Our world is going through a time of upheaval. In the midst of this global crisis, we are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety all around us. People are panicking, cities are shutting down, social distancing is causing isolation and fear, and we are seeing a different side of our fellow humans, which sometimes is not pleasant (think hoarding supplies and rioting over bottled water).
Some people are more sensitive to this time of unrest than others. Empaths are attuned to the emotional landscape around them. Do you tend to pick up on the energy of your partner as soon as they walk in the room? Does your toddler's nightly meltdown leave you feeling their same raw emotions deep in your core? Have you been in the cycle of attracting people in need of fixing, getting pulled into their energies, moods, and needs while at the same time losing your own way? Do you often lose touch with your desires, needs, emotions and goals because you so acutely feel those around you? If so, you have the inner workings of an empath.
Have you been feeling especially drained lately? Exhausted, sad, tense?
Being an empath makes us more susceptible to pick up on the energies around us. We have a harder time with putting up walls and boundaries, because we feel almost no separation between our emotions and those from others. This is especially tangible in times of crisis. The air is heavy with emotions right now. The planet itself is in crisis and now all of humanity is facing an invisible opponent, leaving fear in its wake. Even if we ourselves are not fearful of catching a virus, empathically we are picking up on the mass hysteria and anxiety circulating all around us.
Here are 5 simple ways to ground yourself and protect your energy as an empath during this time of flux and engergetic upheaval:
1. Ground yourself. Take a moment to breath and find your center. Meditation and guided imagery can be a great tool here. Imagine that there is a beautiful golden thread connecting your heart to the center of the earth. With each breath, inhale peace and love, exhale any tension you are carrying and surrender it to the universe. Look around the room and notice your surroundings. If you are feeling anxious, tune into your senses...what are 3 things you can see, hear, feel, taste, smell right now? Go through each sense individually and allow yourself to be fully present with your environment.
2. Nature. Get outside. Walk the earth in your barefeet while feeling your natural connection to the earth and her energy. Envision rays of golden light connecting you to the ground through your feet with each step you take. Breathe the fresh air and enjoy the opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors. How many times have you stared out the window at work, wishing you could be outside? Now is your time to reconnect and be fully present in nature.
Drive to a park, beach, or forest and walk the trails, sit in the sand, or even sit in your car and enjoy the sights. Getting out of your home environment is a welcome change of pace and will activate your senses in new ways.
Most states are still allowing varying degrees of outdoor activities. Some cities have closed parks and playgrounds, but are still allowing short walks around the block. More strict shelter in place ordinances in larger cities may require creativity...can you set up a chair and desk near an open window to read or do your work? Surround yourself with houseplants and natural light? Worst case scenario, could you watch a Netflix documentary about the national parks and visualize yourself there.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries. As empaths, we often struggle to set healthy boundaries and are prone to falling into codependent or abusive relationships. We so acutely feel the emotions of others that we take them on as our own, and this can create some toxic relationships patterns. As we understand our role as empaths, we start to learn how to set clear boundaries. We recognize our habits and learn to differentiate between our own emotions and those of the people around us. We own our emotions and start to make other people own theirs rather than allowing them to project them onto us. This is the simplified version of establishing boundaries, it is a lifelong learning process.
In times of crisis, however, we need to set much larger boundaries, protecting ourselves from the worldwide consciousness. If we are feeling heaviness, anxiety, anger, paranoia, and restlessness, we need to check in...is this ours or are we picking up on the energy around us? We may not personally feel anxiety or upset, but if we are constantly reading the posts on social media and fear mongering comments of thousands of people at our fingertips on the internet, we are going to start to pick up on these energies. A quick solution is to put down the phone and turn off the TV. If you want to stay informed, maybe choose to set a ten minute timer after dinner to check a reputable news source, then commit to tuning out once your timer is over and engaging in some self care.
What if those around us are causing the anxiety? If a spouse, parent, or best friend is perseverating on their own panic or fears, we may need to work on our communication skills to set these boundaries. Calmly redirecting them to other topics of discussion, inviting them to sit in the sun to meditate or hike, even bringing out a board game or cooking a new recipe can be healthy distractions. Some people are more ingrained in their negative cycles and may need more direct communication. It is okay to ask someone to refrain from talking about something that makes you uneasy. "I can tell you are upset about this, but hearing about it so much is really making me anxious, can we please talk about something else?". As a last resort, if someone is not respecting your boundaries, it is okay to not respond right away to a text, or even to take some space by going for a walk or a drive away from someone not taking the hint.
4. Engage in Mindful Presence and Productive Activities. Many people resort to unhealthy habits when under stress. How many people have posted in the past week about sitting on their couch watching Netflix and eating pizzas in an effort to distract themselves from the crisis at hand? Engaging in mindless distraction is a coping mechanism, it helps us to turn our brains off and have a reprieve from overthinking and anxiety. It can be beneficial in the short term as a form of self preservation, like a reset button when we feel we are overwhelmed and confused. Sometimes tuning out to the problems around us allows us to take a breath. The problem is that many of us get stuck in this cycle, emotionally numbing ourselves to avoid uncomfortable emotions. One night of Netflix turns into a weekend spent binge watching full seasons of shows, not leaving our couch, and feeling even more isolated and exhausted than before.
How can we be present with ourselves, in our circumstances, accept where we are, and be okay? What steps can we take to feel engaged in meaningful activities in the moment? When was the last time you had a hobby that only relied on you and your unique talents? Do you play a musical instrument? Could you learn? Have you always wanted to learn to knit/crochet/sew? Now is a great time. Do you have old cookbooks lying around and are feeling the loss of your normal restaurant routine? Try to make something new. Is there a household project you have been putting off? Now is a great time to get up, turn on some music and tackle it. How often are we distracted from our own personal goals and projects by feeling so responsible for others? This time of social distancing removes many of those barriers. What would you do if you could do whatever you wanted?
5. Healthy Habits. Going along with the theme of mindless distractions, unhealthy foods and sedentary activities top the list! Our daily self care routine, including healthy foods and movement that makes us feel energized is always important, but with the current fear about disease, it is even more of a priority! The field of psychoneuroimmunology has conducted countless research studies on the effects of healthy lifestyle choices, nutritious diet, meditation, exercise, and spiritual habits on creating and maintaining a healthy immune system. What we think, do, and believe affects our health and immune system in a real way. In the absence of our normal routines, it can be helpful to create a solid routine for these times spent working from home. Waking up and going to sleep at normal times, sticking with healthy and well timed meals, making time for healthy movement and activities...we are creatures of habit and may benefit from a new "normal" routine to follow during these times.
From an empath's perspective, what better way to cultivate our own energetic strengths than by honoring our basic health needs, maintaining a routine that honors our innate worth and value, and prioritizing our selves? How can you implement at least one healthy goal into your day? Do you thrive on routine, or do you like the idea of challenging yourself to try a new healthy challenge every day? Maybe taking the time to read about healthy eating habits, watch a documentary on holistic healing, or challenging yourself to go 30 days with a new health habit will inspire long term changes ?
We are facing a time of uncertainty. As empaths, we have a unique challenge to identify how we feel rather than pick up on the energies around us. Following the steps outlined above, try to set your boundaries, engage in better self care, and find peace in the present moment.
If you are facing anxiety or sadness that is affecting your daily life, interfering with relationships, or causing negative thoughts to control your day, please reach out to a mental health counselor for more resources. Our agency Happy and Free Healing, LLC treats clients in Rhode Island. Psychologytoday.com is a great resource to find counselors in other states! Almost all agencies and insurances are working together to provide telehealth at this time, so that you do not have any boundaries to getting the care you need.