There are days when being an empath is painful.
It’s a brutal experience to feel everything, to feel pain even in joy. Lately, everything hurts. Every single aspect of drawing breath and walking on this earth is bruising me.
I may look normal on the outside, but can feel bruised and bleeding on the inside.
The thing is, I’ve been deeply processing my inner life. I’ve been pulling all of my darkness into the light, the ugly messages that are hidden under my life experiences that I didn’t realize I was perpetuating. I’ve even been learning to sit with my struggle, to experience it and move through it. I’m doing everything that I need to do to make myself stronger, better and more authentic. I’ve been setting boundaries, making choices from my heart and holding close the people I love.
Lately it’s like a switch has been flipped and everything is harmful. All contact has become too much. Caring about anyone just leads to more pain. I don’t feel capable of handling any more than what I already have.
When we experience life deeply, how do we protect ourselves from it?
How do we protect ourselves from the darkness of the violence in the media, the ugliness of people’s political diatribes, the unkindness of others or our experience of pain, even with beauty or joy?
There was a night recently when I had the opportunity to swim. As I was floating on my back, drifting in the water, all the outside world sounds became muffled and far away. All I could see was the night sky above and the top of a fir tree brushing softly against the sky.
In that moment, I opened myself up to the universe and was deeply thankful for my children, my life, my friends, all of my blessings. I opened myself up to the life that is meant to be mine, the books that I’ve written and am writing now. I opened myself to an epic love, to everything I’ve ever wanted coming to me. I was thankful in that moment, even for my struggles. And in that moment, the pain was noticeably absent.
Drifting, floating in the dark, I drank my fill of the stars.
We all need these moments. We need moments of quiet and deep beauty that we can hold on to when everything becomes too much. We need to be able to close our eyes and recall what it was like to simply look at the stars. It is important to find as many ways as possible to bring ourselves back to the present moment, so we can hold on through the onslaught of the storm that is our everyday experience of life. We need to be able to maintain our hope and take care of our hearts.
It doesn’t matter if we choose conventional or unconventional routes. We have to find as many ways as possible to care for ourselves. Our deepest emotions, while sometimes excruciating to bear, can also be our superpower.
I’ve started compiling a list of all of the ways I can hold on when the strength of my emotions threatens to undo me. It’s first aid for an empath’s heart. May it be of benefit!
1. Take the time to look at the stars. Find even five minutes to lay beneath them.
2. Memorize poetry. Find poems that move you and commit them to memory. They’ll be there when you need them.
3. Practice yoga. So much tension is held in our bodies. For me, even taking one yoga class a week is essential to maintaining my peace.
4. Relentlessly seek out beauty in the day. Find somewhere beautiful for your eyes to rest a moment. There’s always something lovely if you’re looking.
5. Find a way to ground yourself to nature. Stand barefoot in the grass. Touch the leaves on a tree. Smell a flower. Stand in the rain.
6. Seek out comfort. Put on the softest clothes, surround yourself with pillows and the warmest blanket, eat something that you love (in moderation) and allow yourself to sink into a favorite book or movie. Give yourself the opportunity to rest and recharge.
7. Take the time to care for yourself. When you go out, make yourself look nice because it impacts how you’ll feel about yourself. Making a bit of extra effort can truly help.
8. Give yourself a time out. Let the dishes go for a night or skip the laundry. On a particularly difficult day, just concentrate on caring for yourself. Do only the essentials, and don’t feel bad for only being able to handle the bare minimum.
9. Rest. When possible, get more sleep. Go to bed early, take a nap, or do both. If it’s bad enough that sleep is difficult, refer to #6.
10. Let your support system know what you need—if you need to talk or not talk at all, if you just need someone’s presence while you’re going through it. Whatever you need, let someone know.
We have a responsibility to care for ourselves and make sure we’re taking the time for extra care on the most difficult of days. We’re more than capable of handling every bit of the pain that we experience, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to take a break to give ourselves the comfort we deserve.
We can endure. We will endure. In the meantime, we can drink our fill of the stars and remember that the universe is preparing us for something greater than the ordinary.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Adrienne Crow/Unsplash
Apprentice Editor: Sarah Gilbert; Editor: Nicole Cameron