If you’re an empath, you know one thing to be true: Protecting yourself is important. If you’re not an empath (or have never heard that term at all) you may be scratching your head. So, first things first: What is an empath, anyway?
An empath is someone who feels more empathy than the average person. While a sad news story may leave most of us feeling down for a few minutes after reading it, the highly sensitive empath will feel affected by the story for hours, maybe even days.
Empaths are also great at reading emotions in others, and they tend to take them on. Other telltale signs of being an empath include having a strong intuition, being someone who people come to with their problems, and having a hard time in crowded spaces because you’re picking up on and absorbing so many different energies.
Whether you’ve identified as an empath for years or reading this made a lightbulb go off in your head — congratulations, welcome to the empath club! — it’s important to remember to celebrate yourself, because the world needs more empathetic people. But because you’re so sensitive to people’s energy, it’s crucial to put protective measures in place to make sure you don’t feel too overwhelmed or depleted.
Here’s how to protect yourself as an empath.
Spend time alone
Alone time is important for everyone, but especially for empaths. Because you’re so deeply impacted by the energy of others, it’s important that you spend time alone so you can re-energize. Make sure this alone time is full of restorative activities like journaling, meditation, or even watching a soothing show or movie. It’s all about what works for you!
Get enough sleep
Not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night can be really tough on empaths. Because other people’s emotions drain you so easily, being physically exhausted exacerbates this feeling. So make sure you’re practicing good sleep hygiene so you can make sleep a priority.
Being well-rested is especially important for empaths.
Have a really solid daily routine in place
As human beings, we thrive on routine. While there will be times when our routines are thrown out of whack — and that’s OK, it’s what makes life interesting! — doing your best to stick to a routine can help you stay grounded as an empath.
For example, maybe before you check your phone in the mornings you meditate, and then sit down and journal with a cup of tea. Maybe you have a set wind-down routine at night, which consists of reading a book, watching a show, or knitting while listening to a podcast. Routines are highly individualized, but sticking to one can be beneficial for empaths. If you’re having a hard time with this, a habit tracker is one of the best tools out there.
Spend time in nature
One common characteristic of empaths is that they tend to crave time in nature, because it helps them feel connected and grounded. Spending time in nature doesn’t have to mean taking a strenuous hike or driving out to the beach if you don’t live near one; it can also mean indulging in the gentle Japanese wellness practice of forest bathing, or even taking a walk in your neighborhood or grounding your feet in the grass in your backyard.
Avoid saying yes too often
Let’s talk about boundaries: They’re important for all of us, but especially for empaths. Empaths are sensitive to loud noises, large crowds, toxic people — the list goes on and on — but it’s also really hard for them to say no because they’re naturally so invested in the lives and emotions of others. But if you do your best to set boundaries and say no when you know you need to, it will pay off.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a mental health expert who won’t say meditation is an essential part of any wellness practice, and it’s especially crucial for empaths. When you practice it regularly, meditation helps you gain more control of your thoughts as you let the ones that you know don’t serve you gently float away like fluffy, air-filled clouds. Meditation can help empaths create more of a protective barrier around themselves, eventually (hopefully) making them slightly less sensitive to the energy of others.
Journaling is a powerful tool for an empath. Journaling naturally helps us organize our thoughts, and often leads to a greater understanding of why we’re experiencing certain thoughts and feelings. By writing through deeper, more difficult emotions, empaths are able to better identify specific triggers and eventually come up with personalized strategies for self-protection.
Journaling can help empaths organize their thoughts and pick up on patterns.
Use a mood tracker
A mood tracker is included in every issue of Silk + Sonder, and for good reason: Mood trackers help us link moods to specific actions. A mood tracker can help us understand just how much a lack of sleep affects us, it can help us identify toxic people and friendships, it can be the catalyst for eating less sugar (sugar increases our anxiety!) and so much more. Regular use of a mood tracker can help an empath better understand what activities she or he needs to cut out of their life.
Next up, if you want to eat more mindfully, get started with these 22 food journaling prompts.