I hear you, loud and clear.
The last month has been particularly brutal for me. I’ve been pulled up and out of myself and haven’t been able to tolerate stillness or silence long enough to ground myself. I’ve been incredibly restless and unfocused and have felt like a chicken running around with its head cut off. I’m still in the thick of it but I’ve grounded myself enough to get these thoughts out here.
Obviously everyone has their own methods of coping; different things work for different people, and different techniques work for different empathic episodes. But this is what has been helping me through my current struggle in empath land.
1. Stay active.
When I’m overwhelmed with other people’s problems, as soon as I sit down or let my mind stop being distracted, even for a second, I instantly check out and shut down to keep out all the crazy. My head feels full of cobwebs. I stop functioning and just want to sleep. All the time. Once I’ve hit this point it’s nearly impossible for me to muster up any motivation or inspiration (which is problematic when you’re self-employed), so then I feel like I have to catch up with myself, which makes me stressed and overwhelmed in my own right and there is no end.
This doesn’t work as well if the problem is the general outside world and not specific people. If your boundaries are broken, sometimes going out into the world for a walk or an adventure just isn’t an option. Clean your apartment. Rearrange your room. Do a lot of ab workouts. Experiment with the contents of your fridge. Just burn off some of that restless energy.
2. Don’t hit snooze.
Sometimes the other person’s energy stays with you and you can’t shake it off at the end of day. Which means you’ll probably wake up with it waiting for you. If I don’t immediately jump out of bed it gives that anxiety that isn’t mine the chance to permeate my being and keep me curled up in bed for several more hours. Sometimes I love lounging extra long in bed, but in this case I don’t consider it self care. It’s my empathy controlling me instead of the other way around. You might end up taking a nap two hours after you get up anyway (I often do), because the truth of the matter is being an empath is EXHAUSTING. That’s not something you can easily avoid, but I feel less lousy about my day if I started it with a burst of movement, of action.
3. Know yourself. Do what you need to do.
Do you need to take a break from the world, be alone and isolate until you’ve strengthened those boundaries? By all means, do so. Do you feel suffocated at home and need company to distract you? Call a friend. Take yourself out to dinner. Don’t be afraid to assert your needs.
Cry. Scream. Give in. I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown that isn’t mine. I don’t want to have said nervous breakdown, but sometimes succumbing to the empathy instead of fighting it helps me regain control more quickly. In the suspended moment of release immediately following I find the opportunity to latch back onto myself.
4. Cut back on sensory overload.
Cut yourself off from communication and social media. Shut off the lights and plug in your headphones. Turn on your best anxiety-reducing playlist. If it’s on your phone put the phone on Do Not Disturb setting or Airdrop mode. Just live here for a while.
5. What’s your Myers-Briggs?
This is strangely how I calmed myself down last night. I know I’m an INFJ and I spent the night reading what Pinterest had to say about INFJs. The reading kept my brain distracted and focused and the content helped me ground back into myself, helped me settle into my own state of being. And I can breathe again. Might work? Might not. Might be a fluke for myself. Worth a shot, right?
Fellow empaths comment below with your favorite coping methods!