Empathy is the gift of understanding other people’s feelings and emotions outside of your own. If you’re highly sensitive to the energies that surround you and can’t help but feel in tune with other people’s emotions, you’re probably an empath.
Being an empath allows you to connect with and understand people on a deeper level which is nourishing to the soul. However it can also become challenging since it’s so easy for them to get wrapped up and lost in other people’s emotions, losing sight over their own.
Dr. Judith Orloff M.D., author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, perfectly describes empathy as “lacking the filters most people use to protect themselves from excessive stimulation” and “how taking in surrounding emotions and energies, whether they’re good, bad, or something in between is inevitable.”
Empathy is a lot more complex than just feeling everything that happens around you though, for starters there are different types of empaths:
Cognitive empathy: having the ability to understand what someone feels
Affective empathy: which is having the ability to share what someone feels
So why do some people feel empathy more than others? This all has to do with a system in the brain called the “mirror neuron system” which is found to be hyperactive in empaths. This system is a specific group of cells that are in control of compassion– which according to Psychology Today is the emotional response to empathy creating the desire to help, and as a result they absorb other people’s energies and emotions like a sponge. This is also why social situations and larger setting like crowds can be totally draining.
How to know if you’re an empath?
Dr. Judith Orloff’s survival guide suggests those who may be empaths battle with these 8 questions:
- Have I been labeled as overly sensitive and/or “too emotional”?
- If a friend is distraught, do I take on those feelings too?
- Are my feelings easily hurt?
- Am I emotionally drained by crowds – requiring time alone to revive?
- Do my nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk?
- Do I prefer taking my own car places so I can leave when I want to?
- Do I overeat to cope with emotional stress?
- Am I afraid of becoming engulfed by intimate relationships?
If you answered yes to some.. or all of these questions, I’m here to tell you it is possible to take control of your emotions as an empath. You deserve to know when and how to protect your energy. Change is difficult, but implementing these practices into your lifestyle will improve your quality of life and recharge your batteries.
If you’re caught feeling this type of way, take it as a warning sign
- Overly worried about someone else
- Struggling with boundaries
- Drained because of another person's energy
- Or simply giving too much
Once you’re aware of the signs you can start to make a change. What’s next? Drop other people’s drama so you can refocus that precious energy on yourself! So the next time you catch yourself falling, try one of these methods..
4 ways to protect yourself as an empath
Step 1: Ask yourself what’s going on and what you need at this present moment. Once you can answer these questions in order, take the appropriate steps to grounding yourself and start building healthier boundaries between the things that are causing you to feel this way.
Step 2: Use mindful breathing this is an effective technique that will help bring you back to the present in the moment and regain balance. Take slow deep breaths in through the nose out through the mouth to instantly calm your nervous system so you can push on with your day.
Step 3: Schedule in your alone time! Empaths NEED alone time, I cannot stress this enough, whether it’s small breaks throughout the day, or one entire day off for yourself and only you to enjoy. Being an empath is draining, hence why it’s important to recharge your batteries so you don’t burn out. Add a “me time” reminder to your daily or weekly calendar so you don’t forget about you.
Step 4: Plan ahead. Define your empathetic needs by making a list of your top 5 emotionally draining scenarios and create an action plan following these issues so you can combat them and protect your energy in the future when they arise.