Do you consider yourself to be a sensitive person? Can you easily pick up on people’s energy? Do you ever intuitively know something is about to happen, even though you can’t explain it? Do you need more alone time than your family and friends? If so, you may be an empath.
What is an empath?
“An empath is someone who’s intuitive,” says Angela Buttimer, MS, NCC, RYT, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. “Empaths see beyond the surface of people, events and things. They tend to have a deeper knowing.”
She adds, “We’re all empaths to some degree. Some people are shut off from their intuitive gifts because they’re too busy, ambitious or in their head and don’t spend time checking in with their gut and intuition. The good news is you can develop it.”
The challenges of being an empath
“The challenge with being an empath is you may be very sensitive,” says Buttimer. “For example, if you visit a hospital where people are really sick, you can pick up those energies. Some empaths get sunk mentally and emotionally because they’re picking up on both the joy and suffering that’s going on around them.”
Managing your environment as an empath
Empaths have to be thoughtful about their environments and how they rest and restore themselves, says Buttimer. Setting boundaries is essential if you’re an empath.
“The first point of self-preservation is to be self-aware of what overwhelms you and what doesn’t,” she says. “We all go through cycles and seasons. Sometimes we’re more vulnerable from one week to another. People who are strongly empathetic have to be mindful and learn how to have energetic boundaries.”
As humans, we all have to face difficult circumstances, people and emotions, but many times, the suffering is self-imposed.
“We can have self-imposed suffering because we do things out of obligation,” says Buttimer. “We need to make conscious choices that are self-directed and not determined by others’ expectations and people-pleasing.”
For example, if a yearly trip with your college friends is full of gossip and mean-spirited comments, you don’t have to go. You can politely decline and spend your time and energy elsewhere.
“Empaths tend to care about humanity and want to help people,” she says. “But they have to be careful that it doesn’t slip from caring to codependency. Empaths often have divas around them because divas are drawn to empaths. Be mindful of divas, charmers and manipulators. The good news is empaths can usually figure them out.”
Take time to rest your brain
It’s also essential to allow your brain and nervous system to rest.
“We may think we’re resting when we’re scrolling on our phones, but it’s not true rest,” says Buttimer.
Instead, true rest can look like:
Sitting in silence and solitude
Taking a nap
“Everyone’s optimal level of stimulation is different,” says Buttimer. “Some people need more engagement, while others need more alone time. Empaths tend to need more quiet time.”
So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by people, events or even the news, it’s important to take time for yourself and set boundaries about what you do and don’t allow into your life. When you do, you can give your gifts of empathy and intuition room to thrive.
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.