Being an empath comes with a unique set of challenges as you hold space for others while navigating your own emotions and feelings. Here’s what you can do to care for your mental well-being.
Are you someone who feels and absorbs the emotion of others as your own? While some may consider you overly sensitive, it may be a sign you’re an empath.
Growing up as an empath comes with its own set of occurrences that happen to you that don’t seem to happen to other people.
A non-exhaustive list includes:
- Crying at the sight of other people crying, even when you don’t know what they are upset about.
- Feeling the tension of someone across the room and actually becoming anxious on their behalf.
- Physically carrying the stress of yourself, your friends, your family, and the world in your neck, shoulders, belly, back, and everywhere.
- Waking up in a panic in the middle of the night with a strong knowledge that something is wrong somewhere, with few clues as to what that something is or how to fix it.
- Pinpointing where something has gone wrong and attempting to fix it without success for hours, days, weeks, decades.
Sensitivity comes with numerous beautiful benefits attached to it, including unusually close relationships and the ability to share in moments of sheer joy when good things happen to the people you love. But it also can be super challenging to bear over time.
Being a very sensitive person can be exhausting in life.
Sensitive people are more likely to absorb the pain of others around them, and are also more likely to deny themselves their own needs in favor of focusing on meeting the needs of others.
When this becomes habitual, they sometimes turn to behaviors that are less than optimal to numb themselves to the painful, emotional weight they carry for themselves and others. Disordered eating, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, obsessions and compulsions can all manifest when sensitivity is not tempered with a healthy, consistent dose of self-care.
How do you care for yourself if you are one of the lucky ‘very sensitive’ few? Here are some suggestions.
1. Go to therapy on the regular.
This does not mean you are mentally ill or have some big problem that needs solving. Therapy is a space to process all that weighty emotional stuff so it doesn’t bog you down.
2. Share your own stuff with others, as much as others share their stuff with you.
This means letting them in on the big secret that you are imperfect and sometimes have feelings, too.
3. Know that you cannot fix all the things.
Even though you’ll find this difficult to do, practice letting go of the things that do not belong to you.
4. Talk to yourself every day.
Check in with what different parts of you want or need, and prioritize meeting those needs first before you try meeting the needs of the people around you.
5. Do the basics every day.
Even when others need you, there’s a lot to do, or during stressful times, take care of yourself. This means eating well, sleeping well, seeing loved ones, having fun, and seeking balance.
6. Give your body support if you tend to hold emotions physically.
Yoga, acupuncture, reiki, hiking, and getting a massage are all great ways to help your body release your held tension and stress.
7. Don’t accept negative messages about your sensitivity.
These might sound like “You’re being overdramatic” or “stop making such a big deal out of this”. They may look like eye rolls or laughing at something that is important to you. If people do this to you, they may not understand or are intimidated by your sensitivity, so walk the other way.
8. Set big, firm, line-in-the-sand boundaries.
If someone’s emotional stuff is too much for you and they are intent on having you carry it for them, set boundaries. Be consistent and confident about them. If you must, minimize contact with people who routinely ask for more than they give.
Being an empath is a rarity and a gift, but it requires a certain amount of intentional maintenance to be both sensitive and well. Start by prioritizing just one new method of self-care, and notice how it serves you, emotionally and physically.
You deserve to care for yourself, too.
Adapted from the original article.
HEADER IMAGE: ANNIE SPRATT
Dana Belletiere, LICSW, MSEd, is a licensed therapist serving clients in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in person and virtually. In her practice, she focuses on helping clients to shape their own narratives, accept and love all parts of themselves, and cultivate an authentic and meaningful life. When she’s not with clients, you can find her writing or reading in a local coffee shop. Learn more about Dana’s work and visit her at www.DanaLICSW.com.