As an Empath, or Highly Sensitive Person, your Central Nervous System is operating on overdrive. This is what creates your sensitivities, you are over processing sensory information. This over processing of information means that you can reach a greater depth of information in the world around you. This depth can create an intensity or harshness in the way you receive the world.
- You see more.
- You hear more.
- You smell more.
- You taste more.
- You feel more.
You may feel the anger radiating off a lover during a fight. You may feel the pulse of social anxiety flowing from an introvert at a party. Or the joy of a child as she laughs and plays.
You aren’t absorbing these emotions. Your sensitivities are increasing the potency of your awareness.
When unmanaged, the potency can be unbearable. It is in honoring your sensitivities that they begin to work for you rather than against you. There is a fine line, a breaking point for each of us, where sensitivity turns to overwhelm, stressed out and run-down. There are four keys to ensuring you don’t hit that breaking point:
- Know your limits
- Be prepared
- Schedule regular self-care and alone time
- Know how to decompress once the line has been crossed
Key #1- Know Your Limits
Crossing your limits translates into physical discomfort. Headaches and fatigue are the most common responses to overstimulation. As you bring awareness to the beginning stages of the sudden onset of fatigue and headaches, you bring awareness to your sensory boundaries. Crossing the limit also often results in leaving your body to not have to deal with the stress and overwhelm. It can throw you back into the vicious cycle of letting your wounding run your life.
As you move through your day and spend time in different environments, pay attention to what feels like “too much.” Is there a smell that’s too strong? A certain amount of people in a room that crosses you into the threshold of overwhelm? Are there particular lights that seem to give you a headache?
Key #2- Be Prepared
The better I understand my limits, the better I can prepare myself and prevent overstimulation. I choose outdoor malls over indoor malls. Same goes for concerts. Outdoor venues seem to help reduce the overstimulation. I know when touch can feed me or drain me and I eat as cleanly as possible as not to inundate my taste buds (and body) with pesticides.
Traveling exhausts me. Especially flying. If I’ll be spending a day traveling, I know I’ll need the next day off from doing anything, especially working with clients. I know I’ll need an “emergency” salt bath and that I’ll most likely sleep 10-12 hours that night. It’s simply what my body needs and ensures that I’m back to homeostasis as quickly as possible. Planning may also include planning the recovery if it’s not in the cards to avoid overstimulation.
The key here is to manage your senses through preparation. Know what you are getting yourself into as you plan outings and prepare accordingly. Make sure a recovery phase is built into your schedule as needed.
Key #3- Regular Self-care
Regular self-care and alone time ensures you are filled up, so when you venture out into the world you have more capacity to be there.
What does self-care look like for you? For me, it’s actively indulging my senses in a way that brings joy and pleasure. Actively indulging my senses means that I am in control of my environment and filling it with things I love.
Most of the time, self-care means being alone. Fully alone. Alone time doesn’t mean watching TV or eating mindlessly. Alone time means fully being with yourself, devoid of unnecessary stimuli. Alone time means that you are void of external energetic influence. You are completely with yourself. This allows you to decompress from stimulation overload. It gives you space to really get to know yourself and what it feels like to only be in your energy. It is here where I remove the sensory stimuli and enjoy being in the stillness, the silence, the pause between movement. It is in the pause, spending time with yourself, where you get to know yourself individuated from the energy of others. This allows you to know when your experience is due to having a deep awareness of the world around you or that you’re receiving communication that is for you. This is an important foundational skill to have when utilizing your empathic gift.
Think of something small you can do today to bring in self-care. Maybe it’s a 5-minute pause, where you simply close your eyes and be with your breath. Immerse yourself in the ebb and flow as it moves in and out of your body, tuning into your natural rhythm. Maybe it’s spending an extra 5 minutes in the shower, allowing the negative ions from the rushing water to lull you into relaxation, for just a moment, letting go of the to-do’s and simply being with yourself.
Know that it’s vital to keep your cup full. “You cannot pour from an empty vessel.” Scheduling pockets of time for yourself throughout the day and big chunks throughout the week prevents your body from needing to slow you down with fatigue or even illness.
Key #4- Know How to Decompress
It’s common for people to describe being empathic as “one who absorbs the emotions of others.” This has nothing to do with being empathic and everything to do with being a Highly Sensitive Person and not having the tools to properly process emotion and transmute energy. Sensitivity crosses the threshold between this is mine and this is yours. Think of it this way: imagine that as your senses are processing the world around you, it is as though they are reaching out into the world to gather the information and bring it back to your body. Being highly sensitive means that you are reaching further out into the world. You are crossing thresholds and barriers of the physical delineation of mine versus yours.
Crossing this threshold can take on the appearance of absorbing other people emotions. It is the sensitivity that tunes into the emotional frequency the other person is emitting. Absorption simply means that you picked up on the energy and don’t have the skillset to process emotion or transmute energy.
You need to be sure you are moving the information all the way through your body. “Absorption” is taking place because you’ve stopped the processing. You may have stopped the processing because you felt overwhelmed by what was coming through or because it pushed you over the limit. Or you just don’t know what to do with it.
Transmuting energy means that you are changing it from one form to another. We are shifting the density of stress and overwhelm to a lighter state of peace and relaxation. There are many ways to move it through you.
- Shake out the energy.
- Run until you cry.
- Scream into a pillow.
- Hit a speed bag.
- Walk around your house groaning.
Once you’ve moved the energy through you, or as you are moving it through you, be sure to drink water.
Take time right now to think about how you can set yourself up for success in managing your sensitivities. Feel free to comment below for some accountability.