Survival Guide for the Highly Sensitive
I used to view my sensitivity as a weakness, until I realized the positive power it enabled me to tap into. For as long as I can remember I have felt hyper-aware of my emotions. I’ve been told many times throughout my life that I can change the mood of the room. I’ve also felt the ability to pick up on the the mood of the entire room. I can easily sense anger, tension, nervousness, excitement, awkwardness.
My emotional sensitivities have always had a strong impact on my decisions. It’s not that I’m completely, illogical - it’s just that my intuitive feeling tends to override other factors. Now that I’ve honed in on my intuition, I can confidently say that I believe in trusting my gut above all else. In hindsight, there have been many situations when trusting my emotions (when it seemed less than rational to do so) has saved me an immense amount of regret.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me say that interpreting my emotions hasn’t always been easy. I haven’t always been confident in my sensitivities and empathic tendencies. At times, I’ve made spontaneous, over-indulgent, or defensive decisions. I’ve made plenty of decisions to please others, because I was feeling the pressure and guilt more than I was feeling what was best for myself. It has also caused me to fear making any decision at all, making me completely stagnant.
Until I discovered that I am an empath. Here’s the dictionary definition:
(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Don’t let the science fiction part fool you or lead you to think that this is just a character trait of someone from an alien abduction plot. Empathic people tend to be hypersensitive to the emotions of others.
A few signs you may be an empath are:
You feel overwhelmed in crowded places or emotionally drained after leaving crowded places
You can instinctively “feel” what others are feeling without them saying so
You have a good sense of when someone isn’t telling the truth or something doesn’t seem right
You can often predict the outcome of situations ahead of time
You tend to attract emotionally wounded people, and people tend to easily confide in you
You feel obligated to help others, often before yourself
You struggle with anxiety and depression
You are extremely self-aware
This all can sound scary or even like a hassle, until you discover the strength of being someone who is closely tied to their emotions. On the contrary, I know quite a few people who have trouble deciphering how they are feeling, and even more trouble trying to express it - this can pose other problems altogether.
Let's acknowledge the bright side first. For me, from an early age, expression flowed through me freely, allowing me to be creative and possess a vivid imagination. It gave me an open-mind; I could get along with almost anyone. I knew that words couldn’t express the full spectrum of emotions I could feel. For me, being highly-sensitive is directly linked to my creative abilities as a songwriter and an artist. It also allows me to support others and help provide a healing hand.
Before realizing the positives and making my emotional wellbeing a priority, it did cause me a lot of pain. I began to attract those who were "damaged" and even "toxic"; probably because they could sense that I was willing to help, regardless of the consequences. I even began to adopt their feelings for myself. I didn’t realize that much of the baggage I was carrying wasn’t even my own. For years, I suffered from anxiety attacks, fainting spells, and depression. I felt constantly overwhelmed, weighed down. I tried to numb my feelings for many years, with substances or distractions, but It would only come back stronger.
I did not understand that it is not my burden to carry the emotions of the entire world. In fact, I didn't even realize I was doing that. It took me many years to acknowledge this, before I could begin healing myself. The healing is an ongoing process...
If there is anyone out there who is relating to these feelings and wants to learn how to create emotional boundaries, how to let go of the emotional weight - I want to share a few things that helped me. Everyone is different, so it's important to find what works best for you, and to explore your own emotional patterns in order to find the right solutions for yourself. This is only the beginning of the conversation, but I hope these tips can begin to lead you in the right direction.
Acknowledge that you are sensitive. It’s okay. You are not weak. Accepting your sensitivities and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is actually a strength. Realize that you have actually been blessed with a gift. Once you begin to practice self-acceptance, it will become easier for you to tap into your intuition. Accessing your intuitive powers and compassionate nature can help guide you towards your purpose, and eventually you can also help others do so as well. Suppressing your emotions will only work for so long before they build up. Emotions are natural, so please stop resisting them. Unfortunately, not everyone will understand you, but the first step is to be willing to accept yourself.
Create boundaries to protect your energy. Saying “NO” is not a bad thing. You can not always please everyone. With gifts come responsibility. Give yourself the alone time to recharge. Ignore the call when you are feeling drained. Don’t feel pressured to attend social events when you’re not up to it. Allow yourself to cry when you are in pain. Don’t let anyone dictate your emotions. If you consistently feel drained after hanging out with a certain friend, consider creating some distance. It is NOT selfish. You are not responsible for healing everyone else before you are healed. As the old saying goes: you can not pour from any empty glass.
Be aware of your diet. Your diet isn’t just the food you put into your body. Your diet consists of everything you ingest - mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Start feeding yourself things that make your soul feel good. Sometimes this means limiting your intake on things that are considered socially acceptable in many scenarios: alcohol, drugs, television, music, gossip, social media. Not everything is harmful, but it is a good idea to be aware of what information you are taking in on a daily basis, and how it makes you feel. Watching horror movies may put unnecessary fear into your subconscious, without you realizing the damage. Maybe it’s time to take a break from watching the news. This isn’t to make you paranoid - it’s nearly impossible to avoid all forms of negativity. The point is to try to be more aware of what you focus on. You may not realize how these things are negatively impacting your mental health and emotions. Try to make a conscious effort to involve yourself with things that leave you feeling uplifted.
Explore “Emotional Freedom Technique” (EFT A.K.A Tapping). EFT is a great tool to help connect you to your subconscious beliefs and reframe your emotional and mental thought patterns. Overall, this tool helps you take responsibility for your own wellbeing. It involves using affirmation statements while tapping on meridian points of the body. You may feel weird, awkward, unconvinced, emotional, the first few times you try it. BUT it does make a difference. I can honestly say that EFT has changed my life and helped me break several negative patterns in my life. For more information on EFT:
Practice Meditation. Meditation is more than just a new age trend. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to clear all your thoughts and you don’t have to be "good" at it for it to work. It’s called a practice for a reason. There’s a range of styles and resources to help you get started, from youtube videos, to apps. Not only are there are so many health benefits, but it’s also a great way to focus yourself, and allow yourself to understand your own emotions, and separate them from the emotions of others.
Invest in Self-care. Take care of yourself first. Again, get out of the idea that it's selfish to do so. Investigate self-care techniques that help you nourish yourself and connect with your inner being. Whether that means putting on a face mask, buying some healing crystals, or trying sage smudges - do what feels right for you. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or do what’s trending for it to work. Self-care can be a simple as carving out time to read a book before bed, or taking a bath. Self care is not a luxury, it is a means of survival.
Recognize your intuitive abilities. This may be one of the hardest things to wrap your head around, but this is about recognizing your gifts instead of fearing them. Some empaths have psychic powers. This doesn't necessarily show up the way it does in the movies as a sudden "vision." Sometimes it's just a feeling or a thought that occurs and can't be explained. Learn to embrace it and trust your intuition more. Emotions will make your brain overthink all day, but allow yourself to have more faith in your gut instinct. If you are an empath that means you’re already connected to the universal signals. Sometimes they don’t make perfect sense, but don’t doubt your feelings of assurance when they come. Trust the path and the signs that come with it.