Self-care is so important when it comes to protecting your energy as an empath or highly empathetic person.
An empath – a person who takes on the energy and emotions of other people – can find themselves regularly feeling overwhelmed. Feeling other people’s emotions yourself can be confusing, stressful, and exhausting, which is why empaths often choose to shut down emotionally and keep people are arm’s length. This protects them. However, there are other options; practising regular self-care is one of them, as it helps self-sooth, protect, and clear the empath’s energy.
While being a genuine empath – a person who absorbs and mirrors other people’s emotions – is often seen as a rare or even spiritual ability that only around 2% of the population possess, empathetic people are not uncommon. In fact, studies have shown that around 20% of the population possess empathetic qualities.
These qualities might include:
- Feeling ‘overly’ sensitive
- Being highly intuitive towards other people’s feelings
- Getting overwhelmed by other people’s emotions
- Feeling drained by social situations
- Being a good listener
- Genuinely, deeply caring about others – even people you don’t know
While being empathetic has many positive aspects to it, like being a good friend, great listener, and authentically compassionate person, it can also be exhausting.
From personal experience, I know that caring so much and feeling so sensitive all the time can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining.
It can also be difficult to know where your own, genuine emotions begin and other people’s feelings that you’re picking up on end.
This is why self-care for empaths if so crucial.
#1. Learn self-awareness through journaling
A self-care activity that I practise every single day that really helps me improve self-awareness is journaling.
Being self-aware is handy when you’re empathetic, as you can get to know who you really are and how you process your own emotions. This also helps when it comes to processing other people’s emotions too.
Journaling can help you get in touch with your own feelings, as well as figure out when a feeling is yours or someone else’s, which can be difficult when you’re highly empathetic.
I really recommend using journaling prompts for empaths, free-writing, and writing out affirmations that help boost your own confidence and trust in your own intuition and feelings.
It can also help you learn about your triggers and what to stay away from in order to protect your own energy.
Some triggers for empaths might be:
- Big crowds or social situations
- Loud environments
- High-stress situations
- Negative people
While working on your triggers through journaling and shadow work can be life-changing, it’s also important to be able to recognise them and not overwhelm yourself too much.
#2. Discover mindfulness through meditation
Meditation is really great self-care habit to get into if you’re an empath or find yourself feeling overwhelmed.
It does a great job at clearing out your mind and energy, as well as improving your ability to be mindful and self-aware.
I personally find that guided meditations are a game-changer, as sometimes I struggle to keep my racing thoughts under control and I need someone to hold my hand through the process.
There are tons of guided meditations for empaths on YouTube that aim to clear your mind and energy.
If meditation isn’t your thing (although I invite you to at least give it a try for a month or so and see how you feel), simply learning some breathing techniques to help cope with anxiety can be helpful.
Two examples of breathing exercises that are great for when you’re feeling overwhelmed are:
- Box breathing: Breathe in for four seconds, hold this breath deep in your belly for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, then hold that for another four. Repeat this for a few minutes.
- Belly breathing: Breathing deep into your diaphragm has a really calming affect on the body and mind. Instead of breathing into your chest, which is often associated with hyper-ventilating and panic attacks, try breathing deeply into your belly. You can put your hand on your belly to feel each inhale, if this helps. You can also try taking a deep belly breath, holding it at the top, and then releasing it with a sigh; try doing this three times in a row – this really relaxes me.
#3. Try to stop people-pleasing and starting saying ‘no’
Something I’ve noticed that tends to go hand-in-hand with being highly empathetic is a need to people-please and difficultly saying ‘no’ to people.
However, learning to say ‘no’ to situations, tasks, and people that don’t make you feel totally comfortable is really important when it comes to protecting your own time and energy.
While pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone from time-to-time is great for your mindset and confidence, throwing yourself head-first into situations that you know are only going to trigger or totally overwhelm you isn’t the way to go.
