The Empath’s Guide to Emotional Survival:
Grounding Techniques for Empaths, Lightworkers and Sensitive Souls
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My whole life I’ve been told I’m too sensitive, I need to toughen up. Things that didn’t seem to affect other people bothered me deeply and I struggled to fit in, feeling like an alien visiting from another planet. Even when I pretended not to care, deep down, I felt fundamentally flawed and desperately yearned to be just like everyone else. To belong. To be accepted.
And most of all, to not feel so damn much.
- walked around carefree, not noticing other people, I saw the hunched old lady on the wooden bench across the street and her loneliness consumed me.
- were criticized and able to shrug it off, I winced and shrunk into a little ball to make myself as small as possible then spent days beating myself up for it.
- were going off to college, laying foundations for their bright new future as adults, I spent my 20s in a suffocating layer of deep, dark emotions, merely fighting to survive just one more day.
- could go to parties, mingle and have fun, I searched for a bathroom to hide in for 5 minutes so I could get away from the overstimulation of energy before I exploded.
- were talking about being their authentic selves, I yearned to know who that was and whether she really existed.
- were deepening their intimacy with their partners, I was running away from mine terrified to lose myself yet longing desperately for connection.
- were standing up for themselves, I couldn’t figure out how to form the word NO with my mouth and I let everyone else’s needs become more important than my own.
And then I discovered the term “empath” and I took to it like a starving baby to a lactating nipple. I devoured it, researched the sweet holy milk out of it. As if I had finally come home after a lifetime away, I realized:
I’m not an alien. I’m an empath!
If you’re a highly sensitive person and you can sense or absorb the energy and emotions of other people, animals or nature, you’re an empath.
I wrote this guide especially for you.
For the men and women who feel so deeply their souls ache.
For the lonely ones who’ve felt alienated their entire lives because they’re “too sensitive” or labeled “antisocial” because they feel everyone and everything around them and find their quiet reprieve in solitude.
For the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, lovers who yearn so desperately to connect in a deep, meaningful way with their loved ones, but are afraid of losing themselves in the intimacy.
I spent crazy hours researching, trying to figure out how to give you the best value in this guide, not just to motivate you for 5 minutes, but to give you tools and information you can use TODAY to not only cope with people you might run into in the next few hours but to start transforming your life in a powerful, lasting way.
I started with my clients and incorporated some of their early challenges as a sensitive person. Then I talked to experts, friends and online communities to give you links to other sites, articles, people and interviews that can be of benefit to you. I also reached out to my readers and asked them what they most want help with.
Here’s what they had to say:
I don't belong
I feel like an alien or some kind of freak. I just never fit in, like I don’t belong here.
I shrink away
How do I stand my ground when people criticize me and I just want to shrink away?
I get consumed
I get consumed by dark emotions and I’m depressed, even though things are going well in my life.
I feel too much
Sometimes I feel so much, I literally start shaking and can’t stop. It affects my whole body.
I feel anxious at parties or social gatherings. There’s too much stimulation and I have to hide in the bathroom to escape for a few minutes.
I get caught up in everyone’s emotions, it’s overwhelming and I don’t know what to do with it all. It makes me want to numb out.
I lose myself
It’s hard for me to be around people, even the ones I love, they suck my energy. How do I not lose myself with others, especially my partner?
I put up a force field
I’m tired of having to put a force field up to protect myself from everyone’s negative energy. I shouldn’t have to, should I?
If you’ve ever felt any of these and don’t know what to do about it, rest assured, this guide addresses all of them.
Before we dive in for our looooooong swim (I told you this guide is EPIC!), I’ve made it available free as a PDF that you can download, save or print to read later.
Image source: PaigeBradley.com, Expansion sculpture
In the beginning of this guide, you read about how I used to fear anger, winced in the face of criticism and spent hours every morning putting on my mental armor to protect myself from others’ emotions and energy. I touched on how I felt before I understood my power as an empath. I didn’t know it was a gift, and like many of you, truly believed it was a curse. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was defective or deficient in some way. I didn’t know my power. The difference between standing in the power of your sensitivity and feeling as though it’s a curse can be illustrated in how I used to react to anger and how I act now when someone around me is angry.
