Being an empath or a highly sensitive person (HSP) in the modern world ain’t easy. Everyone is stressed—and empaths and HSPs are the emotional sponges, soaking it all up.
WHAT IS AN EMPATH?
To clarify, being a empath doesn’t just mean you care and feel for other people. It means you actually feel their emotions in your body. It can be sometimes difficult for true empaths to discern whether an emotion they’re experiencing is their own or someone else’s—which can be incredibly overwhelming and depleting.
(Note: while I use the terms “empath’”and “HSP” interchangeably, they are subtly different, as explained here.)
While being highly sensitive to the needs of others can be a truly wonderful quality, it takes some dedicated effort to manage. It’s ironic that empaths are so good at being there for other people and making others feel better—but it’s often to their own emotional and energetic detriment.
Empaths can easily become oversaturated with emotions, leading them to believe they are depressed, ill or flawed in some way. But that’s not usually the case. A sensitive person just needs time to recenter.
SURVIVING AS A HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON OR EMPATH
If you’re an empath, you really need to prioritize your self care. Here are a few basics that every highly sensitive person should have in their toolkits.
You know that dramatic friend you have who is always in a crisis? As an empath, it’s important to realize that they can be an energy suck—no matter how much you love them. If, while spending time with them, you can feel your energy being drained, focus on your breathing.
Holding your breath only allows negativity to fester and grow, so breathe deeply to ground yourself. Maybe also treat yourself to a little time out. Take a stroll around the block, a reprieve in the quiet bathroom or a relaxing drive to get away from the contagious drama.
Create physical space between yourself and perceived negativity.
Social situations can be really challenging for HSPs and empaths. Highly empathetic people deeply experience others’ negative energies. In fact, they tend to absorb them.
If you find yourself at a party in a conversation with energy-sucker, make an excuse to take a walk outside to balance and reground yourself. Then, keep your distance as much as you can for the rest of the event.
Social situations are already challenging enough. Create a bubble of safe, positive space around yourself to hold onto your own energy.
Know your boundaries.
As an HSP or empathic person, you probably tend to try to help people in need, no matter what. But when it comes to being there for people and sharing your positive energy, don’t be an overgiver—it’ll only deplete you.
Be polite, but let people know when you’ve reached your limits. Yes, you want to be there for the other person, but you need to honor yourneeds.
Try to become aware of when your emotional energy is reaching critical levels, and prioritize yourself. Place your oxygen mask on before assisting the person next to you.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.
You simply can’t always be there for everybody. You need to prioritize your own needs, too. So practice saying no.
For instance, one day you’re wiped, but a friend wants to grab a drink and talk about their absolutely horrible day at work. Be polite and honest. Say, “Sorry your day was so rough, but I can’t tonight. I can grab coffee tomorrow and talk all about it, though.” You could even suggest that maybe it’s best for your friend to stay in, take a hot bath, and treat themselves, too!
Saying no isn’t mean. It’s being open and honest. You need to make time for your own needs, too.
Being a highly sensitive person means you need to guard yourself a little more than others. Your powers of sensitivity are a wonderful gift that can really benefit those around you, but you want to make sure that you are not suffering as a result. It may be tough for you, but start putting yourself first.