Be self-aware, respect your energy, and protect yourself.
There’s no shame or harm in saying ‘no’; if the people who you do tell ‘no’ to take it negatively or hold it against you, they’re not worthy of your time or energy in the first place.
Know your worth.
#4. Look after your physical heath, as well as mental health
Taking care of our physical well-being is just as important as our mental well-being.
Finding ways to move your body that you enjoy and nourishing yourself every single day are really important for health and happiness.
Other self-care tips for our physical well-being include:
- Taking prescribed medication
- Getting eight hours of sleep a night
- Drinking at least two litres of water a day
- Taking care of personal hygiene
- Brushing our teeth twice a day
When you start to look after your physical health, it becomes much easier for your mental health to follow.
#5. Set and enforce clear protective boundaries
Setting boundaries is something that I struggled with until my late 20s, yet it’s a vital part of self-care for empaths.
Setting boundaries means putting limits and non-negotiables in place in order to protect your energy.
For example, you may not want to be around certain people who have negative energy, to go certain places that you know will be overwhelming, or be in situations that trigger you.
This is totally okay and setting this boundaries is self-care – not selfish. You’re protecting your energy and mental health, which should be a top priority.
What’s even more important than setting boundaries is enforcing them and standing firm.
This can be difficult, especially if you’re a people-please like me and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. However, if you don’t respect your own boundaries, how can you expect others to?
Be strong, enforce those boundaries at every single chance, and protect your energy. Your life as an empath will be so much easier.
#6. Empath shielding techniques
As highly empathetic people, we need to know how to protect our energy. When you’re picking up on other people’s emotions and energy, it can often feel overwhelming and even panic-inducing.
In this situations, it’s good to know one or two empath shielding techniques, which can help protect us.
These are mental shields that we can use to block other people’s energy, which can be called upon through visualisation.
One way to put your shield up is to visualise a literal shield of white, protective light in between you and the energy you’re trying to protect yourself from.
While visualising this shield, I invite you to take some deep belly-breathes and imagine breathing in positive, pink light and exhaling any negative energy that has managed to permeate your mind.
#7. Set aside time to heal and regenerate your energy
A lot of empaths also tend to be introverts because we find being around other people’s energy exhausting. We value our own company and alone time.
As highly empathetic introverts, we can find being around other people super-draining and even exhausting mentally, emotionally and even physically.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t LIKE people or want to be around them; it just takes a toll when we are.
The problem is, if you’re also a people-pleaser and find it hard to say ‘no’ to people, you might find yourself neglecting taking time out for yourself.
A great self-care activity is to schedule in and make time for your alone time. It can be a good idea to do this in a journal so that you don’t forget; plus, once it’s written down, it makes you much more likely to stick to it as it’s now become a promise to yourself.
It’s especially important to make time for alone time if you know you have a lot of social events or occasions coming up where you’ll be around a lot of different people with different energy and emotions.
I like to plan in advance so that if I have a busy, draining few days, I know to take a day or two completely to myself afterwards in order to heal and regenerate.
On my days to myself, I like to keep to myself, rest as much as possible, watch stuff that makes me laugh, practise self-soothing and self-care activities that make me feel good, and generally keep away from other people as much as possible.
#8. Practise social media self-care
A self-care tip for empaths – and just about anyone – that I always preach is practising social media self-care.
While it’s good to keep up-to-date with world events and injustices, doom-scrolling through social media isn’t great for our mental health or mindset. It can be draining and a real time-suck.
You don’t need to be standing in front of someone to pick up on their energy.
My main social media self-care tips are:
- Limit your time on your phone
- Limit your time on certain sites, platforms and apps
- Delete, mute or unfollow anyone that makes you feel negative or drained
- Follow positive, honest people that make you happy
- Only get your news from official sources
Remember, you’re free to curate your own timeline or social media feed however YOU want.