On a monthly basis, he would erupt in anger at some poor unsuspecting worker, yelling and cursing, slamming office doors and throwing paper, staplers and anything within arms reach.
I was never a direct target of one of his tirades, but it would send me ducking into my office, afraid to come out for hours. His screams would reverberate through the walls, suffocating me, as if they squeezed out the air in the building. Usually I sensed it coming even though our offices were on opposite ends of the hall and he was nowhere near me. I was hyper alert to his moods and knew something was about to blow when my chest started getting heavy suddenly for no reason. I’d be sitting at my desk alone, focusing on a project, and then suddenly my Spider-Sense would tingle. But unlike Spider Man’s precognitive ability to sense danger by a tingling feeling at the base of his skull, my Spider-Sense originates in either my chest or my gut, depending on the emotion (or type of danger). For anger, as in this case, my breathing would become stifled and it felt like someone was pressing in on my chest.
Seconds later, the yelling would start from somewhere in the building.
I’m sure it was unpleasant for everyone else, but for me, I not only felt his rage rising up in me, I also felt my body uncontrollably reacting to it as if it were some war-chemical released into the air and I was the only one left without a gas mask. Because of my high sensitivity, his outbursts turned me into a shivering bundle of emotions that took hours, even days, to release.
Compare that to the hunched old lady at the Sears counter a few months ago who was livid because the dressing rooms weren’t clean enough for her.
The manager was standing behind the counter, apologizing profusely, and the clerk next to him, sullen and quiet, looked like she’d just been reamed a new you-know-what by the old lady before undoubtedly demanding to see the manager.
As I walked closer, I immediately started consciously feeling my feet (see technique 1) as they took one step after another. I pressed them down harder than usual as they hit the floor and pushed off harder than usual as they left the floor, one by one. By the time I reached the counter, I was grounded in my own strength and calm.
I felt the clerk’s demoralized energy, the manager’s frustration and the old lady’s rage, but I didn’t get lost in any of them. I remained rooted in my own energy and reminded myself that the power of the earth supported me through my feet.
As with most of us, my automatic reaction in a situation like this is to side with the apparent victim, the one being attacked, whether verbally or physically. But instead of choosing sides, I chose love. Instead of getting caught up in their stories and judging the attacker, I put my hand softly on the old lady’s shoulder and asked her if everything was OK. She turned, surprised, and reactively started yelling toward me about how the bathrooms were so filthy, she couldn’t try anything on.
Because I was a neutral third party, neither a member of the establishment that allowed such an atrocity nor someone who was willing to join her complaint party, I introduced a sense of balance to the duel and a third, more calm energy. I didn’t try to explain the store’s point of view or fight back against her in any way, I simply listened to her, without judgment, as she expressed her opinion. I became curious and genuinely wondered what kind of life she was living outside of that moment.
As she yelled, I had a vision of my cranky old Nana, now dead, in the last year of her life. She knew she was close to death and fought against it with every ounce of energy she had. I saw that the knowledge of certain death looming over you at any given moment could certainly be a sure buzzkill to your happiness. I felt the fear in the old woman, the uncertainty and helplessness of impending death, and I embraced her energetically and said silently in my heart, “Everything’s OK.”
On the surface, if anyone were to walk by, they’d see nothing more than an angry old lady complaining to a shopper and yelling at the store manager. Underneath the surface, another scenario was taking place. One soul was comforting another, allowing it the respect and peace it needed to get through the rest of its limited days on earth.
Whether the old lady consciously knew what transpired underneath the surface or not, she felt the shift. The angry opaque filter vanished from her eyes, revealing beautiful blue clarity. The hunch in her back straightened a bit and she stood taller. As if she had just woken up from a spell in which she was not aware, she apologized to the manager and store clerk for her outburst.
Her angry persona shifted to a calmer, more positive state in a matter of minutes. And it’s not just the old lady who shifted, the store manager and clerk were left without yet another irate customer story of the day that ends in feeling dehumanized. The clerk mouthed “thank you” to me as I walked away, her eyes tearing.
This is the power of an empath.
