Although emotions are part of human life and something everyone has to live with, Empaths are known to have heightened emotions. This basically means they get upset easier than others, they feel fear and nervousness more readily, and when they get down it can take them longer to get back up. And this is one reason why so many Empaths struggle with Empath life.
But did you know there was a very big reason for the way an Empath over-feels everything?
The main aspect of being an Empath is both feeling and experiencing the emotions belonging to other people. For example, an Empath can tell when another is nervous, when one is angry or sad, just by the energy they emit.
They may enter shopping centres, or busy peopled places, and feel an array of strange sensations wash over them like a tidal wave. Again, this is because they are picking up the emotional energy of all the people in there. It is a gift, like a sixth sense, that can be used not only to help others but to navigate their way through life.
However, not all Empaths consider the ability to experience other people’s emotional energy as a gift. In fact, some would say the opposite. They feel tormented and in pain by it.
The thing is, what most Empaths don’t know is that their excessive emotional reactions are actually activated in their head.
There is a certain part of the brain called the amygdala which plays a big part in processing emotions and it is often over-activated in an Empath.
In case you’re wondering, the amygdala is a set of small almond-shaped clusters of nuclei, located deep within the brain’s temporal lobe.
It was Dr. Elaine Aron, a research psychologist, who found the amygdala to be highly activated in Sensitive people like Empaths. The more Sensitive the person the more this gland seems to work.
Dr. Aron found, through a series of trials and research, that when Sensitive people were shown pictures of human suffering the amygdala became highly activated. This in turn released hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, which then further enticed emotional responses.
The amygdala is not a thinking part of the brain. It is a reacting part that activates when exposed to stimuli such as stress, fear or other strong emotions. It causes an automatic response known as the fight-or-flight response.
The fight-or-flight response is the body’s way of protecting us from dangerous situations. The process elevates certain hormones to give the energy and strength to run away from danger or stay and fight.
As mentioned, two of the hormones released into the body, by amygdala activation, are the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, respiration and glucose levels. All of which are essential for increased body activity. However, they can also ignite fearful or irrational emotions and anxiety.
When the above hormones are constantly activated by the endocrine glands, courtesy of amygdala activation, and not used through body movement, etc. it can cause heightened emotional responses. This eventually puts other organs and hormones out of balance. (As well as problems within the energy body (leaky aura and blocked or excessively open chakras.)
An Empath does not need to watch another endure pain to experience suffering. Simply being in the presence of someone suffering emotionally is enough to ignite a reaction, whether the other person shows their emotions or not. An Empath feels their pain and therefore reacts. This means an Empath often overproduces adrenalin and cortisol. Both of which can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue or autoimmune conditions.
In normal situations, when a stressful situation is removed, stress levels return to normal, and the amygdala stops reacting. It is when the stress triggers do not decrease that problems arise. This is where issues can occur for the Empath.
The Empath may stop feeling other people’s emotions soon after leaving them. But this is not always the case. Some people’s emotional energy can cling to the Empath for days. Which means the amygdala is constantly activated and large amounts of unnecessary stress hormones are dumped into the body.
What to do about it?
The good news is the amygdala reaction can be controlled. My books, 7 Secrets of the Sensitive and The Eating Plan for Empaths go into greater detail on this subject, but here are some things you can be doing now.
1. Avoid triggers:
The first step to preventing unnecessary amygdala activation is to avoid known triggers. The people you know who stimulate a negative emotional response lasting more than a day should be avoided.
People who bring nothing to your life but emotional pain eventually become an Empath trauma trigger
2. Take control of your thoughts:
Because repetitive thoughts can activate the amygdala, it means Empaths have to work to keep their mind quiet or distracted. Meditating is the best way to quieten the mind. However, I know many Empaths struggle with meditation and this is where using distraction techniques work a treat. This post explains how to use distraction to your advantage and has some great Distraction Techniques.
