An empath’s sensitivity is a gift but in order to fully develop and manage it they need to learn how to stop absorbing other people’s stresses.
Physical empaths are people whose bodies are so porous they seem to “catch” from others their illnesses, fatigue, and emotional symptoms.
I call these “empathic illnesses” as the symptoms do not belong to the person.
As a psychiatrist and empath when I took a close look at the history of my highly sensitive patients I discovered that they didn’t have the defenses that others have to screen things out. Knowing this significantly changed their treatment. My job became teaching them to center and protect themselves, set healthy boundaries, and let go of the energy they picked up from others.
Discovering that you are a physical empath can be a revelation. Rest assured: You are not crazy. You are not a malingerer or hypochondriac. You are not imagining things, though your doctor might treat you like a nuisance. Similar to the special needs of relationship empaths (see my article 6 Relationship Tips for Empaths), if you absorb other people’s symptoms you need to be fierce about self-care practices.
To determine if you are a physical empath take the following quiz from my book on the power of surrender.
Quiz: Am I a Physical Empath?
If you answered “yes” to 1-3 questions you are at least part empath. Responding yes to 4 to 5 questions indicates you have moderate degree of physical empathy. 6 to 7 “yeses” indicate you have a high degree of empathy. Eight yeses indicate you are a full blown empath.
Physical empathy doesn’t have to overwhelm us; now that I can center myself and refrain from taking on other people’s pain, empathy has made my life more compassionate, insightful, and richer.
Here are some secrets to thriving as a physical empath:.
9 Strategies To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Illness, Stress & Pain
- Evaluate. First, ask yourself: Is this symptom or emotion mine or someone else’s? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If it’s not yours, try to pinpoint the obvious generator.
- Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don’t hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of “dis-ease” imposing on you.
- Know your vulnerable points. Each of us has a body part that is more vulnerable to absorbing others’ stress. Mine is my gut. Scan your body to determine yours. Is it you neck? Do you get sore throats? Headaches? Bladder infections? At the onset of symptoms in these areas, place your palm there and keep sending loving-kindness to that area to soothe discomfort. For longstanding depression or pain, use this method daily to strengthen yourself. It’s comforting and builds a sense of safety and optimism.
- Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s symptoms, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power.
- Practice Guerilla Meditation. To counter emotional or physical distress, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. Do this at home, at work, at parties, or conferences. Or, take refuge in the bathroom. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love.
- Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.
- Visualize protection around you. Visualize an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field against intruders.
- Develop X-ray vision. The spaces between the vertebrae in your lower back (lumbar spine) are conducive to eliminating pain from the body. It’s helpful to learn to mindfully direct pain out of these spaces by visualizing it leaving your body. Say goodbye to pain as it blends with the giant energy matrix of life!
- Take a bath or shower. A quick way to dissolve stress is to immerse yourself in water. My bath is my sanctuary after a busy day. It washes away everything from bus exhaust to long hours of air travel to pesky symptoms I have taken on from others. Soaking in natural mineral springs divinely purifies all that ails.
Keep practicing these strategies. By protecting yourself and your space, you can create a magical safe bubble around you that nurtures you, while simultaneously driving negative people away. Don’t panic if you occasionally pick up pain or some other nasty symptom. It happens. With these strategies you can have quicker responses to stressful situations. This will make you feel safer, healthier, and your sensitivities can blossom.
*Adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life, Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff MD.
BONUS: The Introvert/Extrovert Myth?
Author: Judith Orloff
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: KariHak at Flickr