The One About Being An Empath
By Dakota Divinity
As simply defined by The Huffington Post, an empath is an individual that “feels and absorbs other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. Empaths filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.”
According to statistics provided by Forever Conscious.com, it is estimated that around 15-20 percent of the population is highly sensitive, while another 2-3 percent of the population are empaths. I myself identify as an empath, because I can physically pick up on the energy that is being exchanged within both conversation, or within silence. The surrounding energy radiates within my body and has the ability to change my entire mood in a mere heartbeat. As cool as having this gift may sound, it can become both physically and mentally draining on an empath who may indeed feel a wide range of emotion all the way from strangers to loved ones on a daily basis. Turning such intuition on and off is impossible, especially if you live in a busy city like Manhattan, as I do. Even if I’m on the subway with my headphones on and off performing in my own imaginary rock concert, on an unconscious level, I am still picking up on the energy of those around me, as well as being able to feel when the energy shifts or changes. Here in the city, it’s constantly changing with the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Back to our earlier statistic, I do believe that it is important to discuss the difference between being an empath and being highly sensitive. Understanding the difference is important because those who are highly sensitive can learn to protect their energy using various mindfulness tools. However, empaths really need to learn how to harness their talents and channel them into something deeper. The website Forever Conscious once again comes to our rescue and does a perfect job at explaining the difference between the two. As a singular example, as an empath, people feel comfortable telling you their personal stories and often comment on how good they feel after talking to you, but you usually feel worse after talking to them. Some people may also appear to be intimidated by you as they can feel that you can see right through them. But as a highly sensitive person, you may prefer to do things on your own and avoid hanging out in groups and have a harder time making decisions because you are more aware of the possible outcomes.
However, keep in mind that it is possible for the lines to blur a bit, as an individual may feel as though they resonate with being a bit of an empath, as well as being highly sensitive. This can also work in the reverse. Nothing is set in stone and there are no rules that say that you can only identify with one side or the other.
The Huffington Post article referenced above also continues on to report the effects of empath drain and how when empaths become “overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, they can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex and drug binges, and many physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis.” In my case, I certainly can identify with a few of the effects that The Huffington Post mentions. In particular, that ever so annoying chronic fatigue that may be accompanied by following panic attacks. This is especially true, after a long work day and making the commute back and forth. My whole body tends to ache and wants to shut down, sleeping for the remainder of the evening. As a human, I absolutely have days where it’s difficult to even keep my own emotions and sense of self in check, but when you add the combination of picking up on the emotions and vibes of practically everyone around me, you hopefully have a clearer picture as to why being an empath can be incredibly draining.
For my fellow empaths out there, this next section on self-care is dedicated to you! It is critical that an empath develops the tools to manage both boundaries and feelings so that their gift and contributions to the world can be sustainable. Namaste Heart.com has written terrific recommendations on how to do just that, so you are in luck! While suggestions such as drinking more water and getting more sleep may sound simple in concept, reflect upon how well you are doing in such arenas. Sleep in particular, is extremely important. If we are not getting enough sleep at night, our brains cannot produce enough neurotransmitters, and the deficiency of neurotransmitters is directly linked with the causation of depression. So, get some rest!
A second important recommendation that Namaste Heart gives is one that I use frequently in my own life. As painful as it may sound for some, it’s unhooking from social media and the news. Being constantly connected can be extremely draining for some empaths, as we are absorbing the energy that is being portrayed from tragic and/or violent news stories, television shows, and shared social media videos. I’m not going to lie, I struggle hardcore with unhooking, because I see it as critically important to stay in the know about what is going on in the world around me, particularly with the current political climate. As of late however, I’ve been more responsible about taking care of myself first and forcing those breaks. In response, I’ve been feeling less weighed down and have been able to add meditation into my daily routine during the times where I would’ve been just wasting downtime on Facebook or Twitter.
Segueing briefly into meditation, while it is a fantastic activity for empaths to take part in, it is also found to be beneficial in general for the wider population. According to Art Of Living.org, meditation provides benefits such as reducing stress levels, promoting clear thinking, as well as increasing one’s capacity for empathy and compassion! Although it may be difficult to work into a hectic schedule, start off simple with trying to dedicate ten minutes of your day to meditation and relaxing. The great thing about it is that you can meditate practically anywhere that you like. I find myself meditating in places such as the shower or even while I’m making dinner. Just breathe, try your best to turn your thoughts off, and let the act of reflection come to you. Don’t force it, because then you’ll just stress yourself out even more!
So, those are the very basics of what it means to be an empath, the distinction between being overly sensitive and having such an ability, and the critical importance of self-care. In the future, I’d love to expand even further into subtopics within this subject, as there are numerous, so please comment below if you would like to see more!