When we can be fully present in the face of fear and stand in our strength, we have the ability to transmute other people’s dark emotions (and our own at the same time) and transform them into something more calm, light and positive.
We often do this without them even knowing. And many times, without us even knowing.
I’m no longer scared to be present in the face of other people’s overbearing or overpowering energy and emotion. In fact, it’s the lack of presence that allows me to be consumed by them. In the presence of mindful awareness, using the tools I outline in this guide, I’m able to step out into the world confidently, knowing that I can handle anyone or anything that comes my way. And even better, I have the ability to help others move through their pain while remaining grounded in the strength of who I am.
If we can do this for people we don’t know and only run into once in our lives, imagine how we can benefit those we love, live with and interact with on a daily basis. We can help the nearest and dearest to us when they’re going through hard times, simply by our mindful empathy.
This is the power of an empath.
Dr. Kelly Flanagan, a clinical psychologist and writer, in his article The 5 Empathy Fails in Marriage, says:
“Empathy is the foundation of any authentic connection. It’s the bedrock of togetherness, the fuel of compassion, and the mortar of grace. We must hone our ability to feel it and to give it.”
We empaths have inherently within us the foundation of authentic connection. We don’t even have to try to hone our ability to feel it or give it. We were born with this ability but we have been resisting it, pushing it away, hating it, trying to be different, to toughen up, to block it out. It’s time for us to step up into our power, stop shrinking away from life.
This is the calling you feel so deeply in your soul.
This is the reason you feel so much pain.
You feel so much because you ARE so much.
It’s time for you to truly know it.
This is the power of YOU!
In my early research of empaths, I took every empath test, quiz and survey I could find to figure out if I was one. Some were dead on, some weren’t. Some talked about certain nebula galaxies a trillion light years away where we come from (maybe those are alien empaths) and some were pretty down to earth.
The American Psychological Association has an HSP scale for psychologists, scientists and researchers to measure a person’s sensitivity level. You can access the scale and the questionnaire here as a self-exploratory tool to get a better idea of your own sensitivity range, but if you’re looking for a professional diagnosis, my advice would be to speak to a professional who is familiar with and works closely with the High Sensitivity trait.
Here’s a site where you can search by state or country for an HSP knowledgeable licensed therapist and counselor near you.
As I dug into being an empath, I started to feel boxed in, as if I was digging a hole to throw myself into. I felt constricted down to a single word that wanted to define and describe everything about me. But I felt so much more than that.
So I wrote this article on elephant journal about getting lost in the label and I created a simple, quick 2 question punch to see if you’re an empath or have empath tendencies.
1) Do you feel almost everything deeply?
2) Do you sense or absorb other people’s emotions/energy, or that of animals and nature?
If you answered yes to both questions, whether you want to label yourself an empath or not, this guide can help you learn to manage your deep feelings and emotions so you can be around people and not get overwhelmed and lost in their energy.
I use the terms empath, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and deep feeler interchangeably in my work. Part of the reason is because I identify as all of them, along with other labels, such as Intuitive, Sensitive, etc. But my articles would become quite difficult to read if I listed all of these every time I referenced the group as a whole. Click here to read about the fundamental difference between an HSP and an empath.
“I hated labels anyway. People didn’t fit in slots–prostitute, housewife, saint–like sorting the mail. We were so mutable, fluid with fear and desire, ideals and angles, changeable as water.” ― Janet Fitch, White Oleander
Dr. Elaine Aron from the Foundation for the Study of Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP’s) estimates that 15-20% of earth’s population is Highly Sensitive, a distinct personality trait that affects as many as one out of every five people. According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.
She began her research study of the trait of high sensitivity in 1991 and wrote the best selling book “The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You”. I think her book is required reading for anyone who’s felt like I described in my opening section above, and also for anyone who’s a parent to a sensitive child. According to Dr. Aron, the traits are genetic. An HSP is hard-wired to feel deeply. It’s a neurological trait, not a choice.
To read more about the science behind feeling deeply, see Dr. Aron’s work here.
In June 2014, the scientific journal, Brain and Behavior, published an article called “The Highly Sensitive Brain: An fMRI Study of Sensory Processing Sensitivity and Response to Others’ Emotions.” Their research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Brain Imaging Center.
