How to Deal with Overwhelm


Learning to deal with feeling overwhelmed is an essential part of an empath’s tool kit.

The secret to reducing overwhelm is to notice it quickly. Many empathic patients have come to me saying, “I’ve felt overwhelmed for years.” They live in the persistent, uncomfortable state of sensory overload or else have become exhausted, burned out, or sick. Happily, you don’t have to let this experience get the best of you.

Each day, treat yourself with kindness. If too much is coming at you too fast, make time to decrease stimulation. Notice when you first start feeling overwhelmed. Did a colleague or family member ask too much of you? Did you overcommit yourself? Most importantly, catch the feeling as fast as you can before it gathers momentum. Then take at least a few minutes to unplug from stimulation. I often retreat to a room without sound or bright light. I rest or meditate to recalibrate myself to a more balanced state. You can use these strategies too.

When you are feeling overwhelmed or if your thoughts are scattered, practice this visualization from my book Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People to center yourself:

Red Rock Canyon Visualization

Take a few deep breaths. Relax your body. If thoughts intrude, keep breathing deeply and let them float by like clouds in the sky. Do not attach to them. Let the rhythm of your breathing help you completely settle into your body.

Picture yourself walking in a huge, majestic, red rock canyon filled with all shapes and sizes of noble stones and boulders. Some are thousands of years old, strong, wise, and omnipresent. It’s a beautiful day with the perfect temperature, just right for you to wander around this enchanted place. Notice which rock formations you are drawn to.

Then, place your palms or your entire body on them. Feel their strength and let them ground you. You can sit on a boulder, too, to feel its stability, warmth, and sustenance. Let the grounding life force of this canyon and all its natural stone formations bring you back to center and in touch with your highest, clearest self.

Set your intention. To prevent or decrease overwhelm, I will plan short or longer periods to reduce external stimulation. I will visualize the red rock canyon of wonder when I want to ground myself. I can go there whenever I like. It is always welcoming my return.
(Excerpt from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” by Judith Orloff, MD)

Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

7 thoughts on “How to Deal with Overwhelm

  1. Dr. Orloff, you are a blessing to me. I am so glad I found you. I have been able to finally understand what I felt when I was young was normal for an Empath. My family never understood. It is so nice to know many of the things you yourself experienced as a child happened to many of us. You have no idea how healing your information has been for me. I am truly grateful. Your posts are so informative and helpful, you are a true blessing to all of us.

    Thank You.

  2. I have ‘ALWAYS’ had a deep connection with Dr Orloff. I have several of her very useful books. Yes, as an ‘EMPATH’ I get this overwhelm feeling and can turn me into an exhausted nervous wreck!! I have a disability and get B12 vitamin jab every 7 weeks! I feel ‘BLESSED’ because I know I can turn to Dr Orloff for her much needed help because I have ‘FAITH’ In her and know she has a great understanding of ‘EMPATH’S when one her self! XX

  3. Thank you Dr. Orloff for helping Empaths understand, cope, and appreciate our special gifts.

    You are the only person I know of who has had the almost exact same experience I had as a child. At that time I was outdoors lying on a blanket gazing at the sky and wondering when “they” would come and get me and take me back to my real family. I can remember feeling very disappointed and abandoned. Much has changed since then.

    I just pulled out to reread “The Empath’s Survival Guide” which I purchased when it first came out. My greatest challenges at this time are noise and EMF sensitivity. The discomfort seems to increase as I get older. Loved the red rock canyon visualization.

    I appreciate you.

  4. This was very helpful. I am addressing my avoidance of Sadness right now. Sadness mean pain and suffering. I need help with processing pain and suffering resulting from sadness.

  5. These were very helpful! Judith was born to guide us empathetic people to self care , especially during these challenges. I read the tool book before Covid. Thankfully I was armed and connected before I sunk my ship.

  6. It is amazing that you send us all this information and offering your support in these very difficult times, without requiring funds!

    During this pandemic I have learned how to be alone, how much I need people and to be social, to pay attention to that gentle voice giving me advice and the pain when I did not take it, how important self care is and a daily connection to God. I have taken several of your classes and reading your books including “Thriving as an Empath…” . Your Facebook page has been especially helpful to learn how we are not alone and have experienced many of the same occurances, even though we are apart; I have learned from this FB group that what I felt was real, to believe my feelings and my knowings, to hear suggestions and support from like-minded people and a place to safely share when I feel I want to share.

    I need to work on meditation more and will study about what to do when overwhelmed, which is a lot less often than it used to be.

    All this information offered is a great library to access when I need it! Thank you Dr. Orloff for reaching out to help people who are very sensitive or empathic, not crazy, and how to learn to live and hope to thrive and be of service in this world!

    May we share this email?

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