue in their lives, there are ways to mitigate the effects of fatigue and sometimes even prevent these feelings from building up in the first place.
Here’s a list of techniques to try which may help you restore your energy levels and stop feeling drained.
1. Know Yourself!
This may seem like an obvious or counter-intuitive point but a lot of failed attempts or frustration can be prevented simply by understanding who we are.
For example, the majority of empaths are introverts, but this is not always the case. So, if you’re an extroverted empath, you may read advice to have some ‘alone time’; which is a perfect remedy for many introverts.
Extroverts, however, expend energy when alone and gain energy when around others, so if you’re an extroverted empath you’ll find heeding this advice leaves you feeling worse!
Put simply, use some of your empath intuition when responding to advice on fatigue-prevention.
While some advice does require an open mind or a leap of faith, if, for example, you’ve tried meditation in the past and found it actually stressed you out or left you restless, then there’s no point continually trying in the hopes it will magically work for you one day.
It’s all about the balance between trying something new, and understanding your unique quirks!
2. Be Aware and Acknowledge
Another point which may be moot for some, being aware, and recognizing the signs of empath fatigue within yourself is actually vital for nipping the fatigue in the bud and preventing full-blown burnout.
When we’re not feeling great or are faced with a stressor we can often bury our heads in the sand and carry on regardless or suppress our feelings of discomfort and exhaustion.
While this might work to get you through the day it’s definitely not a long term solution.
In fact, acknowledging empath fatigue and taking a few minutes or hours to balance yourself is actually far less time consuming and intensive than waiting for a total meltdown to occur and having to build yourself back up over several days, weeks, or even months!
When you start to feel your emotional reserves dwindling acknowledge it and take action.
Try some of the other suggestions on this list and get yourself back on even footing before continuing down your potentially emotionally draining path!
In this chaotic and draining modern world self-care is more vital than ever.
However, if you’re an empath like me, you’ll likely know that taking time for self-care can be a struggle.
Oftentimes we’re so busy caring for others or putting others’ needs before our own that we forget to look after number one, and if we want to avoid empath fatigue this is something which must change.
No one can pour from an empty cup. As empaths, we must recognize that our gifts are not limitless and we need to take time to recharge them if we want to be truly helpful to those that we love and care for.
When it comes to what self-care is, you may find yourself picturing face masks and Lush bath bombs but this isn’t always the case!
Self-care is whatever is indulgent to YOU.
This could be taking the time to finish that book you’ve been wanting to read, going for a walk in the countryside, watching trash TV, or the aforementioned bath bombs; or a combination of everything.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing about self-care is doing something for yourself and only for yourself.
4. Good Things in, Good Things Out
Empaths are usually more sensitive to stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
This is because empaths are already tightly-wound and highly-aware individuals, so stimulants like caffeine can tip this into uncomfortable overdrive.
As an exhausted empath it’s natural to want to use coffee, or sugary snacks to get through your day and while this might work in the very short term say if a loved one has a stomach bug and needs some TLC, in the long term you’re basically putting a plaster over a gaping wound.
This is because your source of tiredness isn’t from a bad night’s sleep or burning the candle at both ends, its from deep within your emotional reserves, and until this is addressed, nothing will change.
While no ones expecting you to be a saint and kick caffeine and sugar and survive on kale smoothies and cardio, making a few small changes may help you to remove your dietary crutches and start to address the problem.
For example, many teas can provide a smaller amount of caffeine than a coffee which might make a great switch if you’re looking to reduce your intake.
5. Find Water
Now, this is something I wasn’t aware of until I started researching this article but I totally agree with; water is a strong source of peace, relaxation, and healing for empaths.
Whether soaking in the tub, swimming or looking out a placid lake or crashing waves, water can act as a charger for fatigued empaths.
I myself am a total water baby and always have been. I live in sight of the sea, was a Sea Scout in my youth, and one summer spent so much time in our inflatable pool that my hair went green from the chlorine!
I think my subconscious must have known the peace that water gives me and therefore I became naturally drawn to the water.
6. Create Boundaries and End Toxic Relationships
Remember I was saying that sometimes people can accidentally take our empathic gifts for granted?
You can put all the hard work into to reinvigorate your energy levels only to be back to square one in a few short weeks if you don’t set some boundaries with your nearest and dearest.
This can be as simple as saying no once in a while, or reminding them when they’re asking too much of you.
As I said, many times your loved ones don’t realize what they are doing and will likely be apologetic and actively seek to change their ways.
There are some, however, who act like wolves in sheep’s clothing and have little care for giving back to you when you keep on giving to them.
These individuals are known as energy vampires and are often drawn to empaths due to their loving and giving nature. Sadly, true energy vampires rarely change, and the best thing to do is to remove them from your life.
You may need to do this gradually and I’ve written multiple guides that you can use to help navigate this process.
7. Figure Out Your Triggers
If there’s one thing I stress it’s that everyone is different. While we might all fall under the umbrella of empaths there are actually many different kinds of empath.
Physical empaths, for example, are heavily attuned to the physical needs of others. This means they can often feel invigorated helping others achieve goals at the gym but may become highly drained when exposed to physical pain and suffering.
On the other hand, a plant empath feels deeply for nature and the natural world and will therefore gain energy from a walk in the woods or growing plants on their windowsill.
Long periods of time in built-up areas or cities, however, are likely to emotionally draining. Sometimes identifying your triggers can be challenging.
Try turning your natural intuition inwards and start paying close attention to how you are feeling at different moments in the day.
Do you find in the morning you have more energy, only for it to be sapped throughout the day?
Do you find your energy levels spike after an interaction with one friend, but dip when spending time with another?
Pay attention to, and keep a record of these experiences and a pattern will likely emerge which signifies the triggers in your life.
Empath Burnout Isn’t Inevitable
Before reading this article you may have been like me, going through your life in cycles of empath fatigue, burnout, recharge, fatigue burnout, recharge.
You, like me, may have thought that this was just the natural process of being empathic.
Well, I say now is time for change!
While some degree of empathic fatigue is natural, particularly when going through periods of stress, repeated fatigue, and cyclical burnout are not.
This should be a red flag that tells you that something is out of balance in your life that needs to be addressed.
As empaths, we have so much we can give to the world, but we sell ourselves short when we don’t take the time to care for our own emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual needs.
Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so try some of the tips on this list to recharge your energy well and continue to help those that you love and care about!