In a world that is so stressful and highly emotionally charged, it’s easy to take on other people’s problems. Research has even shown that emotions can be contagious, you can potentially ‘catch’ fear, anger and joy from people without even realising it. This is something I know I do. I am very susceptible to ‘catching’ people’s emotions. It’s something I really struggle with.
Are you an emotional sponge?
Being an “emotional sponge” isn’t always a bad thing. Being sensitive towards other peoples emotions, I like to think, can make you a better person.
The question ‘are you OK?’ is majorly underrated. Those three words can make someone go from feeling alone in a situation, to having an outlet. Being sensitive means you observe emotions far more than others. Being an emotional sponge means you probably worry about how someone is feeling perhaps more often than others, and can read situations differently.
Though, sometimes it’s easy to take on too much. I find this incredibly easy to do.
So, in being aware of my sponginess, I hope to be able to deal with it better and use it to my advantage. Here are a few ways I have learnt to deal with my tendency to be an emotional sponge.
- Answer this: is this feeling mine, or someone elses?Sometimes I feel such strong empathy for other people, that it can genuinely dictate my entire day. From the moment I wake up I can find myself concerned for somebody else’s emotions. I often have to put it into harsh terms, with the question: ‘is this any of your business?’Because half the time- it’s not.
- Recognise the difference between empathy and sympathy.Empathy is where you feel other people’s emotions, whereas sympathy is simply the compassion. If you empathise you’re putting yourself in their position. It’s better for you, and for you to guide other people, when you’re sympathetic, rather than emotional invested.
- Express yourself.This is something I find so difficult: saying when enough is enough. It’s important to be honest, to say ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you’. When you sit for hours and hours, listening, it is unbelievably easy to be a sponge. This is the one I find the most challenging, because often I feel that to back off can feel like you’re abandoning people.
- Distance yourself from the suspected source.If you know specific situations or individuals can bring your mood down, and perhaps you’re particularly vulnerable to it at this time, remove yourself from the situation. I find this equally hard, especially as I like to help people and despise seeing people feeling isolated.
- Talk to other people. If you’re concerned for somebody it’s easy to take on the role of ‘the rock’by yourself. But speaking to other people about it really can help. This keeps your own mental health in check. I always remind myself that I am far more helpful if I, myself, am happy.
I refuse to think of being sensitive as a weakness. To me, it is a strength. But sometimes you have to put number one first and that means taking a step back. I’ve learnt to accept that I am not responsible for others.