Compassion Fatigue, How Empathy Creates Emotional Stress

I see life and our overall wellbeing as a complex jigsaw puzzle and ‘stressed pieces’ don’t fit together. The key to ‘life’s puzzle’ is to find and fix our Emotional, Physical and Environmental stresses so our pieces can connect again. That’s why I say life is a journey filled with happiness when all our jigsaw pieces work together – The ‘Big 3’ Stress Solutions Puzzle...

Here’s a little food for thought when it comes to Emotional Stress…are you an empath and making yourself stressed by taking on other people’s problems?


Hello and welcome back I hope you are well!

People have a tendency to get caught up in ‘stress’ whether it’s their own or someone else’s. Stress can be like a virus that spreads worry, creates drama, anxiety and a negative mindset to all those around them. If we are stressed, naturally those around you feel ‘your stress’ and indirectly or directly take it upon themselves to ‘carry the burden’. Those who are more empathetic tend to be impacted by other people problems. This can then start a chain reaction causing more stress which can snowball out of control quickly while drawing out sympathy and empathy from others and/or draining people emotionally.

There are times in my life where people have perceived me to be ‘cold hearted’ because I don’t want to ‘take on’ other people’s problems. I have been accused of being too pragmatic at times when I don’t allow my emotions to become involved when making decisions. This is because I am not a very empathetic type of person.

Sometimes we need to be ‘cold hearted’, to a degree, so we don’t ‘take on’ other peoples ‘stresses’.  I am empathetic to a certain degree without allowing myself to get emotionally involved. If I’m stressed about other people’s problems it impacts my life, my well-being, and I lose my rational thought process. Those around me who are stressed requiring my help need me to be strong so I can support them. They don’t need me to be overwhelmed and upset because I have taken on board ‘their stress’ which is now impacting my life, causing me worry, and making me unwell both emotional and physically. 

I know people who constantly worry about other people’s problems. They lose sleep staying up half the night worrying and stressing about other people’s problems. It’s not their problem but they take on the burden and stress of those around them. This creates constant drama in their lives, affects their family and relationships with people and starts to impact their health, their mental well-being and their overall happiness and it’s not even their problem! 

You need to live before you can give is my little philosophy and mantra in life. When you make yourself the number one priority, then you have the ability to help others along the way...

What are some warning signs we are taking on other people’s stresses?

  • We worry about other people’s problems
  • Take on their stress indirectly
  • We are staying up half the night focused on their problems worrying about them
  • We are telling everyone about other people’s problems like they are our own
  • Gives us a reason to tell everyone we are stressed thus drawing empathy from others


What people under stress don’t need from you...

  • Taking on their stress and allowing it to take over your life
  • Compare situations on who has more stress
  • Call them every day and crowd them
  • Pressure them into solving their problems your way
  • Constantly dwell on the problem they are dealing with
  • Start telling them all your problems


What people under stress might find helpful...

  • Listen and be there as a support network
  • Let them know you are here if they need some help (without it being a major responsibility e.g. might be picking one of the kids from school and dropping them home, or the kids have a sleep over at your place giving them the night off)
  • Tell them you have a great set of shoulders if they need to cry on them
  • Cook them a meal and take it over
  • Try to stay positive and strong around them
  • Ask them questions about their situation so they can try to think logically (when we are stressed we can lose all train of rational thoughts)
  • Take them out for a coffee/lunch or dinner
  • Doing something that takes their mind of the problem
  • A pampering session at a spa might be just what the doctor ordered
I think sometimes taking the non-emotional approach is important. It allows you to give more practical advice. Firstly, you listen, listen, listen to their problems so you can hear their thoughts and concerns. Then you have the ability to ask them the right questions helping them come to a conclusion.

So what does the 'Big 3’ Stress Solutions Puzzle look like when it comes to ‘EMPATHY/Taking on other people’s stresses’ and your emotional stress?


Are you constantly feeling run down, tired and constantly fighting off colds and flus? Getting upset stomach aches, headaches or nausea? Maybe your Emotional stress is the trigger factor?

Emotional Stress and worry will lead to Physical Stress. How you ask?  In the past when I have been really stressed emotionally my body would become Physically stressed and I would get a cold sore in my eye - yes eye! That lead to more stress because the doctors had told me I could go blind if this kept happening due to all the scar damage the cold sores were creating. That is just one example of many when it comes to Emotional stress leading into Physical stress.

The key to a happy, healthy stress free life is not taking on other people’s stress for starters. This is something I have been practicing for a few years now which has made a huge difference in my life. I couldn’t move forward in life and be happy when I was worrying about other people.

I don’t think successful people take on other people’s stresses. How could people like Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch, Ellen, Oprah etc possibly become so successful if they worried about other people’s problems all the time?  It’s just an example as we are not all wanting to aspire to what they have, I am just saying they concentrate on their lives first and help others along the way. 

My motto for positive change is ‘Little Puzzle Pieces Create a Big Picture’… ‘You need to live before you can give’ is my little philosophy and mantra in life. When you make yourself the number one priority, then you have the ability to help others along the way.  

Until next time be thoughtful, be mindful, be present. This is Character 32 doing her best to help you!


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