After living for 40 years as a highly empathic person and only knowing of it as "just overly sensitive" for most of that time I can tell you, that
you are lucky you realize there is a marked difference between the normal empathy nearly all people are capable of and the extreme.
Our form of empathy also encompasses images, precog, telepathy, and in many cases also physical and mental injuries (the symptoms and feelings of). In
rare cases empaths have actually shown physical signs of another's disease, without actually having the disease.
Without going out and declaring yourself a "freaky emotional sponge" I'd think when explaining it to people around you, simply telling them you
feel others emotions and conditions stronger than most. Using terms like "tuned in" lessen the "freakability" of what you do.
The most important thing is to learn to protect yourself.
For the longest time I had no idea my empathic ability was what brought on the aura's I was seeing. In refusing to get a grip on the empathy my brain
obviously devised another method that would get my attention. It took a lot of time and energy to get things under control.
Once I got some therapy and learned to deal with the strong emotions I feel (mostly not really my own) the aura's slowly stopped being a permanent
feature. Now I see them only when I want.
Being able to feel what others feel is a natural ability and when it's hightened and combined with the other skills I mentioned it's a great gift.
It also can leave you wide open for a lot of stress.
Beware of depression. People carry a lot of crap around with them and it CAN become overwhelming if you can't control your senses.
I have never used crystal or any of the fluffy items (no offense) I prefer a more scientific approach to controlling things.
If you are interested you can start by taking a look at some cognitive therapies and how they work. Because most of what we experience is generated in
the hypothalamus region of the brain, we have reactions (thought and action) that are formed as a result. Knowing how this process works can be a HUGE
help to learning how to take care of yourself, while learning to use the skill.
Much as a dislike wikipedia there is some great research here.