My favorite character on the old Star Trek series “The Next Generation” was the ship’s counselor, “the empath”–Deanna Troi. In the show, Troi’s race is known for its interspecies telepathy and its emotional empathy with most other species of life, whether on board the ship, in a ship at close proximity, or on the planet below.
Long before I was able to understand myself as an empath or someone who was energetically and intuitively sensitive, I resonated with Counselor Troi’s character, and I knew that there was something for me to learn and understand about telepathy, intuition, and reading energy.
The term “empath” has received more publicity recently, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing. For those of us who have had difficulty understanding why it can be hard for us to be in the world, the awareness and education about what it means to be energetically sensitive has done us, and those who love us, a great service.
I’m particularly grateful for the work of Dr. Judith Orloff, M.D., Karla McLaren, and others who have found language with which to discuss emotional and energetic sensitivity in a culture that all too often values neither. The Human Design System has also been a great help to me in learning to understand my energy system and the energy systems of other people. (For more information on Human Design, I recommend Karen Curry’s book, Understanding Human Design, free resources and classes: Human Design for Everyone.)
The Challenge Of Being Energetically Sensitive
Not all people who are intuitive, “psychic”, or telepathic are also energetically sensitive in the same way that empaths are, and this has nothing to do with their ability to receive clearly and do excellent intuitive work. I’ve known many wonderful students and colleagues whose energy systems are much less permeable and porous than mine is, and who do fantastic work as intuitives and healers. (Sometimes, I must admit, I envy them.)
That said, in this field, there is probably a greater percentage of empathic and energetically sensitive people than in the general population. Our sensitivity is the source of the gifts we share with the world, and it can also make it challenging to live in the world, to be around other people (even those we love dearly), and to manage our energy in ways that allow us to live vibrant lives, rather than lives characterized by constant overwhelm and depletion. (For more information on empathic sensitivity, see Dr. Judith Orloff’s excellent article: Are You an Emotional Empath?)
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about working with my own energetic and empathic sensitivity, and how to take care of myself. I know that I have a short leash with my self-care. If I don’t stay awake with it, I fall apart pretty quickly. I’ve learned over the years which practices are the most important for me, and I do my best to give them priority in my life.
All of these tools help with grounding–staying embodied and in touch with our own energy: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. (This is important for everyone, not just empaths!)
Physical and Spiritual Tools for Empaths
1. Find plenty of time for quiet and solitude.
I’ve learned that I need a lot of regular time for quiet and solitude: time to be in my own energy. This is especially true after sustained periods of time spent with other people. It’s really important for me to be able to discharge the buildup of energy from my field–even if it’s energy that has accumulated by spending time with people I love or doing things I love that involve being in groups or crowds.
Here’s what this looks like in my life:
I live alone, which makes certain things easier. When I live with other people, it’s important for me to have my own space, with clear communication and boundaries that allow me to go off by myself, in a room with the door closed or somewhere outside, for alone time and privacy.
I have learned that my maximum social time for crowds and groups is 2-3 hours. Beyond that, I’m on overload. So I communicate that to others and often make my own plans about transportation, having my own space when I travel, and having time after social events to decompress.
When I’m in a group situation and start to feel overloaded, I head for the place that pretty much guarantees me some space: the restroom. 🙂 I practice some centering breathing and quick energy-clearing processes to re-center and ground myself. This can make a difference between enjoying my experience and short-circuiting.
In addition to my regular spiritual practice, I spend a lot of quiet time outdoors, with my animals, and in nature. Walks, hikes, and watching Chicken TV are my favorite forms of entertainment. I prefer being with one person or a small group of people to large groups, and when I teach, travel, or facilitate trips, I set up my schedule to include breaks alone and longer stretches of time afterward to discharge the extra energy.
2. Sit on the earth.
Being outdoors, in nature, walking or even better, sitting on the earth, with my body on a rock, the ground, or against a tree, supports me tremendously.