3. Avoid stimulants and drug-like food:
Empaths react to coffee and other stimulants more than most. It is best to know your caffeine intake limits and stay within them (take note at which point you get a physical response – too much caffeine can cause shakiness, a pounding heart, flushing, faster breathing and an aching chest – and stay under the that amount). Also, drug-like food has a huge impact on triggering stress responses and should be avoided.
4. Exercise daily:
Exercise has many redeeming benefits for the Empath. In the case of amygdala activation, it helps clear excess stress hormones from the bloodstream (which would otherwise cause damage).
5. Control glucose levels through diet:
Regularly experiencing stressful emotions, your own or off others, results in extra glucose being dumped into the bloodstream (from amygdala hormone activation), the last thing an Empath needs is their diet to contribute to this problem. Avoiding sugar or foods that quickly turn into sugar in the body can prevent this from happening.
As I said, my books go into greater detail on the subject. If you are one who carries excess belly fat, your body is receiving too much glucose for its needs. This is why I wrote the book The Eating Plan for Empaths. If you want to learn more about how the right diet can transform an Empath’s life you may want to read this post.
I hope this helps you understand how your brain plays a vital part in your Empath wellbeing, and how the amygdala’s activation impacts your emotional health.
It is my belief that understanding where a problem lies is halfway to overcoming it.
**By Diane Kathrine
Thanks for the timely and useful info Diane. I now have something ‘concrete’ I can actually work with.
In my research re empaths/highly sensitive people, it’s more and more obvious they are Lightworkers/ warriors/ starseeds/ wanderers. I’ve wondered why they are like this; what is the end purpose since it makes being here all the harder.
From my perspective:
Everyone picks up emotional energy from others. Empaths just do that to a much larger extent.
“Avoiding sugar or foods that quickly turn into sugar in the body can prevent this from happening.”
I’ve tried very low carb, low carb and very high carb diets. The first two worked well for about a year but after that they made me very stressful and anxious.
I feel much less anxious and much better on a very high carb diet. The trick is to simply consume so much fruit and so much white rice and similar that you never run out of glucose in your blood stream and so you never experience that sugar crash.
Very high carb diets are also great for weight loss, so long as you keep fats very low (if you want to lose weight, keep fats under 10g per day). If you don’t believe me, look up for example durianrider on youtube. He and his partner eat unlimited fruit and sugar and carbs and they’re very lean, because they keep their fats very low.
Or just look at the traditional Asian diet, which is white rice 3x per day yet those people are very slim and able to work very hard and don’t suffer as much from our Western diseases.
You become fat if you eat a lot of carbs and at least a moderate amount of fat. But the solution to this isn’t to cut carbs, it’s to cut fat. After all, your body runs on glucose and your brain runs on sugar. Why are you fighting against your own body? Just give it the fuel source it needs.
Under normal human conditions, you simply do not become fat from eating unlimited carbs. If you overeat them, your body simply becomes quite warm to burn it off, or you will feel so satiated that you will naturally stop eating. Yes, you can easily overeat fat + carb combinations, like pizza or donuts. But try overeating if your meal is just white rice + optionally some non-fat condiments.
Also look at the Australian paradox, which is that when sugar intake decreased, people better fatter. This is not surprising to me, because when people eat less sugar, they tend to eat more fat. And fat is the thing that actually makes you fat. Carbs and sugar only make you fat if you eat too much fat alongside them.
So how do I eat? Something like:
Breakfast: 5 bananas (if you can stomach more, feel free to eat more)
11am: 0.5 – 1 liter of fruit juice
Lunch: 12 dates, or say a kilo of mango (my super market sells a 1 kg frozen mango piece sack)
3 o’clock: as many raisins as I want
Dinner: as much white rice as I want, with some vinegar and herbs and a moderate amount of sugar sprinkled on top. I typically have a few nuts, like literally four of them or something. I aim at having just enough fats that I’m able to feel satiated.
And I feel more energetic than I did when I was 20, plus I’m losing weight.