Experiencing Empathic Overload? 6 Ways to Recover Your Center

These are tough times for empaths. In a world hammered by tsunami and nuclear disaster, political unrest and economic crisis – feeling the feelings of others can be super overwhelming and painful. (I say this with the deepest respect for people who have directly experienced these disasters, whose suffering is in a whole different class.)

I believe that what’s going on in the world right now is one of the reasons why the field of coaching has burgeoned. It takes a conscious act to stay in balance in these times. And coaches remind people to stand in their power, hold their center and direct their actions with integrity.

Empaths, who have empathy in spades, have naturally gravitated to coaching as a career. I’m in that subgroup and attract a lot of clients who are too. If you are an empath, chances are you lose track sometimes of where you begin and end.

Even if this never happens to you, I bet some of your coaching clients can relate and it’s helpful to be aware of the unique challenges that empaths face.

It’s More Critical Than Ever to Regain Your Center

Experiencing Empathetic OverwhelmThe world needs empathy – and here’s the paradox. For empaths, when the world is most in need is exactly the time we most need to take care of ourselves. We need a strong daily practice to recover our center, boundaries, and vitality. Then we can serve from strength.

Here are 6 ways to recover your center:

Go on a media diet. I’m not just talking about the news. Turn off anything that has an on-off switch. Give yourself a rest from all that frenetic input. If possible do this for a few days or weeks, or at the very least have sacred times to be completely unplugged every day while you’re awake.

Go outside. Become a cloud, bird or plant watcher. Spring is a great time for this, but nature calms your nervous system anytime you tap in there. Cultivate an appreciation for natural beauty and let it influence your mind, body and spirit.

Laugh. Break your media fast with a movie that makes you laugh out loud. Or better, book some face time with a grounded friend and laugh out loud together. Find the humor, even if you feel more like crying.

Keep the best company. Seek the most grounded people you know and hang out with them. Let your best allies remind you of who you truly are.

After connecting, disconnect. Every connection with another person, whether on the phone, in person, or on Facebook, creates a living energetic line of connection. When you’re done connecting, disconnect consciously. Ask your mind and heart to lovingly release the stories connected to people as well.

Reconnect with yourself. Look in the mirror to check in without the critique. Simply reconnect through your eyes with who you are. Then ask yourself what are truly your own emotional and physical feelings.

Be alone on purpose. There’s a difference between solitude and isolation. The purpose of solitude is to rest into your self. Rediscover the infinite spring of resource within you.

As human beings we have a responsibility to care about what others are going through, but it helps not to take it personally. Calling someone “detached” has a whiff of insult, but for us empaths, detachment is just what the doctor ordered.

The trick is to keep your perception and understanding of the other’s experience, but stay with your own separate experience at the same time. That’s called compassion.

What about the rest of you empaths out there? What are your favorite techniques to keep yourself sane and centered in trying times?

  • This is such a timely reminder, Rhonda, of the responsibility we each carry to center and ground ourselves for our own sake as well as the sake of others. I think the opportunity for each and every one of us during these challenging times is to make a choice. We can choose a path of love or a path of fear. If we will follow your suggestions, then we will choose wisely.

    I’ve recently discovered rebounding (bouncing up and down on a kind of mini trampoline). The health benefits are incredible, it’s fast and easy to do, and it is definitely keeping me sane and centered. Whenever I start to feel stressed, I hop up on my rebounder and boing, boing, boing away. Just call me Tigger — Winnie the Pooh’s friend who loves to bounce. Boing! Boing! Boing!

    • I’m a Tigger too. Love my rebounder. Glad you and rebounder found each other, Carol!

  • Great reminder for me and others… I need to be constantly reminded of these.

    • Hey Seth! Cool to reconnect with you here. Please share what you’re up to in 2011.

  • Steve

    Hmmmmm…..nice to be reminded that I am not alone in my self care needs and methods. I’m grateful.

  • I agree with this. Before I realized what was going on, I was so confused at why I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted, then once I saw what was going on, I decided that consciously re-fueling is a top priority. I love all your suggestions, and would add purposefully re-filling the well. Taking a bath, doing a mindfulness practice, and those that you listed above. Thanks for the timely reminder!

    • Thanks for your additional ideas Kalia. An espom salt bath and consciously releasing — that’s almost a daily practice for me.

  • Thank you for the validation. I have Intuitively been doing these things to maintain my center. Namaste.

  • Greg Peterson

    I’d just like to add that yoga and deep breathing help calm me down. If nothing else, just belly breathe and close your eyes or meditate if you can. Laughing is always great too. The funniest thing I’ve heard lately is a commercial for baseball that talks about taking a trip inside S.F. Giants relief pitcher Brian Wilson’s beard with a tiny camera. Here’s the link: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110331&content_id=17221186&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

  • Suzanne McDermott

    What a helpful and succinct post! Even though I practice most of these points regularly, I have definitely been on overwhelm lately. The media diet is de rigeur but I never thought about the conscious disengaging from interactions. Brilliant. Love the photo, too. Thanks.I’ll print this out for the fridge.

    • Thank you, Suzanne. For empaths, that extra step of lovingly disconnecting energetically is a healthy practice. Sometimes I forget but later remember and do it at the end of the day.

  • A really odd thing that happens for me, as I give myself more “alone” time (I meditate), is that random moments of high energy, clarity, and fearlessness take me over – like a strong centering.

  • I think that out of habit, we all have something of a “default” behavior either developed ability or handed to us by conditioning, but whatever it is … it’s good to know what that is.

    I’m noticing more of a “wait, stop, slow down, what’s this sensation” kind of effect. I think it used to be something of a “shut down” or block feeling. A fight of some sort.

    It’s not fair that women are better at this! 😉

    Fun stuff.

    Kenn
    CoachingSitesThatWork

  • Thankyou 🙂

  • Bridget Woody

    If things get too intense, I will blow off everyone and everything, declare a mental health day, forget my phone and spend all day with my horse. I just keep having to remind myself that nothing is more important than caring for myself and that I don’t need to be doing anything else. Then I get in bed and spoon my German Shepherd at night. Bliss. Yoga is also very helpful.

    • Thanks for chiming in about what works for you, Bridget! It’s so good to know what nourishes and restores you.