A group of scientists at the University of California, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Monmouth University used Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to compare the brains of HSP’s and non-HSP’s and concluded with documented, physical evidence that the “highly sensitive” brain responds powerfully to emotional images. The results are fascinating and I highly recommend reading through it.
I’ve also included part of the article here with the opening summary. You can access the entire article by clicking on the image to the left.
If you’re really scientifically inclined, here’s another article based on the work of Robert Eres from the University’s School of Psychological Sciences, that proves correlations between grey matter density and cognitive and affective empathy.
The study was published in May 2015 in the science journal, NeuroImage.
Too much information to digest? Save this entire guide free as a PDF and read it later.
So you’re an empath, an HSP, a deep feeler, an “insert-your-own-label”.
The bottom line is: you’re sensitive.
Emotions run deep in your soul, and often, to the point of overwhelm. Usually, they’re not even your own but your empathic nature absorbs other people’s energy like a sponge, leaving you depleted to the point of collapsing on your bed at the end of the day and crying into your pillow.
It can be a big, scary world out there if you don’t know how to manage those constantly fluctuating emotions.
Before I came to understand that my highly sensitive nature is a gift, not a curse, I found some tools that helped me maneuver my way through the waves of emotions swelling around me.
I hope you find them just as useful.
Try any one of these or a combination of them next time you find yourself in a situation that’s about to sweep you away.
Technique 1: Feel your Feet
Photo Credit: adwriter via Compfight
Plant both feet on the ground. Barefoot, if you can. Wiggle your toes, press your feet down into the earth as if you’re trying to push through. This creates a psychological feeling of being grounded. When you’re in the middle of someone’s angry outburst and you can’t walk away, it anchors you into the earth and acts as a reminder that you have the power of the earth supporting you so that you don’t get carried away in their emotion. Remind yourself that the earth is stronger than any human emotion. Your attention may be on the person in your face, but your focused awareness is on the strength rising up from the earth into your feet.
If you’re walking toward an emotionally overbearing person or situation, become acutely aware of each step. As your foot hits the ground, press in harder than usual. Your feet will feel heavier, as if someone wrapped a weight around your ankles. By focusing on your feet, you lessen the importance of the other energy and strengthen your own.
Technique 2: Touch your Tips
Image source: Wikipedia
Touch the tips of your fingers to themselves or physically touch any object. Some people call this a touchstone or a talisman. It could be a gemstone, a crystal, a coin, a piece of jewelry, anything that you can carry with or on you. I touch the tips of my fingers together because I’m not always wearing clothes with pockets or carrying a purse. My fingertips will always be there (hopefully). When I touch my fingertips, I mentally say “these are my fingers, I’m touching them. No one else. I’m real. My fingers.” It sounds glaringly obvious but it reminds me that I’m in control. Often we don’t feel real because someone else’s emotion has taken over ours and we’ve lost ourselves in them. We can’t tell the difference between whether it’s their emotion we’re feeling or ours. Touching your touchstone object or your fingertips puts you back in control, reminds you that you are you and the world or whoever is in front of you is not.
The image above is a common hand gesture in Buddhism and Hinduism, called the “mudra of knowledge”. Mudras are gestures that in Sanskrit literally mean “seal”. When I make a hand gesture, or simply touch my fingertips together, I’m envisioning “sealing” myself to higher awareness, to the truth of who I am. For more about mudras and the various gestures and their meaning, visit this website.
Technique 3: Exercise your Emotions
Move your body. Do jumping jacks, yoga, run, kickbox. Anything that gets your body moving and your blood pumping. Emotions are nothing more than energy. For those of us who feel so deeply, it affects our bodies in stronger ways. We may start shaking when we’re scared, anxious or upset. Sometimes there’s so much energy (emotion) running through us, our bodies don’t know what to do, so it shakes, trembles or cries. It’s the body’s way of releasing the energy. Help your body out by exercising when you feel strong emotion. It could be something as simple as 10 seconds of jumping up and down in one place, or as intensive as a complete hour long workout. When you move your body on purpose, you give the energy a conduit through which to release itself freely.
