Empaths are a gift on this planet. They can feel the emotions of others, making them extremely compassionate people. However, this same trait can also make empaths susceptible to stress. We want to help you identify whether you're an empath and, if you are, we’ll help you navigate your important role in society without being overwhelmed.
Are you an empath?
If the following telltale signs are true for you, then you are likely an empath:
- You are good at reading other people’s emotions and desires.
- You’re highly sensitive.
- You feel things deeply.
- You have a hard time watching the news or reading about tragedy.
- You’re an introvert who needs time alone to recharge.
- You’re a great listener and people always come to you for advice or to vent.
- You sometimes get overstimulated around other people.
- Being by yourself is grounding after spending time with others.
- You can feel what other people are feeling.
- Being in a crowd is overwhelming.
- You are highly sensitive, especially to things like loud sounds, depictions of violence in shows, etc.
- You naturally love helping other people—sometimes to the point of abandoning your own needs.
- You’ve had to learn how to cultivate boundaries to protect yourself since you naturally tend to over-give.
- Environments strongly influence you, whether they're chaotic or calming.
- You feel different from others but you don’t always know why.
You are likely an empath if many of these feel true for you.
What’s the difference between a highly sensitive person (HSP) and an empath?
Both HSPs and empaths are affected by the energy around them and are sensitive, but HSPs don’t always intuit what others are feeling or take on that emotion as their own.
In other words, all empaths are HSPs, but not all HSPs are empaths. The difference is that empaths absorb and take on the emotions of people around them.
Why is modern life particularly challenging as an empath?
In evolutionary terms, we previously didn't hear about negative events beyond our tribe or neighboring tribes. We now have access to news across the globe. From a purely evolutionary standpoint, we’re not evolved to emotionally handle so much bad news, or to even comprehend what’s happening around the world. Nonetheless, we live in a society with constant negative news, which can lead to media fatigue. This is particularly challenging for empaths who have a hard time hearing about tragedies.
Empaths are more prone to overstimulation as a result of technology. The constant stimulus of being connected is overwhelming.
Modern life, especially in cities, is full of traffic, cars honking, and people rushing. It’s a lot of noise that can be very overwhelming for empaths.
Lack of Nature
Empaths are often very drawn to nature and away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, many people live in cities and don't have easy access to nature. Nature is grounding for all people, especially empaths. For some tips on getting grounded in nature or elsewhere, read our 5 recommended grounding techniques.
Our modern society demands that we are always "on." Even something as simple as being present on social media can be challenging for empaths who feel the emotions behind every post.
Modern Work Environments
Modern work environments tend to have open floor plans where you’re surrounded by people. Or, if you’re remote, you might be expected to be on Zoom for several hours of the day with various people. In addition to contributing to sensory overload as mentioned above, these types of environments create pressure to be “always on” which is draining for most empaths.
How can I cope with modern stressors as an empath?
Shift into compassion rather than empathy
According to Chopra's definitions, empathy is when we viscerally feel another's emotions. Sympathy is when we understand another's emotions. But compassion takes this a step further. Compassion is when we recognize that a person is in pain (sympathize) and then do our best to alleviate their suffering (take action).
By shifting into compassion, you can recognize someone's pain and help alleviate it — without living that pain yourself.
Practice boundaries with technology, news, and media
We recommend taking care of yourself by stepping away from overstimulating information as often as possible. Do Not Disturb mode is your friend!
Practice saying no to commitments to keep your calendar free
Empaths need more alone time than most people to tap back into their own energy. There's often a societal pressure to always be socializing or busy, but you can feel better by practicing the simple art of saying no.
Empathize with yourself
Empaths are often so tuned into others' feelings that they forget to tune into their own. One of our most powerful traits is the ability to deeply feel our emotions and take action to alleviate suffering. We are gifted healers, even healing ourselves. Rather than get lost in how we can heal everyone around us, we can powerfully turn this energy inward to help ourselves.
Create ceremonies of energy cleansing
Find grounding rituals that anchor you into your energy again, such as meditation, working with your hands, gentle exercise, and anything that keeps you present.
Empaths will often use their daily showers or baths as energy cleansing ceremonies. For example, in the shower, you can imagine you’re rinsing other people’s thoughts, emotions, and expectations off of you.
Consider where and how you want to live
Empaths thrive in peaceful environments with plenty of space and quiet. If you're living in the city, you can consider a move, but we understand moving is not feasible for everyone. You could consider installing double-pane windows to reduce noise, invest in noise-canceling headphones, or simply play brown noise in your home.
If you’re an empath, you might be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders more than others. And that’s OK. It’s important to remember that you have different needs and gifts than others. The first step to avoiding empath overwhelm is understanding those needs. Once you've identified them, you can practice boundaries and habits to improve how you feel in your day-to-day life. And remember, being an empath is a gift. Not many people have the compassion and emotional bandwidth that you have. Treat your empathy with care.
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