If you haven't already done so, please take the empath quiz found on this site — or if you've taken one on another site, that's okay, too. It's just good to know which traits are most prevalent in your life before going further. It might also be good to review the difference between and HSP and an empath on this blog post.
So if you're ready now, let's begin by reviewing some of the common challenges that empaths face:
You are agitated / uncomfortable in crowds
You cannot tolerate hearing the news, violence, war ... anything negative or destructive upsets you
You feel anxious around loud sounds (sirens, blasting zones, barking dog)
You find it difficult to be near or involved in a conflict with people (it takes a lot out of you)
You often retreat into your own space (even in your head) and feel yourself putting up walls from other people
You seem to get sick for 'no reason'. You catch everything that is going around. Or perhaps you feel weak / sick around specific people
You struggle with addictions
Although there are many other traits that empaths share (such as being able to tell when someone is not being truthful about their feelings, or being able to tell what time it is without looking at a clock), these seven traits are the ones that seem to diminish an empath's quality of life the most.
Take a moment to review the list, reflect on your own life experiences and write down which of the traits affect you most commonly or strongly.
Most empaths, even adults like me who only awakened to their state recently, can recall experiencing empathic traits throughout childhood. I was far more sick than either of my siblings and I know that some people thought I was only acting sick to get attention. They were right. I did want attention, but I certainly wasn't faking being sick. I wanted someone to pay attention to what was happening to me. Why was I sick all the time? Why didn't I like being around kids at school? Why did I cry so much, especially when people around me were upset? Why wasn't I like any of the other kids my age? Why didn't I fit in?
If you're just discovering your empath child now, take a few minutes to send some love and compassion to them. Your mini-you went through a lot!
Acknowledging the pain is a step towards accepting it. Accepting it is a step towards healing. Healing is a step towards growing. Growing is what it means to be alive!
With the exception of the addiction trait — which is really a coping device for being overloaded on emotional energy — all empath traits are based on the SENSING or INTAKE of the energy around us. That's why we call ourselves a human sponge. We soak up energy from happy people, angry people, depressed people, animals, nature, food and more. No wonder we have a difficult time coping with day-to-day life!
Let's try an exercise:
Think about your activities over the last few days. Perhaps you went grocery shopping, to the library, for a walk in the forest, to a coffee shop. Recall as many diverse activities as you can.
On a piece of paper, make 3 columns and jot down in the left column five specific things you did. Leave enough room between for additional notes.
In the middle column, describe the activity as if you were narrating it in a book. For example, the coffee shop might have been filled with loud conversation, clanking cups and glasses, mellow music and strong smells. Repeat this for each activity, remembering only to use descriptions of the environment, not how you felt about it.
Beginning with the first activity, close your eyes and put yourself back in that environment. Imagine how you felt and responded to each element you described. How did you react mentally, physically, emotionally? Using our example of the coffee shop, the loud conversation may have caused you to physically tense up a bit, as if recoiling from a potential strike. Mentally, the volume may have instantly caused you to detach and focus on a quieter time or place in your head. The subdued music may have calmed you and added an energetic balance to the environment. In the third column, list as many responses as you remember having (or might be experiencing now reliving the activity).
The reason for this exercise is to help make you aware of how you are responding to the stimuli around you. It's important to be aware not only how you feel in a situation, but how you are reacting physically, mentally and emotionally. It might help to make a checklist for yourself such as:
PHYSICAL - Are my muscles tensing up or relaxed? Is my heart rate increasing or steady? Is my breath ragged or fluid? Is my body language closed or open?
MENTAL - Are my thoughts present in this moment or drifting somewhere else? If they are drifting, what place are they going to compared to where I am?
EMOTIONAL - Has my emotional state changed since entering this environment? If so, has it moved up The Hawkins Scale or down the scale?
Being aware of your responses to the environment are key to helping you identify your energetic "hot zones" and "safe zones". And once you have identified these, you can begin to try some techniques (forthcoming in the workshop) to help you adjust to every type of environment.
If you read my bio, you'll know that I hated the idea of journaling about myself, but that's what I'm going to ask you to do now. Because unless you have super powers for data retention, you'll need to record 2 - 4 weeks of activities. Whether that's on paper, your mobile phone, or Sharpied on your bedroom wall, it doesn't matter. We'll be using this information later to put together an empath workout routine for you.
Soak up some more knowledge in Part 3 of The Human Sponge Workshop coming October 17, 2016.
Jeannette is the author of the novel "Diary of a Teenage Empath" and two HSP/Empath workbooks for children & teens. She is an Integrative Health Coach who, with her mentor Dr. Wendy Nickerson, launched the first-ever accredited HSP training program for mental health professionals. She leads an HSP community group in Halifax and advocates for HSPs in the mental health community.
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The information on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for seeing a doctor or mental health care professional. None of the information on this site is intended to treat or diagnose any physical or mental health conditions.