Do you identify as an empath and/or a highly sensitive person (HSP)?
Empaths and HSPs are like the psychic sponges of the world. We readily feel the feelings of other people. The environments we’re in, who we spend time with and the sensory input we’re exposed to can greatly affect our internal space, our energy levels, our moods, and even our health.
The more skilled you become at discerning your needs and understanding the way you uniquely process the world, the better you’ll be able to set healthy boundaries to protect your energy. This topic is very close to my heart because, as you might know, I am an empath and an HSP.
In this episode, I’m sharing a proactive protection plan for us sensitive folks, so if you identify with these personality traits, this one’s for you.
When I was growing up, I didn’t do well with bright lights or noisy environments. The external world could overwhelm me at times, including the people in it. Even very young, I remember feeling exhausted because people who had problems seemed to be drawn to me. Others would tell me their deepest, darkest secrets. Before I became a psychotherapist, I just thought, well, this is just the way it is.
Can you relate? Do you become emotionally or physically overstimulated easily? Do you feel like you need more downtime than most people you know? You might be a highly sensitive person.
The term highly sensitive person (HSP) was coined in the ‘90s by psychologist Elaine Aron, who used it to describe a subset of the population with sensory-perception sensitivity (SPS). Highly sensitive people have “high levels of SPS display [such as] increased emotional sensitivity and a stronger reactivity to both external and internal stimuli- like pain, hunger, light and noise- and a complex inner life.”¹
Many HSPs are also empaths, meaning they absorb other people’s emotions and experience them as their own. It can be difficult for empaths to separate their own feeling states from those of others. Drawing clear boundaries can be a challenge, and without them, you might end up exhausted, rundown, and resentful.
Empaths and HSPs typically put the wants, needs, and desires of others before their own, because they are so attuned to them. It will take a little time and effort to shift that ingrained pattern, however, I’m living proof that it’s possible.
So what can you do? Get proactive! Below you’ll find steps you can take to help you make a protection plan.
1. Take an inventory.
Make a list of the most stress-inducing situations you find yourself in. Where are you when you feel totally exhausted and depleted or completely overwhelmed? Identify what situations or places activate you. Once you know, you can start to put together a plan for what areas in your life need your attention and make adjustments.
2. Identify “energy vampires” or extremely negative people in your life.
Think through how you feel around the people you spend time with. Can you identify who drains you? You might even start to feel anxiety when you know you’re going to spend time with them…even if you love them. Remember, being honest with yourself is not doing anything mean or wrong to anyone else.
Knowing what your limits are is about getting really clear about what is and what is not ok with you. As an empath or an HSP, it might seem like you don’t have choices, but I assure you, you do. Protecting yourself and your energy might sometimes require disappointing others and that’s ok. You have a right to be self-determined in how you want to feel, what you experience, and how you spend your time and energy.
Learn as much as you can about boundaries and appropriate boundary language (I have resources for you inside this week’s downloadable guide) so you have the words to express your needs, wants and preferences with ease and grace.
4. Mindful meditation and grounding practices.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or over-stimulated regularly, incorporating a daily practice of mindful meditation each morning or evening can help recalibrate your system.
I’ve found it gives me more internal space and even in moments of intensity or overwhelm, I have 2-3 seconds more response time. Which is just enough time to mindfully choose my next right action, rather than reacting or staying stuck in fight, flight, or freeze.
I have a quick step-by-step grounding ritual that you can do at the moment, no matter where you are, and I’ve included it in the guide (download it right here!)
5. Prioritize your comfort in all areas of your life.
When you are highly sensitive, any sensory input that irritates you can take up substantial bandwidth and energy. You can make small, easy changes in your lifestyle that will take into consideration your preferences for comfort. There are things you can control in your space like the way things feel, smell, sound, etc.
What is comforting and comfortable for you? Make a list and think through all of your senses as you do. A weighted blanket, low light, soft rugs, and cozy pillows can go a long way in your home to truly make it a place of restoration. You can even think through your wardrobe. Find essential oil blends that calm and soothe you.
I hope this added value to your life. As an HSP and an empath, I understand that you might have spent a lot of time perplexed or searching for answers. The more you educate yourself, the more your life will make sense. In my experience, once I understood my sensitivities and learned how to protect my energy, I was able to make mindful choices that supported my happiness and overall wellness.
It might feel hard for you to imagine this right now, but like me, your empathic nature and sensitivity can become your superpowers!
I want to hear about your progress and your personal protection plan, so please, connect with me on Instagram @terricole and let me know if these shifts make a difference. From one HSP/empath to another, I’m cheering you on like a wild maniac!
I hope that you have an amazing week and as always take care of you.