Dear all, I hope you all had a beautiful summer and great holiday.
In this current blog, I am writing about a different type of high sensibility, called empath.
I tried to make a short description of what is empathy, challenges and resources of being an empath, and work related strategies.
I hope you will enjoy it, and you find it relevant for yourself, or/ and someone you know, being that a family member or a good friend.
What is an empath, who is an empath?
If you are an empath, you have an extremely reactive neurological system, without having the same filters as other people do, to block out stimulation. As a result, you tend to absorb physically both the positive and stressful energies around you. To thrive, you must learn to avoid taking on the energy, symptoms and the stress of others.
There are many books written about highly sensitive people, and about empaths. However, the one I found most helpful, is the book of the American psychiatrist Judith Orloff, who is herself an empath. In her books and her workshops, she is focusing on practical tools, in order to transform possible challenges into tools for a balanced, happy and empowered everyday life.
In her book called ‘The empath’s survival guide’, she describes empaths as following:
‘As empaths, we actually sense other people’s sorrows and joys in our bodies, without the usual filters other people have. We can experience other peoples sorrow and also their joy. We are supersensitive to their tone of voice and body movements (…). Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our over intellectualized society’.
Empaths share some or all the traits of highly sensitive people (HSP) described by psychologist Elaine Aron.
These traits include a low threshold to stimulation, the need for alone time, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, plus an aversion to large groups. In addition, it takes highly sensitive people longer to wind down after a busy day because their systems ability to change from high stimulation to quiet and calm is slower. They also share with HSPs love for nature and animals, and quiet environments.
However, empaths take the experience of HSP further.
Again, psychiatrist Judith Orloff says:
‘We can sense subtle energy, which is called shakti, or prana in Eastern healing traditions, and we absorb this energy into our bodies. Highly sensitive people don’t typically do that. This capacity allows us to experience the energies around us in extremely deep way. Since everything is made of subtle energy, including emotions and physical sensations, we energetically internalize feelings, pain, and various physical sensations of others. We often have trouble distinguishing someone else’s discomfort from our own. Also, some empaths have profound spiritual and intuitive experiences (…).But being a highly sensitive person and an empath are not mutually exclusive: you can be both at the same time’ (p. 6.).
If these words sound just like you, then please remember, how important is to see your nuanced sensitivity as a resource. As more you understand yourself as better you can use these special talents in order to enrich your life.
The common challenges of being an empaths are the following:
- becoming overstimulated – so remember to spend time alone in order to recharge
- Absorbing the stress and negativity of others – sometimes it´s difficult to know if a bodily discomfort is your own, or if you absorbed it from someone around you – take time to learn to differentiate between these two
- Feeling things intensely – taking on the worlds pain and suffering, from the news – here it is important you learn ways to ground and protect yourself from taking these things on
- Experiencing emotional and social hangovers – again, it is important to spent enough time alone
- Feeling isolated or lonely – learn to open up to others you trust, or find a network of similar minded people
- Experiencing emotional burn-out – a downside of being compassionate, is that people approach you with their problems – set clear boundaries with those around and not ‘over give’
- Increased sensitivity to light, smell, touch, temperature, sound, and so on – again, take time for those activities which give you energy
Regarding common advantages, again, here is what psychiatrist and empath Judith Orloff describes so passionately:
‘I cherish being an empath. I am grateful for the blessings my sensitivities bestow on me each day. I love being intuitive, feeling the flow of energy in the world, reading people, and experiencing the richness of being so open to life and nature.
We empaths have many marvelous traits. We have huge hearts and the instinct to help others in need or who are less fortunate. We’re dreamers and idealist. We are also passionate, deep, creative, in touch with our emotions, compassionate and can see the big picture. We can appreciate other’s feelings and become loyal friends and mates. We’re intuitive, spiritual and can sense energy. We have a special appreciation for the natural world and feel at home there. We resonate with nature, its plants, forests and gardens, and we often love water (…). In addition, we may feel a strong intuitive bond with our animal companions. We often talk to them like they are humans, and we may become involved with animal rescue or animal communication’ (p. 16).
Empath’s and work
Below is some good advice regarding work situations:
The three major factors essential for a thriving and fulfilling work environment are: the meaning we get from our work, the energy of the people around us and the energy of the physical space.
And here is some useful good advice to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue at work:
- Plan regular breaks several times a day – make sure you have 5 min to rest, meditate or enjoy a walk, between your daily tasks
- Eat well, protein rich food, fruit and salad, and consider taking vitamins; avoid carbohydrates, candy, sodas and other sugar sources
- Create a serene, peaceful but stimulating work place
- Practice deep breathing regularly – mindfulness helps you clear the negativity you might pick up
- Set clear boundaries at work – protect yourself and your time so you are not drained
- Shield yourself – In stressful situations, if you are picking up someone else’s energy, emotions and symptoms, picture a shield of (white, pink or golden) light around you that protects you and allows in only what is positive.
- Detoxify in water – take long baths and swim after a long day, to wash away the stress and pain you might have absorbed.
- Have fun outside work – allow regular time for play and re-creation. Walking in nature while you enjoy flowers, plants, birdsong, and the rest of the natural world can revive your joy.
Other important strategies are:
- Exercise – practice gentle exercise and stretching, to build up stamina and energy
- Meditate: meditation increases endorphins which are natural pain killers and reduces stress hormones
- Rest a lot
Also, remember to be kind to yourself and stay positive. Focus on wellness and don’t beat yourself up with negative thoughts. Remember, whatever happens in our lives, we always have control over our attitude.
Source: The empath’s survival guide, by Judith Orloff, 2017
During my work with highly sensitive clients as well as with empaths, I focus on individual challenges of each client.
I teach my clients grounding techniques and how to set clear and healthy boundaries. Another very important point is self-respect, to learn to be kind to themselves, to understand their own, individual needs (these needs are OK) and stop comparing themselves with others. We also focus on the relevance of mind-body connection: positive thoughts help us to relax, feel calm and healthy. Negative thoughts increase the flow of stress hormones, increase anxiety, blood pressure and so on. Therefore I help clients to understand and to cultivate a positive self-talk and inner dialog.
Wishing you all a beautiful late-summer.
With best regards,