I wrote this piece when the pandemic first hit, because of all the information flying around, I did not see any that addressed the unique population of sensitive, intuitive, empathic people who struggle with these things in ways that many don’t understand. Given the current state of our country (a.k.a. sh*tshow on steroids) I wanted to re-tool it and share it here. Empaths (one who picks up and is affected by the energy of others) deal with the stress of current events on the surface as everyone else, but also have the added burden of feeling and managing all of the energy around it too.
Here’s a visual of how empaths work: imagine we’re all kids going to school and we are each carrying our own schoolbooks. What an empath is doing is carrying their own textbooks as well as all of the textbooks of every other kid in town. Imagine the “books” as energy and you get an idea of how empaths work. Taking on the energy of the world around us is not a choice, it’s the way we are wired. There’s not much that can be done about that, but there is plenty that can be done about managing it.
So let’s talk about that management. Because let’s face it, the tension in our country right now is intense and I suspect it’s only going to get more intense. As an empath you can “unplug” all you want from media — turn off every device and source of news information in your home — but you can’t unplug from the collective consciousness. For example, when Roe v Wade was overturned, I felt it before I heard about it. I hadn’t seen the news but felt the heaviness and knew something happened. Only then was I prompted to go look at the headlines to put context to what I was feeling.
First, you are not “too sensitive”. The world will tell you this, but it is bullshit. You are not “too” sensitive; you are sensitive, period. This is real and just because those around you don’t get it doesn’t make it less real. Your overwhelm, overload, and exhaustion are no joke. Just because others don’t experience the same level of overwhelm does not mean something is wrong with you. You are processing a heck of a lot more energy than the muggles (no judgment here, we love muggles!). As such, your needs will be different. You may need more sleep, more solitude, more nature, and more self-care practices.
If you feel judged (or are judging yourself!) for needing these things in greater quantities than people around you, remember it is you, not them, who is processing a level of energy beyond “the norm”. People’s lack of understanding can sometimes result in ridicule and judgment.
You don’t need to be a part of that story; just keep doing what you need to do — you don’t need to expend your energy defending yourself to people who probably aren’t going to get it anyway.
On the flip side of this coin, two things. One, it’s important in any relationship (empaths or not) to convey our needs and what we are going through to our loved ones so they know how to support us and vice versa. This is doubly important for empaths because non-empathic people aren’t going to automatically know what you feel and what you need. Your nervous system is functioning differently than theirs and they probably don’t have an automatic frame of reference for what sensitive folks feel like. Kindly let your loved ones know how the world feels for you, don’t make them guess or get upset at them for not instinctively knowing how to support you.
Two, it’s important not to get all wrapped up in an identity of “an empath”. Repeatedly telling yourself (and others) how sensitive you are and how much you are struggling isn’t helpful, it perpetuates a victim story. Knowing who you are, how you are, and what you need is empowering. Allowing that knowledge to perpetuate a story of woe is me is disempowering. The last thing you need is to be overwhelmed and disempowered.
Also disempowering is trying to shut down your sensitivity. This almost seems logical: if the problem is sensitivity, shut the sensitivity down, right? This is where numbing agents (alcohol, drugs, endless TV binging) becomes attractive. Please don’t shut yourself down. The issue isn’t your sensitivity; the issue is that you live in a world that has not caught up to your wiring yet. We need that wiring and we need it to be clear. We need you to embrace and honor your unique sensitivities. Instead of numbing them out, learn how to manage them so you can stay grounded, centered, and healthy.
Just as we need to be aware and conscientious with our physical health, so it is with our energetic health. Empaths are prone to fatigue, adrenal burnout and autoimmune diseases.
In that vain here are some tips for management.
- Nature is your best friend. Connect with the earth — sit on it, lie on it, walk on it, hug a tree, whatever. Listen to the birds more than CNN. Being in the energy field of nature is for the empath what cheesecake is for the soul. Its good, good medicine.
- Hydrate. Water moves energy. As an empath your system is moving a lot of energy. Being really hydrated is essential for good energetic health.
- Breathe. Same as #2 — breath moves energy and is essential for good energetic health. Be mindful through the day of taking deep breaths.
- Trace minerals and cell salts. Everyone needs these because we are all deficient (our soil has become depleted of good nutrients and minerals). For an empathic person, their system will eat cell salts and trace minerals up much faster, leaving them at higher risk for depletion if not replenished. (Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor! Take only as directed.)
- Energetic Distancing. As an empath I’m sure you were already skilled at this long before Covid and the term “social distancing” came around. Energetic distancing in today’s chaotic world is just as important as social distancing is during a pandemic. A few examples of energetic distancing: Avoiding the grocery store at rush hour. Limiting screen time (the EFT’s coming out of our devices are intense. Being informed is great, being overloaded isn’t). Minimize time in crowds (think…wherever there is a lot of people, there is a lot of energy). If you have to spend time in crowds, take time to rest and recharge after (see #6). We each need to manage energetic distancing however it feels right for us. I completely power my phone off for chunks of the day and always overnight. If you pause and feel, you’ll know what you need to do.
- Rest & Recover. Life gets busy. We have shit to do. We can’t sit on a mountain and meditate to avoid overwhelm. If you’re an empath, overwhelm is a part of your world. Even if your life is relatively chill, your nervous system still deals with the overwhelm of processing more energy than just your own. It can be really helpful to build ‘downtime’ into your schedule. I live in a destination town so my house gets pretty busy with family and friends visiting. While this is fun I will absolutely hit a wall at some point. Knowing this about myself, I plan my schedule accordingly. If I see a busy week coming up, I will make every effort to schedule some down days afterwards so I can be alone and recharge.
- Unite don’t divide. As an empath you have probably spent most of your life feeling different and wishing people understood you better. Let’s remember how that feels and not judge others when we don’t understand where they are coming from. The world’s discord is what’s hard for empathic people so for heaven’s sake don’t add more discord. Just because we might feel things and process things differently than non-empathic people doesn’t mean we should make non-empaths into “the other”. Please, for the love of all that is holy, let’s not add more divisiveness to the culture. The “us versus them” mentality is precisely what we need to heal in our country, not contribute to. We have to protect ourselves from getting sucked into the energetic currents of fear and anxiety but we can also be mindful of not judging or criticizing people for the fear and anxiety that they are feeling.
- Let Go. Being sensitive can come with heaviness. It’s easy to feel overburdened and serious. It’s so important to remember to laugh, dance, be silly, cut loose. You don’t have to cling to the “burden” of your sensitivities. Lay it down. Let the inner child breathe. There is good healing power in whimsy and frivolity.
- Nourish. For me it’s cozy blankets, good books, and cats. Whatever it is for you, do more of that.