Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Death is all around us but for some reason, in the winter months, my awareness of it is more present. I describe myself as somewhat of an empath. An empath is someone who is highly sensitive to how others feel. An empathic person is someone who can put themselves in another’s shoes and literally feel the energy of the situation. Much like the saying “I feel your pain,” an empath can actually experience the pain of another.
When I read or hear about a tragedy or death, it can be all-consuming. I can literally feel as if I am one of the people who has been affected by the pain of losing someone. It’s exhausting and distracting. It causes me to worry about my own family and stress about all of the negative things going on in this world. I can even be easily triggered by a sad or gruesome movie. It can take me days, weeks or months to let go of the anxiety caused by my empathic feelings.
When I first heard the term used, it was described as something paranormal. There are some empathic people that experience physical symptoms related to others physical pain. For example, feeling sharp pain in the abdomen after meeting a stabbing victim. I don’t experience this. My physical symptoms are only related to the effects of anxiety and upset I experience over others situations. More simply put, I am highly-sensitive. It actually gives me great comfort in knowing that there is a “reason” why I have always felt this way.
Being empathic can be exhausting but is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a great tool for truly understanding people. I know it is the reason why I can relate to how people feel and why I can provide comfort to them in different situations. Doing this, though, can be incredibly draining and certain people can leave me feeling especially worn down. It does not make me a perfect person, but these feelings do hod me accountable for actions I take with people. Sometimes maybe even a little too much. Cue the anxiety!
I have learned that empathic people tend to take on roles where they are responsible for helping people. Why not put those instincts to good use? Although, if you are an empath, you need to be cautious about your own mental health. Empaths need time to take care of themselves. This could be as simple as having some alone time to decompress or taking time for a fun sport or activity. For me, distraction is key. I love a good television show (although even tv can cue some of my sensitivities), playing hockey and just spending time with my family.
I find that I need to turn off social media, the news and anything that can trigger my feelings. When I don’t, I feel that all too familiar pit of dread and anxiety in my stomach. I start to worry about everything and anything. These feelings are only hightened when something very tragic or dreadful has happened or is ongoing. This January, I have been feeling it a little more than usual so I’ve decided to go to therapy. It’s important to take care of your mental health, especially when you are a highly sensitive person.
I have been told that when tragic things happen, I should be reminded to live each day like it’s my last. On one hand, I agree. We should do our best to enjoy our lives and the people in them NOW. We should tell the people we love that we love them. However, this sentiment also causes me a lot of anxiety. I can become too fixated on the “what ifs” if I approach living my life like this. I am human and I do not always live my life perfectly. Stating that I should live my life perfect everyday in case it’s my last, is incredibly triggering. All I can do is forgive myself for not being perfect and focus on moving forward in whatever way that looks like.
If you are an empath or a highly sensitive person, focus on what makes you feel good in the moment. Keep moving forward and try to block out negative thoughts. And if it helps, live each day like tomorrow is just around the corner.