6 Tips for Empaths to Survive the Holidays

    —
October 25, 2017

 

Being in crowds and around energy vampires can be very challenging, almost overwhelming for empaths. During times of stress their ability to be emotional sponges heightens, which overrides their sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Crowds or negativity, though, often feel assaultive, exhausting.

For empaths to fully enjoy the holiday gatherings with family and friends, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. Since I’m an empath, I want to help them cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.

I’ve always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. After being in crowds I would leave feeling anxious, depressed, or tired. When I got home, I’d just crawl into bed, yearning for peace and quiet.

Here are six strategies to help you manage empathy more effectively and stay centered without absorbing negative energies.

1. Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don’t err on the side of not wanting to offend anyone. At the gathering try not to sit next to the identified energy vampire. Physical closeness increases empathy.

2. Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s energies, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power. In contrast, holding your breath keeps negativity lodged in your body. To purify fear and pain, exhale stress and inhale calm. Picture unwholesome emotions as a gray fog lifting from your body, and wellness as a clear light entering it. This can produce quick results.

3. Practice Guerilla Meditation. Be sure to meditate before the gathering, centering yourself, connecting to spirit, feeling your heart. Get strong. If you counter emotional or physical distress while at an event, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. You can do this by taking refuge in the bathroom or an empty room. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love. This has saved me many times at social functions where I feel depleted by others.

4. Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Set clear limits and boundaries with people, nicely cutting them off at the pass if they get critical or mean. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

5. Visualize protection around you. Research has shown that visualization is a healing mind/body technique. A practical form of protection many people use, including health care practitioners with difficult patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field to keep out intruders.

6. Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. Here are some practical examples of what to do in situations that predictably stymie empaths. If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing–even if you adore the people — take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded. If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”

 

Looking for more great reads?

 

Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide by Dr. Judith Orloff.

Judith Orloff, MD, is the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide (Sounds True, 2017). She is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and intuitive development.

Judith Orloff

Judith Orloff, MD, is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, empathy, and intuitive development. A member of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Staff, her bestselling books include The Empath’s Survival Guide, Thriving as an EmpathEmotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. She specializes in treating empaths and sensitive people in her private practice. Find more inspiration at Dr. Orloff’s website, drjudithorloff.com.

Author photo © Bob Riha Jr

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Judith Orloff: The Healing Power of Empathy

When we think about those special traits or abilities we consider to be “superpowers,” empathy isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, empathy is often seen as a weakness, not a strength. Through her bestselling books and her work training new psychiatrists, Dr. Judith Orloff is helping to change the narrative around empathy. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Orloff about her new book, The Genius of Empathy, and how we can each begin to cultivate an empathic style that supports a thriving life. 

Tune in now for their conversation on how empathy opens the heart and fosters healing, the beauty of self-empathy and how it differs from self-compassion, empathy overwhelm, the four styles of empathy and how to identify your own, boundary-setting tools for empaths, the empathy spectrum, empathy deficiency disorders, trauma and empathy, letting go of resentment and helping it let go of you, empathic attunement, the practice of shielding, transmitting empathic love to people and places in need, observing without absorbing, and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Embracing Empathy as Your Superpower

What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
  • I have the right to set limits with how long I listen to people’s problems.
  • I have the right to rest and not be always available to everyone.
  • I have the right to quiet peacefulness in my home and in my heart.

Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Ignite empathy as a superpower for personal healing, deeper relationships, and more potent work in the world. New York Times bestselling author Dr. Judith Orloff draws on insights from neuroscience, psychology, and energy medicine to show us how to access our sensitivities, soothe our nervous systems, and embody our most fierce and authentic selves.

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5 Ways to Combat Energy Vampires This Holiday Season

For empaths and sensitive people, the holidays can be extra stressful because they are exposed to more socializing and holiday events. This means interacting with relatives, friends or acquaintances who may be energy vampires. Since empaths are emotional sponges, they tend to absorb other people’s negative energy unless they have a plan to approach the holiday season. Here are some tips from my book: Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People.

Identify the energy vampires in your life

In your journal, write down the name of five energy vampires in your life that you may encounter over the holiday season. Then, write down what type of energy vampire they are so you know exactly how they drain your energy. For instance, The Criticizer: For instance they might say, “Oh dear, it looks like you’ve put on a few pounds!.” Or the Drama Queen, Controller, Narcissist or Passive Aggressive.

Journal about strategies to use

It’s important to pre-plan the strategies you use with these people. Write these in your journal. For instance, if you’re going to encounter a drama queen/king, tell yourself “I will not ask them how they are doing or look deeply into their eyes to encourage long stories. I will not feed into the drama queen/kings antics.” Map out your strategies so you are prepared.

Set clear boundaries

Boundaries are essential for all empaths and sensitive people to learn. Because we wear invisible signs around our necks saying “I can help you”, people flock from far and wide to tell us their life stories. Thus, it is important to set boundaries with energy vampires, and limit the time you interact with them. If necessary, escape into the bathroom for some quiet time.

No is a complete sentence

When dealing with energy vampires, such as rageaholics, it is important to learn how to say “no” to someone dumping anger on you. As an empath, anger feels toxic to me so I don’t allow it in my vicinity. If you’re going to encounter an angry person who tends to dump, be prepared to say “no” to them and politely excuse yourself to talk to someone else.

Notice your emotional triggers

We tend to be drained if our own unresolved issues are activated. So, it is healthy to examine your emotional triggers so you can’t be drained by people pushing your buttons. For instance, are you triggered by sadness, depression or anxiety? Or when someone tries to control you? Identify your triggers and begin to heal them in your private meditations or with a guide. This self-healing will help you be a more empowered empath!

Judith OrloffJudith Orloff, MD, is a leading voice in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and intuitive development. An assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA, her bestselling books include Emotional Freedom, Positive Energy, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, and Second Sight. Find more inspiration at Dr. Orloff’s website drjudithorloff.com.

 

The community here at Sounds True wishes you a lovely holiday season! We are happy to collaborate with some of our Sounds True authors to offer you wisdom and practices as we move into this time together; please enjoy this blog series for your holiday season. 

To help encourage you and your loved ones to explore new possibilities this holiday season, we’re offering 40% off nearly all of our programs, books, and courses sitewide. May you find the wisdom to light your way.

EXPLORE NOW

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Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

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First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

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  • Kristin says:

    Omg you just described the me I didn’t know what to call me. This is the first year I told my parents I’d see them the day after Christmas.

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