By Katrina Rasbold
There is a reason the label of “empath” gets thrown around a good bit. It is because there are a lot of empaths out there. We could go a few rounds of “You might be an empath if…” to identify who is and is not an empath and future blog post likely will cover that very subject. For now, I want to talk about what to do if you know you are empathic or if you deny that you are empathic and just happen to experience discomfort when you are exposed to excessive energies from the people around you.
“I just can’t people anymore” or “I’m all peopled out” are expressions that identify a person who “feels” too much because there are so many extraneous bodies and thoughts around us.
Our bodies are made of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms (99%). Atoms are always moving and vibrating and while they are in motion, they are mutable. This is why magic works. Magic is energy and when we inject purposeful energetic manipulation into a mutable construct, we can affect how those existing atoms move and react.
Even without intentional purpose, however, we respond strongly to the vibrations, including sound, around us. Everything, including stones, herbs, and roots, vibrates and moves on a subatomic level, allowing for the transmitting and reception of energy.
If solid items move and are mutable, you can imagine that something that is by nature a vibration has an even stronger effect. Sound and emotion, for instance, both emit a frequency easily detectable by most humans. Our bodies respond quickly and intensely to these vibrations, especially the emotions that our amygdala, which controls “fight, flight, or freeze” responses, perceives as a threat. When people around us are afraid, frustrated, hurt, or angry, our energetic systems respond quickly and intensely. This protects the organism and the species. If one of us is in jeopardy, the rest of us, in theory, need to know so we can act. We are biologically wired to detect intense emotions in those around us so that we can procreate and protect and thereby, continue the survival and evolution of the species.
The problem is that these feelings we pick up from others can overwhelm us, especially when we feel those emotions and can find no reason why we feel so sad, confused, angry, or hurt.
If you often have emotions run through you with no discernible cause for them, you might be an empath. But wait… I said we were not going to do that with this post. This post is about what to do when we experience these borrowed emotions. What is our “break glass in case of emergency” recourse to return to our own baseline energy?
Find your baseline: To return to our baseline, we must know what it is and feels like. The best way to do this is through meditation, but far too many people convince themselves that they cannot meditate, so simply telling an empath to meditate will not likely get us very far. In meditation, we become familiar with how we feel and can more easily identify our own organic thoughts. This lets us separate out our personal energy from incoming energy that does not belong to us.
If you are unable to meditate, try merely isolating for a short time. This means minutes or hours, not days or weeks, unless you want to and have that luxury. Finding a place where you can truly be alone with your thoughts is terrifying to some people, and yet very valuable to most people. We become so accustomed to others telling us what they think and feel, how we should think and feel, and even what we should do that we sometimes reach a point where we can no longer think or make decisions for ourselves. Sitting alone without music, social media, TV/videos, reading, or other distractions allows us to deep dive into our thoughts and familiarize ourselves with who we are and what we think.
Write it out: Journaling is a natural extension of this. My husband used to tell our children, “Sometimes it feels like paper is the only thing listening to us” and encouraged them to write out what they did not feel they could verbalize. Write about who you are, what you know to be true, and what feels real and authentic to you. Burn it afterward if you need to for privacy.
Name the emotion: If you feel overwhelmed, give the emotion a name. I feel angry. I feel frustrated. I feel sad. If you cannot isolate substantiating or instigating factors around you that sparked those feelings, see if you somehow triggered a past trauma that is resurfacing for attention. If not, then it is likely you are picking up on and mirroring the emotions of someone around you, even if their facial expression or action does not indicate they feel that way. Putting a name to the unease you feel helps you to decide if the feeling comes from you.
Take a shower: This is one of the faster ways to normalize. The element of water connects to the West which is about emotions and endings. Let the water wash over you, purifying you, refreshing you, and carrying the emotions down the drain. If you cannot shower, simply wash your hands. There is a reason why the washing of hands symbolizes abdication of responsibility for a situation. It clears your connection to another person or circumstance.
Breathe: Regulated breathing can also return you to energetic baseline. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 6, hold it for 3 beats, then breathe out through your nose for 6. Repeat until the emotion passes. We hold our breath when we feel emotionally overwhelmed or the breath becomes rapid and erratic if we feel upset or threatened. Patterned breathing calms and centers us.
Ground yourself: Hold a black stone, any black stone. I prefer smooth basalt like massage stones. Push the unwanted energy you feel into the stone. Hug a tree. Take your shoes off and walk in the dirt. Garden and get your hands into some potting soil.
Practice excellent self-care: Set boundaries, say “no,” make time for mindful energy recalibration, distance yourself from people whose dramatic emotions pull you under with them, and limit exposure to toxic people who trigger unresolved trauma responses in you until you feel ready to address those underlying traumas.
Take social media breaks: Truly, our spirits have not caught up to the unlimited access and information social media inflicts upon us. We need time away from the input of others and from sharing ourselves with the world. Technology affords incredible sociocultural advances, but our more primal brains are evolutionarily wired for the limited information we process when living in an isolated village. If you are unable or unwilling to take a day off from social media/messaging, then there might be deeper problems you need to address within yourself. Yes, we are a conjoined, connected species, and yet, the codependent relationship set up through digital connection is the way that most people today become overwhelmed. Take time off to breathe and be.
Someone once told me that empaths are “special needs people” and that really hit me hard. We are and it is essential that we assertively manage our environments and ourselves to stay safe and sane.