As social media therapy takes over our IG algorithms, we are sure this isn't the first time you have come across the word 'empath'.
In case you haven't, that is not a typo- an 'empath' is different from someone who has 'empathy'. The two are, however, closely intertwined. More on this later!
In this post, we will cover:
- What it means to be an empath
- How you might know if you are an empath
- Strategies on taking care of your time and energy as an empath
What Does It Mean To Be An Empath?
The word 'empath' comes from empathy.
Empathy has two parts:
The ability to sense the emotions of others
The ability to experience to place oneself in another's shoes and imagine what they must be thinking and feeling
The key in both these aspects of empathy is you are able to relate to perspectives that are not your own.
An empath embodies these qualities almost naturally. Many empaths have a keen ability to tune into the feelings of those around them.
Dr. Judith Orloff, a psychologist who dedicates her research to empathy and empaths, describes empaths as emotional sponges. They have a tendency to take in all emotions and energies, whether good, bad, or neutral.
Empaths may not have a strong filter against excessive stimulation and other peoples' emotional states. Notice we use 'may' here because every single person is different! No group of humans on this planet is a monolith, and empaths are no exception.
Are You An Empath?
So, how do you know that you are an empath? Many people who identify as empaths recall being known as the 'sensitive one' their entire lives. Here are a few common signs and traits that you may resonate with. Keep in mind that not all of these will capture your experience!
Your Have Tons Of Empathy
This one can seem obvious and also not very definitive at the same time. Many of us have the ability to be empathetic. An empath, however, would take it one step further.
Empaths tend to experience your feelings and pain it is their own. This applies to positive feelings too! Empaths will celebrate your happiness as if it is theirs.
It's also difficult for empaths to NOT care. A natural inclination of many empaths is to ease the distress of others, even if it means taking it on themselves.
You Experience Sensory Overload Sometimes
Since empaths are so finely tuned into the feelings of others, it's common to feel overwhelmed at times, almost as if your nerves are 'frayed'.
Empaths feel things more intensely. This can also mean that the energy of a room (i.e. the classroom environment before a big presentation where everyone is a little nervous, or a funeral wake where people are grieving) can really affect you!
Think of this like 'emotional noise'. Empaths hear the emotional noise in small groups, crowds, and gatherings at a louder volume. This makes it easy to feel overwhelmed!
You Need To Recharge After Being Around Groups Of People
Building on the above, emotional noise can be exhausting!
Empaths tend to need dedicated recharge time after being around people- particularly groups. Individuals can be emotionally taxing too. Empaths often need quiet moments to find their peace and restore emotional resources. Like many of us actually! This is by no means exclusive to empaths :)
You Are Everyone's Go-To Person For Advice
Do people come to you with their problems? A lot? Well, empaths tend to be amazing and active listeners so this is no coincidence! You also care deeply about those around you, which means people will naturally gravitate towards the caring and empathetic vibe you exude when they are in pain.
Here is a reel to summarize it all for you:
Strategies On Navigating Life As An Empath
If you resonated with much of the content above, then you might be an empath. We have a few gentle strategies to help you protect your time, energy, and also celebrate this incredible gift you have.
Here we go :)
Recognize When You Need To Be Alone
Or even just one-on-one/small groups. You absorb others' energies more easily than many people. This means that you may find yourself wanting to leave parties and events early. Craving alone time is usually a sign that you are feeling depleted.
It's important to recognize these little indicators that you need to change your environment- particularly if you feel pressured to stay or resist what your mind and body are telling you.
Why is this important? Well, if you can't recharge,
Notice Your Patterns And Boundaries With Those Closest To You
In close and intimate relationships, empaths can feel overwhelmed by the impact of their loved ones' emotions.
This can look like:
- Avoiding conflict because you find that your feelings are easily hurt
- Off-hand criticism or comments having a significant impact on your wellbeing
- Wanting to 'fix' interpersonal problems to alleviate distress
- Difficulty tolerating/coping with others being disappointed or upset with you
In intimate relationships, empaths may want to set boundaries to ensure they don't absorb more distress than they can process and become overwhelmed.
In a similar vein, empaths may wish to communicate how conflict and distress affect them. This can lead to some great conversations around conflict management skills between two people. Being with partners who are able to define and honour emotional and physical boundaries can go very far!
Engage In Ways That Are Meaningful For YOU
Tragedies and high conflict events, whether locally or on the world stage can be overwhelming in general- for empaths it's possible to feel this even more acutely.
This is particularly true when you identify with the communities affected. It's important to engage in the forms of activism that are meaningful to you. If Instagram updates are overwhelming you to the point of shutting down, this may be a sign that meaningful engagement with a cause looks different for you.
Tune in and honour yourself in difficult times- you have a LOT to offer, even if it takes a different form.
If you are an empath, you have a remarkable ability to be in tune with emotions, make space for others, and help those around you feel seen and heard. As an empath, you are likely to be:
- An amazing friend
- Emotionally intelligent
- A great listener
- The person who is always there for those they love
Take care to show up for yourself the way you may be naturally inclined to show up for other people!
I want to hear from you: Do you identify as an empath? How has learning about this changed the way you interact with others and/or protect your energy?
Until next time!
Mental Health Content Specialist