Are you an empath? According to Dr. Judith Orloff, an American board-certified psychiatrist and author, “Empaths are highly sensitive, finely-tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything…and are less apt to intellectualize feelings.” As an empath, you may have felt alienated from your peers growing up, as if you lived on a different planet than them. While your innate sensitivity may have initially felt like a curse, as you grow older, you may realize that being highly intuitive and sensitive is actually a strength. When it comes to empathy, there are two types: affective empathy is an automatic drive to respond to other people’s emotions, while cognitive empathy is a conscious desire to recognize and understand someone else’s emotional state.
In many ways, the family you’re born into affects your chances of being an empath. A study conducted by Berkeley University found that “affective empathy is [about 50 percent] heritable, whereas cognitive empathy is 27 percent heritable.” While discussing the differences between having empathy and being an empath, Dr. Orloff explained that “[Empaths] actually feel others’ emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in [their] own bodies, without the usual defenses that most people have.” Struggling with managing — and maintaining — your emotions? We’re here to help. Below are some tips and tricks for protecting yourself so that your emotions (and those of others) don’t get the best of you.
Set aside some alone time.
This tip may seem obvious if you’re an introvert, but sometimes we get so caught up in socializing, working, and taking care of adult responsibilities that we completely forget that alone time is necessary to recharge. While the thought of spending time alone may seem daunting at first, you gradually become more accustomed to it as a healthy way to cope with your emotions. If you’ve been feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed, or drained, alone time could be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Find healthy distractions.
Distracting yourself doesn’t have to be an unhealthy habit or behavior, but rather an invaluable tool to get yourself out of your head and into a calm, safe space where you can rationalize your emotions. From podcasts and music to meditation and yoga, there are a variety of “distractions” that can get your mind off any negative thoughts and emotions so you can refocus your attention on the positive aspects of your life.
Spend time outside.
Going outside is a great way to ground and center yourself, especially when your emotions are in overdrive. Simple things like going on a walk, visiting your favorite park, and even gardening can all serve as coping mechanisms when your emotions are at their peak. Walking barefoot in grass is also a great way to reconnect with nature and rebalance your mind so you spend less time repeating negative thoughts and more time recentering yourself into the here and now.
Utilize your senses.
For those of us who struggle with overanalyzing situations, striving for perfection, and constantly thinking about the past, tapping into your senses is a great way to return to the present moment. There are several types of incense you can burn that will help calm your mind and relax your body. Food is another option, although you want to make sure you don’t get into the habit of “eating your emotions.” If it’s mealtime, consider cooking something fresh and healthy that provides you with the energy you need to make the most of your day. Listening to music and spending time in nature are two more ways you can utilize your senses when your emotions are overwhelming. It’s all about finding the right technique that works best for you.
Taking a shower, getting your nails done, going on a run. There are many ways you can take care of yourself and manage your emotions when things get to be too much. Often, if you find yourself unusually emotional, it’s because your body is trying to tell you that you need a break. However, if you ignore it, you’ll find that it might force you to take that break by way of an injury, a cold, and so on. That’s why it’s important to combat any triggers and negative emotions with healthy coping mechanisms that allow your mind and body to reset.
Set clear boundaries.
As an empath, you may find that people often try to take advantage of you. When you’re highly sensitive and empathetic, people are naturally drawn to you because they sense they can manipulate you to get what you want. However, this does not have to be your reality. By setting clear boundaries and communicating your limits with your peers and family, you allow yourself to remain in control of your life and decisions — regardless of what other people may think.
Balance work and play.
If you’re an empath and a workaholic, it’s important that you take time out of your day to relax and unwind. While being productive may feel good initially, over time, you’re going to become drained and burned out, which could send you into an emotional spiral. Having time for yourself is crucial when you’re an empath as it allows you to recharge your battery and regain the necessary energy to deal with your emotions in a healthy manner.
Pick your friends wisely.
Empaths often attract narcissists and people who are skilled at manipulating others. This is the unfortunate reality of being a kind-hearted, sensitive person. However, by knowing the red flags of these personality types, you can avoid befriending people who want to take advantage of you. When socializing, pay attention to people who are overly into themselves and critical of others. If they start asking for favors, ask how you will be reciprocated. Doing something nice for someone every once in a while is great, but you don’t want the relationship to turn into a one-way street. Whatever you do, always make sure to set clear boundaries with potential friends and spouses before letting them into your world. View your trust as something that must be earned, as opposed to something that’s easily given away.