HOW TO CARE FOR EMPATHS AND HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE
knew all my life that I was “sensitive” and could pick up on things
that others did not. I also knew that my body didn’t handle
sensory stimuli the same way other bodies did. I could easily
become overwhelmed by itchy clothes, too much noise or strange
smells. High emotion in a room could send me over the edge.
if too much input came at me all at once, it would send me into a full
blown panic attack. But it wasn’t until I began studying Sensory Processing Disorder that
I really came to understand that being a “empath” isn’t just some
woo-woo label that New Agers made up to make themselves feel special. I
learned that my nervous system is actually wired differently than most
humans. Yes, it’s actually a scientific reality. I like to
think of Sensory Processing Disorder as science’s explanation for
what’s been known by mystics as the “Empath”. In this space, science and mysticism come together beautifully.
occupational therapist, psychologist, and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres,
Ph.D., explained Sensory Processing Disorder as a “traffic jam” within
the brain. This traffic jam keeps parts of the brain from
receiving and interpreting sensory information properly. Someone
with SPD receives sensory stimuli just like other people do: smelling,
seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, balance, and the sense of where the
body is in space, but when the sensory signals reach the brain, they
get scrambled. Not only does the brain interpret information
differently, but the person with SPD may in fact actually be accessing MORE information than the average person.
flooded with so much additional information can sometimes lead to
behaviors that seem odd to other people, even inappropriate. In
reality, those behaviors are completely appropriate given the
experience that the sensitive person is having – which may not be the
same experience everyone else is having. In other words, he is
literally experiencing reality in a new way.
The Gifted Empath
here forth, I will refer to Sensory Processing Disorder as Sensory
Processing DIFFERENCE because in my view, it’s not a disorder. It’s a manifestation of human evolution.
Empaths, Sensitives and those with Sensory Processing Differences may
well have abilities that regular people often marvel at, including the
ability to sense subtle sound, light, and energy vibration, emotional
subtlety and even mystical phenomena. In recent years, we’ve seen
a rapid increase in the numbers of children born with SPD. In my
opinion, this is a sign that the human race is progressing toward a
superior state. The ability to take in much larger amounts of
sensory data is an evolutionary leap for our species.
Do you have SPD?
- Hyper-sensitive to touch: touch may be uncomfortable or ticklish, may avoid tactile stimulation
- Hypo-sensitive to touch: May crave touch or seek out strong sensory input
- Difficulty with Self-Soothing: Trouble calming self, requires lots of outside help to process life’s challenges, irritability, emotional roller coaster
- Sensory-avoidant behaviors: afraid of heights, loses balance easily, avoids fast movements, avoids hugs and eye contact
- Sensory-seeking behaviors: craves fast movement, spinning, thrill-seeking, chewing on pens, fingernails,
- Sensitive to negativity: negative talk, scary stories, violence or cruelty on TV, news, etc…
- Social Avoidance: Overwhelmed by sensory input in crowds, likes to spend a lot of time alone
- Hyper-sensitive to noise: Distracted by noise others don’t notice, fearful of noise, shock at loud sounds
- Hypo-sensitive to noise: Doesn’t respond when name is called, seeks loud music or TV, makes noise for fun
- Hyper-sensitive to smell: Offended by body smells, bathroom smells, cooking smells, can smell odors others cannot
- Hyper-sensitive to sights: Sensitive to bright light, enjoys dimly lit rooms, avoids eye contact
- Allergies: Sensitivities to food, environment, medications
- Immune Disorders: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Lupus, etc…
- Extra-sensory perception: of any kind
- Mystical experiences: of any kind
- Inner Conflict:
Deep sense of wanting a peaceful world but personally experiences
internal turmoil – the two don’t seem to match and it may feel confusing
If you have a handful of these traits, you are probably an Empathic SPD Human.
Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People
not easy to live as a highly sensitive person. The empathic brain
doesn’t filter unnecessary stimuli the way other people’s brains
do. Because of this, highly sensitive people tend to take in MORE
movement, MORE voices, MORE flashes of color, MORE scents, MORE
feelings, MORE energy.
SPDs wear out fast. Their brains use more battery power per
minute than the next guy. They tend to get sick more easily than
others. Being able to pick up so much sensory and energetic
stimulation floods them with more information about the world than
other people get – which is FUN! But it can also be exhausting.
If this is true for you, consider abandoning your attempts to fit in and be like everyone else.
You’re NOT like everyone else – you’re different.
you find yourself in an unbearable situation, instead of forcing
yourself to suffer through to the point of exhaustion, anxiety or
panic, choose to care for yourself in new ways. It’s your right,
and in fact – it is your responsibility to yourself to design your
surroundings in a way that supports your well-being.
Examples of Self-Care
Empaths feel other people’s emotion so exquisitely that it can be hard
to tell who the emotion belongs to. Practice asking yourself, “Is
this feeling mine, or theirs?”
Empaths have a tendency to merge with others. Some call it “leaky
boundaries”, but this label proves a gross mis-understanding on the
part of the labeler. Merging with, and feeling another’s experience as one’s own isn’t a weakness – it’s a superpower! Society just hasn’t caught on yet. Take care of yourself by choosing wisely who you merge with.
Just living in your own body can be overstimulating. The feeling of
digestion in the belly may be interpreted as a strange, uncomfortable
feeling. Pain may be felt more intensely than it is by others.
The sound in the ears can be extreme. Being too warm or too cold
may be too much for the brain to process. Caring for yourself
means learning to read the signs your body is giving you. If your
internal sensations feel like too much, take a break and sit alone in a
quiet place for 20 minutes.
Living in a body may seem simple enough for most people – a non-issue
even. But for you, it may take a certain level of purposefully focused
attention just to manage it. Because you are starting out the gate
using more attention and energy to manage internal and external
stimuli, it means that less is available for regular life.
brain is literally running more programs than the average human
being. Self-care means getting enough rest and alone time. You
may need more frequent breaks or to work fewer hours than other people.
Love and care for the special body you’ve been given!
You are literally the miracle of human evolution happening right before the world’s eyes!
By: Paige Bartholomew,
Licensed Psychotherapist, Certified Hypnotherapist, Sufi Master Teacher