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Living as an Empath in a Chaotic World

An empath is someone who feels things deeply; who has little guard up between self and others; who can immediately sense the energy in a room; who frequently takes on the emotions, thoughts, and hurt of others; and who is often overwhelmed by sensory stimulation. In the words of researcher and psychologist Judith Orloff, an empath is “an emotional sponge who absorbs both the joy and the stress of the world.” (If you identify as an empath and haven’t checked out Orloff’s books yet, I highly recommend The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.)

Our modern world is full of sounds, smells, crowds, textures, colors, and all other kinds of endless sensory input — often occurring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Staying grounded, peaceful, and healthy as an empath is therefore a challenging task. We have to implement particular strategies to protect ourselves and maintain a healthy equilibrium in our inner and outer worlds. Here are 5 techniques to do just that.

  1. Know your limits
    The demands of others often outnumber our capacity to give. As empaths, we frequently want to make everyone happy because we feel happy if those around us are cheerful and content. We are also trained in our culture to always put others first and generally say “yes” if we are asked to do something for someone else. However, as empaths we have a tank that tends to empty at a faster rate than, say, an extrovert’s tank.  We have to protect our time, our energy, our bodies (both physical and energetic), and our space. We have to learn to put ourselves first. We have to be able to say, “I can’t get to that today” or “I have my own to-do list to get to” or “I won’t be able to help you with that” when people ask us for more than we can give. Recognizing our own limits and enforcing strict boundaries about how we spend our time and energy is a requirement for good emotional, mental, and physical health.
  2. Shielding for protection & strength
    Shielding is a simple, easy, and powerful tool you can use wherever you are at any time. All you do is breathe deeply, center yourself, close your eyes, and visualize yourself being surrounded by a white bubble or shield of light. Ask your spirit guides, God, Source, or archangel Michael to shield you energetically for protection and strength. Re-shield yourself throughout the day, especially if you’re going into stressful or draining situations.
  3. Grounding at the end of the day
    Empaths are wired with nervous systems that take longer to wind down after sensory stimulation. This means that it’s harder for us to settle down at the end of the day, after a long business meeting, or after being in crowded/chaotic spaces like airports and malls.  Once you’re back home (or in any other safe and private space), stand tall, close your eyes, and visualize yourself as a tree. Imagine your strong roots reaching down through your legs and solidly into the ground. Feel how the earth supports you and helps you stand. Allow the energy, stress, emotions, and thoughts of the day to pour down through your roots and into the earth, to be cleansed and purified. You can affirm, “my work for today is done” to help you further release any attachment to the events, experiences, and emotions of your day.
  4. Say NO
    Empaths tend to be people pleasers because we sense others’ emotions and we want to help them feel better. This means we will sometimes say YES when we really mean NO. This type of behavior ranges from taking on extra projects at work when we’re already at full capacity, to agreeing to go out with friends when we’d rather stay home and rest, to never taking a break or time for ourselves even in our own homes.  We have to learn to say NO to our friends, to our colleagues, to our bosses, to our parents, to our spouses/partners, and to our children. Creating time and space to be alone, to rest, or to do the things we truly love is not selfish — in fact, it is a necessary act of self-preservation.
  5. Weekly solitude
    A half or full day of solitude, contemplation, reflection, journaling, meditation, walking, hiking, watching movies, reading, crafting, painting, or even sleeping (whatever you want and love to do) is like a restorative balm for the empath’s soul. We need this time to recover, release stored energy and emotions, de-stress, reconnect with ourselves, and process whatever has happened in the last few days or weeks. Try to schedule one day of solitude per week — or a half day or even 15 minutes per day if that’s all you can do for now.

As empaths, we have the ability to see into the soul and heart of others and to help them in compassionate, loving, understanding ways. We also have the innate gifts of intuition, deep knowing, and sensitivity. The world needs our gifts, especially during these turbulent times of political, social, racial, and cultural upheaval. Make taking care of yourself a priority so you can assist others and the world from an empowered, centered, healthy, and vibrant place. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself in the process.

I devoted a whole episode of Inner Work: A Spiritual Growth Podcast to this issue of navigating life as an empath. You can listen to that here: Inner Work 025: The Highly Sensitive Empath. You can also book an Intuitive Healing & Coaching Session with me to get some clarity + guidance on living (and thriving!) as an empath.

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