Here in Arizona, we regularly practice the non-competitive sport of “rock-sitting.” It’s easy to do in the land of magical rocks. For me, a rock or boulder of any kind, any color, any shape, centers, balances, and grounds me like nothing else in the world.
Trees are also wonderful teachers and companions in centering and grounding. Another of my favorite practices is to sit with my back against a tree and let my breath synchronize with the energy of the tree. It’s magical.
3. Eat nourishing foods.
I’ve found that eating enough protein, fresh vegetables, and really limiting sugars is the diet that works best for me in keeping me balanced. Diet is a very personal issue, and we all need to feel for ourselves what works best for us and what supports us.
I try to follow an Ayurvedic diet as much as I can. I’m not strict about it, but it’s what works best for me. Nourishing, grounding foods like root vegetables and dark, leafy greens are a go-to when I start to feel a little frayed around the edges.
Tulsi tea is an herbal tea that also goes by the name of “Holy Basil.” It’s a wonderful healing and restorative herb, and it works wonders for me if I’m depleted or overloaded.
4. Get regular body work.
For many of us, being empaths and being physically sensitive go together. Body work can be tricky for sensitive people, because, well, we’re sensitive! So things that may work really well for other people (like intense deep-tissue massage, strong chiropractic, etc.) may not feel good to us. I’m pretty particular about who I allow to work on me because of this, and have found that gentle, sensitive treatments are the best for me.
My go-to, regular bodywork-of-choice is acupuncture and ayurvedic massage and treatments. I make this a priority in my life, and it really helps to keep me balanced. My wonderful friend Melissa is my acupuncturist and Ayurvedic practitioner. She orders special eentsy-beentsy-teeny-weeny little needles for me, and smiles sweetly when I ask her if I’m her squeakiest patient.
I also like network chiropractic, a very gentle, energy-based form of chiropractic care, and shiatsu. If you’re an empathic, sensitive person, I recommend that you find the practitioners and modalities that really feel good to you. Trust your intuition and your body, and get some help in taking care of yourself.
5. Use epsom and sea salts.
Seriously–these things are amazing. They pull toxins from the body AND the energy field, rebalancing and knitting back together any frayed edges. Use them in a bath; you can also use them as a foot soak if you don’t have or like a bathtub. You can find them in most drugstores and grocery stores, and they are usually inexpensive. I buy them in bulk by the case! You can experiment with adding essential oils to the epsom salts, if you can tolerate them. I like lavender and several of the Young Living blends.
6. Commit to a regular spiritual practice.
My spiritual practice of meditation and yoga provides me an essential place of quiet and sanctuary, and it’s something that I devote 1-2 hours to daily, in addition to regular longer periods of silent retreat and study with my teachers. I love my practices. They balance and strengthen my nervous system, keep my body in alignment, connect me to the earth and the cosmos, and give me time each day to be quiet, to go within, and to connect with Spirit.
Reiki is also a core part of my spiritual life, and I use self-Reiki daily for balance and self-care. Reiki is wonderful, and not just as a powerful energy healing tool…it can be a complete spiritual practice by itself, or in combination with any other practices.
For empathic people, a regular, open-hearted spiritual practice that supports being centered, grounded, connected to the earth can make the difference between a vibrant, rich life that honors all of our intuitive sensing and knowing and a life that is limited by overwhelm and fatigue.
If you don’t have a spiritual practice and are interested in body-based (somatic) meditation practices, I highly recommend the free meditation resources offered by Dharma Ocean.
For intuitive, empathic people, learning to honor our sensitivity as a gift and taking tremendously good care of ourselves is a life-long journey. Find what works for you and stick with it…it’s worth the investment of time and energy in creating a life that really works for you.
About the Author
Nancy Windheart is an internationally-respected animal communicator, animal communication teacher, and Reiki Master-Teacher. Her life’s work is to create deeper harmony between species and on our planet through telepathic animal communication, and to facilitate physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing and growth for both people and animals through her healing services, classes, workshops, and retreats. For more info, visit www.nancywindheart.com.