As an Empath, you absorb more of the world's erratic emotions and dysfunctional energy than other people. While this can be useful—for instance, you are a terrific healer because of this—it’s also extraordinarily draining. If you don't have some fail-safes in place to make sure that you stay energetically healthy, you can easily get overwhelmed and be unable to function. Worst case, you can get quite physically sick.
Let's not have that happen, okay? Here are a few survival techniques for Empaths, so you can stay healthy and do all that good you want to do:
Stop watching the news.
While you are at it, stop reading the news, too.
This isn't "putting your head in the sand," as one friend put it to me. For an Empath, it's survival.
While I think watching the news is bad for everyone, non-Empaths have an easier time with it because they don't take on pain and suffering as their own. They won't dream about that image of a man shot in the street or cry for days about the suffering of animals. They'll watch it, cluck their tongues, shake their heads, and say, "Too bad; I guess the world is getting worse." Then, off they'll go about their day, using that news story as water cooler chat. They've taken it in mentally, but it never sinks into their very souls.
For an Empath, it does. Every time you watch or read some horrible news story, you are emotionally attached to that experience. It isn't happening to someone else; it's happening to YOU. You take on the sadness, pain, and suffering and carry it with you as your own.
Every single time you do this, you are absorbing all of this like a sponge. The more you absorb, the more fearful, sad, and exhausted you become.
So, please, for your wellbeing, stop watching the news. I haven't watched it in years, and somehow I am still aware of all the critical things happening in the world, and nothing bad has happened to me because I wasn't aware of the "breaking news story of the day."
Walk away from negative, energy-draining discussions.
There are people in my life that will see some sad or horrific story and slowly retell it to me, leaving out no emotional or scarring detail. I've begged these people not to tell me these kinds of things anymore, explaining how much they hurt me, but they don't stop. (My husband thinks they enjoy torturing me, but that's another blog post altogether.)
I've finally realized that if they don't respect my boundaries, then it's okay to get up and walk away, and that's what I do.
I suggest you do the same. People love to talk in great detail about the latest tragedies, ills of the world, or sad things they've seen. Some people enjoy having something terrible to talk about. Others simply enjoy horrifying people. And for some, I think it's therapeutic—a "misery loves company" kind of thing. Regardless of their reasons, hearing in grave detail about a dog-fighting ring or a terrible abuse case 6 states over isn't going to do you any favors.
It's not rude to excuse yourself from these kinds of conversations; it's necessary for your wellbeing.
To that end, I'd suggest you put the next rule in place:
Don't read or listen to anything you can’t do something about.
If your friend comes to you talking about her husband abusing her, listen and help. If you are passionate about animal welfare and can devote a few hours to helping dogs get adopted from shelters, do it. If your mom has breast cancer and needs someone to talk to, be there. These are all things you can DO something about.
However, if someone forwards you a news article about a terrible murder halfway around the globe (or, really, any murder not involving someone you know directly), do not read it. Do not respond to it. Delete it. You can’t do anything for the murdered person, nor for his or her family. All you can do is feel bad and wish you could, leaving you both anxious and feeling guilty for not doing more for this terrible, sad world. (Trust me, I've been there.) It’s not productive for an Empath.
From now on, you only engage on things that have a direct impact on your life and with which you can do something fairly immediate to help.
If you have a friend who always sends this kind of junk, ask them nicely to stop. If they don't, start sending their emails directly to the trash folder (you can set a rule in most mail programs to send mail from certain addresses to junk). If you miss something important from them and they ask you about it, explain that you couldn't take the content of their emails anymore and you have them going to trash, because they wouldn't stop sending them like you asked.
If they get mad at you for taking this step, then you know what kind of person you are dealing with. At that point, you may just want to end the relationship because they don't care about hurting you (and that's not a good relationship).
And, a related point:
Stop reading the news feeds on Facebook, Google+, and maybe Twitter.
I don't know what it is that compels people on social media sites to post horrible images with terrible stories attached, but they do it in spades.
A friend of mine bases her entire writing career on blogging about the most insane, dramatic, unlikely-to-happen-to-anyone-but-her situations (actually, in truth, most of them are unlikely to have happened to her either). Her headlines shriek things like "I Was Mugged and Left for Dead!" (she wasn't) and “I Have the MOST HORRIBLE Thing Ever!" (she doesn’t). Every time I read one of her posts I would get agitated, first because I know that maybe 50% of it was true (and I hate liars), and second, because I’d be connecting with the fear and drama of the article. I was literally being pulled into her insanity, and it would affect me emotionally for the rest of the day.
I finally realized that my wellbeing couldn't take reading her stuff anymore, so I hid her posts.
I did the same to people who I didn't want to unfriend, but who posted things that were hateful, violent, or graphic. (Actually, now that I write this, maybe I should be unfriending these people!)
Realizing that I can't control all of it, I've actually stopped reading the news feeds on any of my social media. I have a select group of inspiring friends who I read, but otherwise, I just don't look. I know that this isn't totally "social," but the fact is I feel better and can do more for others when I take care of myself.
I'd suggest you do the same.
Find some like-minded souls.
According to psychologists, only 1 out of 5 people are true Empaths. Because you are in the minority, it's important to seek out others that are like you.
There are many places to meet other kind-hearted souls out there, but a great one is MeetUp.com. On there, you can search for groups by keywords (“spirituality” and “empathy” are two that come to mind), and you can join groups that look good to you. It's a great way to find local Empaths to hang out with.
Online, you can search for groups on any social media site. Even if it's not in person, it's good to hear from others that have had similar experiences to your own. Moreover, it's always nice to be able to put an experience out there in a safe forum and have lots of people come back with "me, too!" It just lets you know you are NOT crazy.
If you are interested, I'll be opening the "Empowered Empath Academy" soon, which will allow you to instantly have a wonderful support network of other Empaths, as well as learn all the tools that you need to be able to be empowered, not exhausted. If you'd like to be the first to know when it launches, sign up below. I'll look forward to connecting with you soon!