Post by Lyndsey Pearce

I get it. I’ve been there

A fellow shopper asks you to be a love and reach up for the “Free From” wraps. While you’re trapped in that good-natured, but what’s turning out to be an uncomfortable, stretch the shopper is understandably angered by the cost of gluten-free; I mean, the gut systems in our bodies are shredded to ribbons!

Some horror, tragedy, or corruption flashes across the news: on your phone, your tv, your internet browser, from the lips, hearts, and minds of family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. Somewhere a baby is crying. There’s a general sadness around. Even a stray dog is howling in despair.

You bump into a friend. After a jolly “how are you?”, your friend needs to speak with you about something big, chaotic, and emotional that’s been troubling them; you feel honoured they trust you with the enormity of the thing, but panicked about how to hold your friend’s emotional stuff as you walk and share. You overthink your friend’s facial expressions as they release all that’s worrying them, because you’re sure, that if you’re noticing every crease in their face, that information must be important and worked out.

You get home and realise you’ve forgotten the milk. The high street, with it’s array of wonderful sounds, colours, and a thick, soupy collection of people energy, has pummelled your brain and body—there’s no way you’re going back out; not for milk, nor bread, not even in case of fire.

You long to be soothed by the sound of a rippling pool, underneath the cool shade of forest, as you lay quietly on a giant, mystical lotus leaf, with your feet in lotion-filled slippers. You overthink even this, as you spend your remaining energy strategising just how to achieve such nurture.

Couldn’t you be running the bath right now? Couldn’t you be lighting a Sainsbury’s Home tea-light? And what about the slab of Galaxy in the fridge? No. You already ate that. Ok.

Forget your own thoughts and feelings for the moment. Because I’m not exaggerating when I say that the noise of the world, including other people’s emotions, can be like machine gun fire to your nervous system. For empaths and highly sensitive people, our natural tendencies can further deplete our energy if we haven’t learned how to work with our gifts.

What is an empath?

The important thing to understand is being an empath is normal. It’s not widely known in our culture, but it’s completely normal.

Dr Judith Orloff’s definition of an empath :

“Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive, exhausting”.

Ask yourself: are you emotionally drained by crowds, and require time alone to revive? Do your nerves get jarred by noise, smells, or excessive talk? You can take the Empath Quiz to see if you identify as an empath.

What is a highly sensitive person?

As empathic traits are normal, so are highly sensitive traits. According to Elaine Aron, who has been researching HSPs since 1991, 15-20% of the population are HSP.

As a HSP, your sensory processing tunnel has a wide diameter and lets in lots of sensory information to do with feelings and thoughts, smells, colours, noise, etc, etc. If your nervous system is the hardware, everything else is incoming data—yes, even feelings are information.

You can take Elaine Aron’s Highly Sensitive Person Test if you think you might be HSP.

How to manage your overwhelm under fire

Imagine a camera: a camera has an eye, the lens, which can be adjusted in steps; this is called an aperture. These adjustments let in more or less light, that is to say more or less information to help capture the image. But what do you do when you’re empathic, and/or HSP, and not fitted with your own aperture adjustment controls?

Step 1 Check in & heart visualisation

If you’re meeting a friend or doing a lot of peopling in any environment, use your natural gifts to check in with how you feel and what the atmosphere is with the other person or crowd. If you sense any wobbliness on your part or theirs, visualise your heart opening as you have your conversation. Imagine their responses travelling through your heart and out your back. This way you compassionately listen but don’t absorb what you sense. You let it go!

Step 2 Breathing

Breathing induces relaxation, but learning to breathe sounds silly when it’s something we naturally do. To ease stress in your body, breathing is an activity that takes practice. Once you’ve practiced, you can do it anywhere because no one knows what you’re doing. The body is awesome; it knows when you focus on your breath there’s no threat, so it calms you. If breathing is like running the calm app on your hardware (your hardware being your nervous system) you can get some control over your stress levels. You can learn loads more about this on the SOS pack at empowered-empaths.com.

Step 3 Movement

https://empowered-empaths.comMoving around produces good chemicals in your brain and helps you shake off any negativity you may have picked up. If you’re out with others, you can always politely excuse yourself and go to the toilets. Get good at locating where the toilets are in new or familiar spaces. You don’t have to tell everyone you do this, and you can do it gently; even just wiggle around and shake your arms as you sit on the closed toilet seat. Once inside a cubicle you are in a clear space to keep open or close your eyes, then breathe, move, and let go.

Step 4 Notice your thoughts

This is where prevention is the best cure. If you’re an untrained empath or HSP, you may have spent your life thinking, and thinking, and thinking, WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ME???

Thinking is important in certain situations, but isn’t the most nourishing activity and will deplete your energy. So breathing and movement for short periods on a regular basis will help you reduce the excessive thinking that arises from everything your nervous system has to process. It will also help you to notice what you think about. You can then decide if what you’re thinking is helpful to you or not.

Step 5 Move away

If you want to be able to leave the house, you need to be able to go back to your house too. Get good at living in a cyclic way! Leaving an overwhelming space is the ultimate empowerment. Say, for example, you’re in a job where you attend a lot of meetings and they tend to run on for a long time, you don’t want to feel trapped in energy that’s unhelpful. Get used to asking for regular breaks in those spaces for you and your colleagues; you can do this before meetings by suggesting that it helps with focus and productivity. Because, you know, it does, whatever type of human being you happen to be! This is self care! Happy and healthy human beings make a happy and healthy organisation.

If you’re out with people, and everything is a little too much, it’s ok to go home. You can practice saying: well, this has been lovely, but I need to go home now. If you sense disappointment in anyone’s body language or facial expression, take that as a sign you made them happy and they’re going to miss you until next time. When you get home, run a bath. Light another Sainsbury’s Home tea-light, and relax. Then treat yourself to fresh pyjamas in place of the Galaxy slab, and something funny on Netflix. You’re worth providing for the sensitive needs you have!

About the writer

Lyndsey Pearce is a UK based writer. She writes about empaths, HSPs, introverts, autistic females, creativity, mental health and loss. You can find her at www.quietmisfits.com.