I’m an empath. I’m also a physician.
In my medical practice of over two decades, I specialize in treating highly sensitive people and empaths. We feel everything, often to an extreme, and have little guard up between ourselves and others. As a result, we often become overwhelmed by excessive stimulation and are prone to exhaustion and sensory overload.
The key to self-care is to quickly recognize when we start experiencing sensory overload or absorbing negativity or stress from others. The sooner we can act to reduce stimulation and recenter ourselves, the more balanced and protected we will be. Whenever we start to feel exhausted or overwhelmed, practice the following five protection tips from my book, The Empath’s Survival Guide, to help regain some balance.
1. Practice a Shielding Visualization.
Shielding is a way to protect yourself. Many empaths and sensitive people rely on it to block out toxic energy while allowing more positive thoughts to flow.
The moment you’re uncomfortable with a person, place, or situation, call on your shield. Use it anywhere you may get bombarded by emotions that aren’t yours or aren’t healthy. Begin by taking a few deep, long breaths. Then visualize a beautiful shield of white or pink light completely surrounding your body and extending a few inches beyond it. This shield protects you from anything negative, toxic, or intrusive that isn’t yours to deal with.
Within the protection of this shield, feel yourself centered, happy, and energized. This shield serves to block out negative emotions or sensations, but at the same time, you can still feel healthy and loving emotions from those around you.
2. Define and Express your Relationship Needs.
Knowing your needs and being able to assert them is a strong form of self-protection for empaths. Once you master this, you can be in your full power in a relationship. If something doesn’t feel right, raise the issue with your partner rather than suffer silently. Finding your voice is equivalent to finding your power—otherwise you may become exhausted, anxious, or feel like a doormat in relationships where your basic needs are not being met.
Your partner isn’t a mind reader. Speak up to safeguard your well-being.
Ask yourself, “What do I need in a relationship that I’ve been afraid to ask for? Would you prefer more alone or quiet time? Would you like to sleep by yourself sometimes? Do you want to play more or talk more or have sex more? Or would you like to dance under the full moon together?” Let your intuition flow without judgment. Uncover your true feelings. No reason to be ashamed or to hold back.
3. Set Energetic Boundaries at Work and Home.
Empaths often suffer when they absorb the stress from their surroundings. The workplace especially can be noisy and overstimulating. To protect your energy level in an emotionally demanding or crowded environment, surround the outer edge of your space with plants and family or pet photos to create a small psychological barrier.
Sacred objects such as a statue of Quan Yin (the goddess of compassion), the Buddha, sacred beads, crystals, or protective stones can also set an energetic boundary. Noise cancelling ear buds or headphones are also useful to muffle conversations and sound.
4. Prevent Empathy Overload.
When you’re absorbing the stress or symptoms of others and you need to release the negative energy, inhale lavender essential oil or put a few drops midway between your eyebrows (on your third eye) to calm yourself. When you’re able, spend time in nature. Balance your alone time with people time.
For me, time management is key to my sanity. I try not to schedule patients back-to-back, and in my personal life, I don’t plan too many things in one day. I’ve also learned to cancel plans when I get overloaded. This is a skill all empaths must learn so we don’t feel obliged to go out when we’re tired and need rest.
Set clear limits with the people in your life, especially those who drain your energy. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to keep explaining yourself. Finally, practice self-compassion. Be sweet to yourself whenever possible—avoid beating yourself up. After a hard day, tell yourself, “I did the best I could. It’s okay honey.”
5. Try the Jaguar Protection Meditation.
When you need extra protection, I recommend a meditation to call on the power of the jaguar. I use it when there is too much negativity coming at me too fast. The jaguar is a fierce and patient guard who can keep toxic energy and people away.
In a calm meditative state, from your deepest heart, call on the spirit of the jaguar to protect you. Feel her presence enter. Then, visualize this gorgeous, powerful creature patrolling your energy field, encircling it, protecting you, keeping out intruders or any negative forces that want to get through. Picture what the jaguar looks like: fierce and loving eyes, sleek body, and the graceful, purposeful way the jaguar moves. Feel secure in the circle of this jaguar’s protection.
Give inner thanks to the jaguar. Know that you can call on her whenever there is a need and feel the power in that.
As sensitive people, we must learn how to deal with sensory overload when too much is coming at us too quickly. And while we may often feel like there is no on/off switch when it comes to our empathy, that’s not true.
When we feel protected and safe, we can take charge of our sensitivities rather than feeling victimized by them. To gain a sense of safety, we need to recognize some common factors that contribute to empathy overload and begin to identify our triggers. Then we can quickly act to remedy our situation.
Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff MD.
Author: Judith Orloff MD
Image: Flavio Gasperini/Unsplash
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman