One of my clients, who often feels anxious and drained, describes herself as an “emotional sponge.” She picks up everything from people around her– negative energy, grumpy moods, heaviness, all of it. There is one manager at her workplace that really affects her. When she interacts with this person, she notices her mood sours, and she begins to feel negative and angry being there– even though her day didn’t start out that way. For her, this is more than simply sensing what others were feeling; those strong negative feelings linger. She doesn’t know how or why she absorbs all this muck.
An “empath” or highly sensitive person experiences people’s emotions as their own. When you understand what another person is feeling, that empathy offers compassion and connection with that person. This is also why empaths tend to be caregivers either among family and friends or professionally, because they’re good at reading people’s emotional needs. However, the tendency to take on people’s stress unconsciously aims to “lighten the load,” but it doesn’t really work like that. We can’t help people by feeling negative ourselves.
We know it doesn’t feel good to take on to this heavy emotion, but how do we let it go?
First, we raise our frequency — we get happy. This is a daily practice with meditation, exercise, gratitude journal, eating healthy, loving friends, supportive family. We’re reaching for all those good vibes. Interactions with others will start changing, and you will repel negative people. Have you ever met anyone who is so annoyingly happy? When you’re in a funk, you don’t want to be anywhere near those folks.
Second, we practice feeling our own our feelings. This awareness helps us stay centered inside ourselves. When those external storm clouds roll in, we can say “whoa, that dude was intense!” We can train ourselves to stay energetically open, use our gift, and let it pass.
Here are several ways that you can get started:
- Go for a walk in nature. Visit your local conservation area or bike path and go for a stroll. Trees and plants whisk away stress, and gentle movement can shift your thought patterns.
- Find your heartbeat. Take a deep breath in and exhale. Place your awareness inside your chest and see if you can find your heartbeat. You might hear it, feel it, or sense it. There is no wrong way to feel your inner rhythms. Take a deep breath in and exhale. See, sense, or feel your heartbeat.
- The next time you are talking to someone, try this exercise again. This shouldn’t impact your conversation. It’s gently bringing your awareness into your body (instead of on the other person.)
- Expansion Meditation. Allow yourself to sit comfortably in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and imagine a beam of sunlight surrounding you and filling you up with light and love, curiosity, adventure, grace, laughter, or anything else you would like to surround yourself with. Imagine expanding bigger than your town, bigger than your country, bigger than this planet. Imagine that you’re way out in space and filled up with this light. Breathe. See if there are areas of that you or your body that need more light. Fill up those places and expand those areas out more. Breathe.
- Get a Reiki session. If you cannot shake those negative feelings, sometimes we need a little external support. Reiki is a gentle technique that helps us calm our minds, clear anxiety and stress, and calm our nervous system. Ask a friend or family member that practices Reiki for a little boost. Or simply find a practitioner that you like and trust. Allow someone to lighten your load.
If you are feeling like an emotional sponge or really drained, please take the time to care for yourself. Reach out for guidance and support. We are most effective when we are relaxed and happy. It’s not as far off as it may seem.
Caroline Ruderman is a Reiki teacher and practitioner in Northampton, MA and has office hours Monday-Wednesday, including daytime and evening hours. Like her on Instagram or reach out with questions at CarolineRuderman@gmail.com.