As a child I was often told I was too sensitive. My lips would quiver and my eyes would tear up anytime I thought someone else or an animal was hurt or in pain, even if it was in a movie or television show.
Growing up I didn’t like that I was like this and would try to hide it. I didn’t know why I was so sensitive and wanted to be “tougher.”
What was once looked at as a fault later became one of my biggest allies in cultivating relationships, compassion, and even doing what I do for a living. But I had to become aware of it first, and develop tools to safeguard myself from emotional overload.
Many of us are sensitive. We can pick up on the energy of a room the second we walk in or the energy of those we are around or share our lives with. If you experience this on the regular you are probably an emotional empath.
Empaths are highly sensitive and can take on the emotions of others like a sponge, for better or for worse. As an empath, you've probably experienced situations where people have told you their life stories or intimate details of their lives because they feel comfortable with you - you just seem to "get" them. Empaths feel what other's feel, so we are easy to talk and open up to. Empaths have a lot of heart and a deep understanding.
But taking on the emotions of others can take a toll on us if we don't take care of ourselves. Emotional overload can carry over into our own lives, sabotaging relationships, and influencing us to do things that are completely out of character with who we really are, like triggering panic attacks, depression, addictions, fatigue…the list goes on. Empaths are also easy targets for emotional vampires.
Dr. Judith Orlaff put together a great quiz to determine if you’re an empath. See if any of these ring true for you.
How to Know if You're an Empath
1. Have I been labeled as “too emotional: or overly sensitive?
2. If a friend is distraught, do I start feeling it too?
3. Are my feelings easily hurt?
4. Am I emotionally drained by crowds, needing time alone to revive?
5. Do my nerves get frayed by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
6. Do I prefer taking my own car places so that I can leave when I please?
7. Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
8. Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?
Where are you on the empath scale? If you found you answered yes to some or most of these questions, there are some things you can do to alleviate the emotional toll being an empath can take.
I’m an empath, now what?
Nine Tools to Lighten the Emotional Load
1. Take time alone, everyday
Without any distractions, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, sit and connect with your breath. Allowing time alone is crucial to warding off emotional attacks. Having a place at home that’s all yours to retreat to is helpful in giving you that instant calm. (I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in an article titled “Keep Out)
2. Be a “witness” to the emotions of others, not a participant
When you find yourself knee deep in the emotional gunk of someone else, pull back and witness what they are going through instead of reaching for your tool belt to try and fix it. Oftentimes people just want to be heard, not fixed.
3. Write it down and tear it up
When I first started coaching I noticed I would carry the emotional pain of my clients with me long after our session had ended. Now, at the end of every session I write down the person’s name and every word that comes to mind when I think of them. By doing this I release any attachment I have to them then send them on their way by tearing up the paper. This can be done with any situation that lingers with you– the guy that cut you off on the highway, the rude store clerk, your drama queen friend…you name it.
4. Get Grounded
Empaths can get stuck in their emotional body or in their heads. Finding ways that keep you grounded can alleviate the emotional overwhelm. Go for a walk outside, put your feet in the grass, connect with nature, practice yoga, eat protein rich foods.
5. Steer Clear of the Herd
If large crowds aren’t your thing give yourself a time limit on how long you’ll be in a crowded place. Even staying on the perimeter of the crowd is helpful - sit on the outskirts of the movie theater, go shopping in off peak times.
6. Turn it Off
Be mindful of what you listen to. A lot of the news out there is reported based on ratings – meaning the more dramatic and earth shattering the better. Listening to a constant stream of negativity can really impact your private world. While it’s great to be informed, make sure that negativity is balanced by things that uplift you as well.
7. Wash it off – literally
This is a good practice to have anyway, but especially if you feel you’re holding on to any negative emotion that’s not yours. Take a moment in the shower to wash it off - picture the gunk that you’re holding onto being cleansed and sent down the drain. (No special soap needed. J)
8. Give Yourself Protection
This may sound a little woo, but it works. If there is a situation you are about to face and you know it’s not all light and love, place an energetic bubble of white (or any color you wish) light around you in your mind’s eye, protecting you from any harsh or negative energy. Setting an intention to not take any emotional daggers goes a long way in protection.
9. Honor Your Feelings
Most importantly, honor that you are sensitive - it’s not a fault, it’s a gift. Accepting your ability to connect with the emotions of others is the first step to respecting it. Living in a more empathetic world would bring more peace and love, which is what all empaths want anyway. Honor your true nature by not giving into the drama and negativity the world can bring.
As empaths taking on too much emotion can cause us to shut down. Noticing your sensitivity and taking steps to protect your own emotional needs can safeguard against emotional overwhelm, depression, and any other trigger you may face when faced with too much.
The key is noticing when you feel the emotions of others in a negative way. Keep your list going on what works for you to alleviate those feelings.
Feel free to share what works for you in the comments below. Your trick may be exactly what someone else needs to hear!
All my love,