#9. Show gratitude for who you are
With studies showing that 75% of Americans are less empathetic than they were 30 years ago, being highly empathetic is actually becoming increasingly rare.
I invite you to look at being empathetic as a gift, rather than a burden. Perhaps try writing down what you like about being an empath, rather than focusing on the negatives so that you can reframe how you see it.
I know this is easier said than done – it can be overwhelming and isolating, and any negative emotions you feel towards it are totally and completely valid.
However, for me, it can also be rewarding.
You’re one of the most compassionate, kind people out there. You’re a great listener and an even better friend.
You’re also independent and value your own energy; you have self-awareness and self-respect.
These are also AWESOME traits to possess.
I’m grateful for the human being I’ve become and excited for the person I’ll be in the future.
#10. Channel energy through creativity
One of the best ways to channel any energy as an empath is through creativity.
Not only does pouring your emotion into creative hobbies help clear your energy if you’re an empathetic person, it’s also an awesome self-care tip in general.
Allow your energy to flow into your art, tell a story, and relieve you of unwanted feelings.
It’s like venting through your art.
Some great creative self-care ideas for empaths are:
- Drawing/painting/making physical or digital art
- Writing poetry
- Making or writing music
You don’t ever have to show another soul your art, you’re free to keep it just for yourself. It’s something that completely belongs to you, not anyone else, which, when you’re highly empathetic, feels rare.
#11. Never feel guilty for protecting your energy
While this isn’t necessarily a self-care activity, it’s a good tip: try to stop feeling ashamed or guilty for protecting your own energy.
You should be your main priority, which tends to go against our instincts as empathetic people, but it’s so important to work on.
Whether you feel better avoiding physical contact, putting firm boundaries in places, or saying ‘no’ to loved ones, you’re perfectly entitled and free to choose what’s best for you, your emotional energy, and personal well-being.
After all, if we want to help people, how are we going to do that if our energy is totally drained?
Make protecting your energy a priority and do so without shame or guilt.
#12. Spend time in nature, grounding
Grounding yourself and getting out in nature is so lovely for empaths.
While you can and do feel energy from the earth, it’s completely different to the frantic energy that comes from other people’s emotions.
It’s calming and reassuring.
I personally prefer grounding through bare feet on the ground and it feels as if I’ve just taken a deep breath. All the stress feels like it flows through me into the earth.
Getting out in nature has also been found to be amazing for our mental health.
Ecotherapy, a type of therapy that involves taking part in activities outside in nature, has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression.
What should empaths avoid?
While self care is really important for empaths, you should also be self-aware about what NOT to do.
I would never tell someone else who or what to avoid, however, as an empathetic person, I personally like to avoid:
- Negative, angry, aggressive people
- Certain conversation topics that will bring out polarising opinions and emotions in other people (confrontation)
- Social media and content creators who seem overly negative, angry or ingenuine
- Social situations where I don’t know many people or their energies
- Social situations if my mental health isn’t doing well, as this tends to result in panic attacks
What you should avoid or want to avoid depends on you.
This is why journaling can be useful, as it helps self-awareness. You can learn about yourself, your boundaries, and what you’re not okay with.
This isn’t to say that you should never challenge yourself, face your triggers or take a step outside of you comfort zone – this can all be really rewarding and character building. However, there’s a time and a place for challenges and it’s up to you to figure out if/when that’s right for you.
Are empaths better off alone?
Empaths can absolutely be around other people and have deep, happy, fulfilling relationships with those who understand them.
Protecting your energy is not the same as completely shutting yourself off, although I can totally understand if you want to do that.
Just because we need time alone doesn’t mean we have to be alone all the time!
Self-awareness and trusting your intuition goes a long way when it comes to choosing people to surround yourself with; use these gifts to your advantage and when your gut tells you that something’s off, trust it.
Surround yourself with other like-minded, empathetic people who are also good at processing emotions, respecting boundaries, and understanding you as a person.
They’re out there, I promise.