4 things highly sensitive people can do when they feel overwhelmed by someone else’s emotions
You’re having a good day. You’re in a good mood. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing through your hair, and all is right in the world. But then your spouse or partner, close friend, roommate, or child connects with you and they’re in a bad place. They’re feeling stressed about something, and as they’re with you, you start to feel stressed. From your side of things, everything is going great–at least they were. But as you relate to this individual, you can feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, tight, and shut down. What happened? If you feel like you take on the emotional state of another person, conflict, or a difficult situation, you may identify as a Highly Sensitive Person. Here’s a quiz to see if this sounds like you.
When we relate to one another, we empathize with each other. It’s how we are put together. It’s like when someone yawns, and all the sudden you have to yawn. Empathy and compassion can be drivers in how we connect with the people we care about, but sometimes the empathy slips into absorbing the emotional state of others. It’s one thing to sense how someone else is feeling, but many of us start to feel it ourselves.
When these feelings arise, there are some simple things you can do to navigate the emotions of other people within yourself. Here are 4 things you can do when you feel overwhelmed by someone’s emotions:
1. Acknowledge your sensitivity
Sometimes the solution is as simple as saying how you are feeling out loud. While highly sensitive people have impressive sensitivity to non-verbal communication, it can take some work to actually say what you feel. But when you do, the feelings that were locked up, get exposed and you get to hear how you feel. In the moment, maybe just to yourself, try saying something like, “Right now, I am feeling very overwhelmed.” or “I’m having a hard time with how I am feeling, so what can be done in this moment to help?”
Often, people who are not highly sensitive will not pick up on all the little non-verbal clues and changes to your body language and tone you may give. So, to help them and yourself, taking a moment to say how you are feeling can do a lot to improve a difficult situation.
2. Set supportive boundaries
It’s more than just saying no. Having clear boundaries in your relationships can help you learn how to leave someone’s else’s emotions with them instead of those emotions following you home and taking up space in your mind and body.
Here’s boundary to try out: Try setting a timer for intense conversations. You can listen and engage with a person for an hour, and then you need to take a break to process everything.
3. Find a quiet space to be still
Highly sensitive people can become flooded with the constant and deep processing of all the day’s stimuli and the mental and emotions one can feel. This is especially true in the moments when they are dealing with the emotions of others. So it is really important to find regular and uninterrupted quiet space throughout the day.
Sometimes in the moments when you feel the flood of emotions come over you, you may just need to excuse yourself from the situation. Other times you may need to step aside for some deep breathing. It can be as simple as going to the bathroom and taking a 5-minute break.
Above all what can be the most helpful is setting your day up for a few 10-15 minutes where everything is quiet and still. Some call this meditation or prayer. Whatever you call it, the goal is to find a space in your day where your mind and body can be still and reset from overstimulation. Turn down the lights, remove unnecessary noise which may require earplugs or noise-canceling headphones, and find something soothing to touch.
4. Get the support you need
Oftentimes, highly sensitive people can feel isolated and stuck in their frustrations and all the overwhelming activity surrounding them. It can be very hard to make the healthy choices you need to make when it feels like it’s just you doing all the work you feel you need to do. Colorado Center for Assessment and Counseling offers a number of group options for highly sensitive people. We have an introductory group, a group focusing on relationships, and an advanced group for those wanting to continue with some really intentional support. We also offer individual counseling here in our office.
If you are interested in learning more about our services for highly sensitive people, Contact Us today. (970) 889-8204.