healthy living as a highly sensitive empath

One thing that really bothers me is the trend of making apathy seem “cool.” We’ve normalized dropping people willy-nilly and not caring about anything. Yeah, that’s not me. I’m a highly sensitive empath.

It’s against human nature to be completely devoid of emotion. We’re meant to experience the entire spectrum of existence, the good and the bad. While we ourselves are not our feelings, they are essential to connecting with others and the world around us.

However, there’s another extreme that’s the counterpart of apathy. I’m not alone in this phenomenon of feeling everything, at times overly feeling everything. Whatever emotions are bouncing around, I’ll be absorbing them like a sponge.

Highly sensitive empaths like me are beginning to speak up about our frequently chaotic existences. We likely know and experience the emotional extremes on a daily basis. However, we still need to take care of ourselves and guard our precious energy. The highly sensitive empath “self-care toolbox” is our greatest resource.

Who is a highly sensitive empath?

Want to take a test online to see if you’d be considered a highly sensitive empath? Check out this test and take it as seriously as you’d like. Either way, it’s certainly interesting.

According to Psychology Today, “the trademark of an empath is feeling and absorbing other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. These people filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.”

I identify as a highly sensitive empath, so I can completely relate with this description, especially the last part. In very tense and emotional situations, I actually become numb and feel broken: I cannot think or communicate anything. And I have a very difficult time putting my emotions toward certain situations into words, as I have learned through too many therapy sessions of me often just sitting and stewing in my emotional confusion.

As I’ve learned more about myself and have become more attuned to my mind, I see how often I take on my surroundings and really let it affect me with obvious pros and cons at play. That’s probably why most highly sensitive empaths are introverted to avoid excess stimulation and emotional drainage. Even physical senses of sight, smell, and touch are amplified. Highly sensitive empaths are also more prone to mental illness like depression, anxiety and addiction, and some may even experience chronic fatigue and digestive issues.

Highly sensitive empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. We have big hearts and try to relieve the pain of others, as well as avoid any violence or conflict. We tend to be very creative and, at times, very intense.

But we also take criticism too personally. We can get moody and lost in swinging emotions. This not-so-empathetic world tells us to “toughen up.” “Just get a thicker skin.” Yes, I’m quite sarcastic and critical, but it doesn’t disregard the fact that I still keep others’ feelings in mind.

important distinctions

It’s important for me to note that, while I still consider myself a highly sensitive empath, I’m also autistic. I think autistic people are already more prone to the highly sensitive empath tendencies. But not everyone who’s a highly sensitive empath is autistic. Vice versa is also true.

My neurological differences as an autistic person extend beyond my sensitivities. I’m honest to a fault, have difficulties understanding body language, and struggle with executive dysfunction. My range of functioning can fluctuate greatly depending upon the day.

All of this to say, I correlate my disordered sensory processing to my distinction as a highly sensitive empath. Labeling ourselves often helps us better understand ourselves and the world. However, please don’t throw around labeling yourself as “autistic” lightly. No, we’re not all “a little autistic.”

Embrace your empathy.

Back to the highly sensitive empath life. If you’re like me, then you probably see your emotions as a double-edged sword. It’s wonderful to feel overwhelmed with positive emotions of joy and excitement, but the other side of things? Not so much.

To treat yourself well as a highly sensitive empath and stay healthy, there are some steps you can take. Despite the ranging emotions of others you may be feeling and latching onto, you can still make healthy boundaries.

Most importantly, ground yourself and be mindful of your own body and self if you’re overwhelmed by others. You’ll likely need to take times to be alone and relax when surrounded by many different people.

For all people, but especially highly sensitive empaths, be picky with who you spend your time with. They’re the ones affecting your moods. If you constantly surround yourself with negative, draining people, you’ll never reach your full potential.

There are many exercises that can help you to shield your energy from outside sources, often relying on metaphors like an aura, or zipping yourself up, or wielding a shield of light. Do whatever works best for you. In the moment, it could be difficult to consciously think of these tools, but simply slow down, ground yourself with your breath, and step aside from the action if need be.

Follow your instincts. You’ll know when you’re feeling stable and content, or when your mind is running a hundred miles a minute and you’re on an emotional roller coaster. Remember, in those times when you may feel frustrated as a highly sensitive empath, that this is a gift. You have the ability to touch others’ lives in inconceivable ways. It requires extra care and patience, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.

Make a new trend.

In these unprecedented times, we need empathy now more than ever. As our lives become more distant and virtual, we often disconnect from our full human emotions. The phone and computer screens become walls that allow complete ignorance and emotional disregard.

In a world full of fear, greed, cruelty, egotism, and immense pain, human sensitivity is an immense blessing. Our world often severely lacks the ability to care deeply. Empaths can not only close the gap between people, but they can also open the door to genuine kindness and intuition.

That isn’t to say everyone else lacks empathy. We all have it; we can just lose sight of it sometimes. Just like there are techniques and practices to stabilize a highly sensitive empath, those same techniques can help everybody find those profound feelings.

Through mindful awareness and boundaries, everyone can find within themselves an abundance of empathy, an inner voice that connects every human to one another as if woven with the same thread. Those qualities are healing and empowering if we embrace them and not always rush through them.

Let’s not beat down people of any background and gender who are gentle and sensitive. Just imagine if we lived in a world entirely focused on caring for others and being receptive to our unique, valid emotions…that would certainly be paradise.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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