The defining moment in my journey with anxiety came when I broke down into heartfelt sobs in front of my two young children. I can’t even remember what triggered me, but they both looked terrified, and it was their little faces in that moment that gave me the push to finally acknowledge what was happening to me and make changes.
For the previous 18 months I’d been resisting the idea I was suffering from anxiety, but I didn’t recognise the person I’d become. I was continuously tearful, my senses were constantly on high alert, which was in itself exhausting. I wasn’t sleeping, was relying on a glass of wine at night to calm my nerves, then coffee in the morning to waken me up. I took passing comments too much to heart and worried about what other people were thinking. To the point I hid away. I didn’t want to see anyone, friends or family.
… it’s a different story, but like most people on this path, I’ve taken the long road to get to where I am.
Anyone who has truly delved deep into their psyche and soul, will know how draining it is. But I was determined to serve my clients deeply, and I firmly believe you can only go as deep with your clients as you’ve gone with yourself, so I’ve spent the last 2 1/2 years on a journey of self-development and spiritual growth, not to mention retraining as a coach and NLP practitioner.
You see, I feel things extremely deeply as my husband will attest to. I not only feel my own emotions, which at times can be as deep as the ocean, but I also have this ability to tap into others emotions too… and before I learnt how to manage this ability, it drained the life out of me. Literally.
It took me a long time to discover what this was. That I was an empath, or highly sensitive person, and that we are, in fact, wired differently to everyone else. Our central nervous system is set up in such a way that makes us more acutely aware of, and attuned to ourselves, other people, and our environment. This realisation has been a huge turning point in my life.
Approximately 1 in 5 people are highly sensitive, between 15% and 20% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of us out there. But not many of us realise that this is what we are. And being an empath isn’t just for introverted souls, 1 in 5 empaths are in fact extroverts.
Empaths are often accused of being overly emotional, too sensitive, we feel ‘different’ but often can’t put their finger on why. We may feel as if there’s something wrong with us, that we are a bit weak and pathetic because we are so in touch with their emotions.
We are easily over stimulated by what’s going on around us (in terms of noise, lights, TV, etc) then feel a strong need to withdraw and recalibrate.
But it’s not just our own emotions we’re in touch with. It’s other peoples too. And this is where problems occur.
Empathic fatigue, or resonance, is an extreme form of empathy. It’s where an individual finds it difficult to strike the right balance between empathy and objectivity, often leading to anxiety, exhaustion, anger, and a variety of other symptoms. When this is repeated over a long period of time, it can lead to empathic distress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion.
We often feel particularly drained when we have spent too much time in the company of others, or have spent time with people who drain our energy rather than lift us up. As a result, we often need quite a lot of down time in order to recharge and recalibrate.
What to do about it
These periods of reflection and recharge are extremely beneficial as it allows us to process all the emotions and feelings we have experienced during the day, and trust me there are plenty!
Having frequent down time reduces our anxiety and means we don’t suffer the emotional exhaustion that is so common amongst empaths as it gives our central nervous system a chance to relax. This is especially important in order to calm our overactive minds at night, when they are easily stimulated as we are extremely prone to insomnia.
Top Three Tips
If I were to give my three top tips to managing life as an empath:
- Learn how to control your thoughts in order to reduce negative emotions and beliefs. This is an extremely important process for an empath to master. Practising meditation is a surefire way to empty your mind and slow your body down.
- Listen to, and respect your body. Our bodies are amazing at communicating their needs to us if we are willing to listen. Tune into your body regularly; it’s constantly giving you feedback.
- Get plenty sleep. It’s when we are in the deep restorative sleep that our cortisol levels are replenished and in turn our stress levels reduce. If you’re not getting enough, or quality sleep, then you will wake up feeling groggy. This is especially true if you are suffering from another common affliction of empaths, adrenal fatigue.
As for me, my life looks a whole lot different than it did this time last year, and my mindset has completely changed. I am a work in progress, but my experience with anxiety drives me to help others through it too.
I don’t believe that anxiety is something that ever goes away, but it is definitely something that diminishes over time. Reaching out for help from an external source, such as a coach, can really help you take steps forward a lot quicker than if you were to do it yourself. They can see your blindspots and have the tools and techniques to help you through it.
Follow your dreams
And we all have the resources we need to get better within each and every one of us. Sometimes we just need a little support in finding them again.
Anxiety does not need to hold you back from the life you want to live, and it certainly does not need to hold you back from your dreams.
Originally published at medium.com