It’s been an overwhelming year for everyone. Most of us have never lived through a pandemic. Watching the world shut down as people battled the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) made us all feel confused, limited and frustrated.
For the empaths of the world, current events amplify these emotions. To make matters even more challenging, these emotions are further compounded by empaths’ natural disposition to worry more about others than themselves.
Also called a highly sensitive person (HSP), an empath profoundly connects with the feelings of the people around them. A friend calls to share bad news and it affects the HSP. It makes them sad or angry on behalf of their friend. Empaths are what Dr. Judith Orloff describes as “emotional sponges.”
An empath may respond to any number of stimuli. Anything from a song to a busy shopping center could overwhelm an HSP. While this incredible sensitivity to their environment might seem like a weakness, empaths are trusted confidantes for their loved ones and perform many care-related roles in our society.
Feeling Overwhelmed as an Empath
We all experience empathy. Your friend goes through a tough divorce and even if you’ve never experienced one, you still feel bad for them and understand that they’re in pain. An empath in that same scenario processes those emotions as a part of their personal life experience. The friend’s sadness becomes the empath’s feelings.
As an empath, you can’t stop yourself from absorbing the stimulus around you. You watch a romantic movie and cry your eyes out when it concludes with a happy ending. You’re over-the-moon when you hear someone you’re close with got the promotion they wanted. People who barely know you immediately feel comfortable telling you their life stories and problems.
A sponge can’t stop itself from absorbing liquid like an HSP can’t turn off their empathic sensors. They continuously experience emotions unrelated to their specific experiences or relationships. In ordinary circumstances, an empath is prone to feeling overwhelmed because they can’t filter out all of the stimuli. Even when there’s not a pandemic going on, an HSP experiences regular bouts of burn out and anxiety.
Empaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic
It’s been the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. While early cases of the virus showed up late last year, countries worldwide felt the impact of COVID-19 in 2020. Retailers ran out of necessities, like toilet paper and hand soap. Thousands of people lost their jobs as businesses shuttered their operations indefinitely. More than 43 million individuals contracted COVID-19. Sadly, 1.14 million lost their lives to a disease none of us knew anything about a year ago.
It’s been a year of negative stimuli for many empaths. All of the terrible news and debate around the drastic changes to everyday life overwhelms HSPs, burning off their emotional capacity faster than before.
Now, as we head into a period of what experts predict will be increased COVID-19 cases, empaths must take time to recharge. That’s much easier said than done, especially in a world of endless notifications and updates. Unlike our electronic devices that you have to plug into recharge, empaths need to do the exact opposite. If you’re an HSP, you must unplug to recharge.
How to Recharge
When you’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed, start by turning off the notifications on your cell phone and tablet. These devices deliver an endless stream of other people’s emotions and thoughts. For you to recharge, you need to disconnect from all of this stimuli. Take some time for yourself to reflect on your thoughts and emotions. Maybe try journaling to understand what you’re experiencing clearly.
Also, the world we live in has drastically changed from the one we lived in last year. That means you need to reevaluate the boundaries you set with the people in your life. HSPs require definite boundaries to maintain their mental health. As time moves forward, these boundaries must evolve to meet the needs of the empath.
Most importantly, limit your exposure to and avoid engaging in impulsive behaviors and exaggerated rhetoric that are all too present right now. From the pandemic to politics, there’s no end to the challenges we face as a country at this moment in history. While you should emotionally process these events, you also want to minimize how much you expose yourself to unproductive conversations and unnecessary media.
While there’s no cure for the novel coronavirus, taking care of yourself prevents illness. Part of caring for yourself means addressing your emotional and mental wellbeing. This is especially true for empaths. If you’re an HSP, schedule time where you can disconnect from your devices and reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Take a nice long walk or hike. Listen to your favorite music. Nourish your mind, spirit and soul to maintain the health of your overall being.