“I feel your pain.”
“I’m hurting for you.”
“I know what you’re going through”
If you’ve landed on this post, it’s probably because you’ve heard or used these phrases before. And chances are, you probably consider yourself to be an empathetic person—many people do.
But being an empath is much more complex than simply feeling sorry for someone.
According to Dr. Judith Orloff, “the trademark of an empath is feeling and absorbing other people’s emotions and, or, physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities.” In other words, empaths have trouble making sense of their feelings in a rational way, and often find themselves overwhelmed with stressful emotions. Many times, their struggle with these emotions wiggle their way into fruition via depression, anxiety attacks, fatigue, or eating disorders.
Maybe this concept feels familiar to you. Maybe you’re shaking your head vigorously in agreement, recognizing yourself in this definition. Or maybe you’re still unsure you fall into this category. Let’s take a look at the three most common traits empathetic people share and how to take care of yourself in the process.
1. You’re Introverted & Need Regular Solitude
Alone time is a beautiful thing to the empath, as they find that being around other people can be draining. Even the shortest moments of time alone can be a relief, such as driving their own car to different places, versus carpooling, or escaping to a bathroom upstairs during a party. To put it simply, empaths are often recognized as introverts, which means they’re more than likely to become overwhelmed in big crowds.
Try This: There’s nothing wrong with solitude. Alone time allows you to recharge and discover your inner thoughts. But too much time alone will keep you from connecting with other people—an essential building block to human survival. Avoid big crowds as often as possible. Instead, opt for one-on-one or more intimate settings like a quiet dinner with a friend or a get-together at your place.
2. You’re Particular About Your Intimate Relationships
Ever heard of an energy vampire? Empaths steer clear of these types of people. By definition, energy vampires are people who sap an empath’s physical and mental energy, as well as their peace of mind, with their strong emotions (think: intense anger or fear). In fact, empaths can become overwhelmed in most of their relationships, so they often avoid intimacy altogether. They fear having their energy drained by anyone who leans on them too much for emotional support.
Try This: Intuition is a strong trait for empaths. If you’re an empath who’s afraid of intimacy due to the possibility of losing your identity, try to sharpen your intuition, or “gut feeling”, in order to identify which relationships will be positive ones in your life versus toxic energy vampires. Trust your gut.
3. You’re Highly Sensitive in More Ways Than One
Empaths are incredibly kind, with a big heart, which means they’re giving, open-minded, and good at listening. However, this can often become extreme, as empaths will go as far as taking on your emotions/sorrows/pain for you. This also means that they’re more likely than others to get their feelings hurt, sometimes being called “too sensitive.” In addition, empaths are sensitive to noises, smells, talking, shouting, etc. In other words, their physical senses are just as sensitive as their mindset.
Try This: If you consider yourself to be highly sensitive in more ways than one, make sure you’re taking care of your own emotions before the needs of others. Empaths love being out in nature, and often find it restorative. Take time to go for a walk in the park as often as you can. You can also try re-centering with meditation and creating boundaries with other people using solid time-management skills.
Being an empath can be a beautiful thing, as long as you don’t allow your emotions to overpower your being. Simply knowing if you’re an empath is half the battle. Once you understand that this is who you are, it’s important to go easy on yourself. Make sure you’re paying attention to what drains you, and communicating your needs with your loved ones as often as possible.
Are you an empath? Have any advice to share with the rest of us? Leave a comment below!