I have a heavy bag in my garage and when I’m feeling too much, or even sometimes too little, I put on the boxing gloves, blast the classic rock and go to town on the bag. No mercy. I always feel intensely better, lighter and free after.
Technique 4: Flow your Feelings
Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. Most of us have learned to build a protective invisible shield around us. We visualize a bubble of white light surrounding us or we’ve learned to toughen up by creating a hard shell so that nothing can penetrate us. This may have been necessary when we didn’t know our own strength, but as we come to recognize our sensitive traits as gifts, we learn to let go of this shield. We learn to embrace our emotions and instead of resisting, pushing against and firing at them with invisible mind missiles, we welcome them and let them flow through us.
The next time you feel a wave of powerful emotion come at you, take a deep breath, close your eyes and let it flow through you. Think of yourself as a portal or a channel through which energy flows. If there’s no resistance, the emotion flows freely, unobstructed, and will wash over you and be gone in minutes, even seconds. Don’t think about the emotion, don’t dissect, analyze, judge or criticize it. Just let it flow.
Technique 5: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), aka Tapping
Here’s an exclusive interview with Jade Le from www.JadeInspiration.com. Jade is a certified EFT practitioner and Reiki energy healer. We recorded this specifically for this guide, to offer insight into Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as Tapping.
In this video, you’ll learn:
- What EFT is (3:53)
- Why it’s difficult sometimes to be in relationships with others (7:19)
- How EFT can help if you have bad memories from the past, like being attacked by a dog (7:50)
- How positive thinking can work against you and block emotional release (9:00)
- One quick exercise to do in a moment of stress such as when you’re nervous at a party, about to give a speech or going on a first date (9:25)
- How EFT can help even if you feel too much and don’t want to feel anymore (12:50)
- How to deal with having dark thoughts about others when you’re supposed to be spiritual and all loving (20:26) (OK, so I did admit to having homicidal tendencies, but the important thing is I didn’t act on them!)
- A mini-tapping session with exact scripts and tapping points that you can do when dealing with an angry spouse or partner (29:00)
Technique 6: Observe Your Emotions
This is an excerpt taken from one of my favorite books, The Power of Now, by one of my favorite authors, Eckhart Tolle.
“Conflict between surface thoughts and unconscious mental processes is certainly common. You may not yet be able to bring your unconscious mind activity into awareness as thoughts, but it will always be reflected in the body as an emotion, and of this you can become aware. To watch an emotion in this way is basically the same as listening to or watching a thought… The only difference is that, while a thought is in your head, an emotion has a strong physical component and so is primarily felt in the body. You can then allow the emotion to be there without being controlled by it. You no longer are the emotion; you are the watcher, the observing presence. If you practice this, all that is unconscious in you will be brought into the light of consciousness.
Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment?
That question will point you in the right direction. But don’t analyze, just watch. Focus your attention within. Feel the energy of the emotion. If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body. It is the doorway into Being.
An emotion usually represents an amplified and energized thought pattern, and because of its often overpowering energetic charge, it is not easy initially to stay present enough to be able to watch it. It wants to take you over, and it usually succeeds – unless there is enough presence in you. If you are pulled into unconscious identification with the emotion through lack of presence, which is normal, the emotion temporarily becomes “you.” Often a vicious circle builds up between your thinking and the emotion: they feed each other. The thought pattern creates a magnified reflection of itself in the form of an emotion, and the vibrational frequency of the emotion keeps feeding the original thought pattern. By dwelling mentally on the situation, event, or person that is the perceived cause of the emotion, the thought feeds energy to the emotion, which in turn energizes the thought pattern, and so on.”
Practice looking inside yourself without judgment. In the same way that we can learn to watch our thoughts without getting caught up in them, we can learn to watch our emotions too.
Technique 7: Be a Cry Baby
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Go ahead, be a cry baby. It’s OK. If you’re anything like me (and if you’re still reading, you probably are), you cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m moved, when I’m still. Sometimes I feel like my tears are just waiting on the edge of my tear ducts for something, anything to give them just the slightest gentle nudge they need to burst forth through the surface and flow freely.
Crying is your body’s way of releasing emotion. I love crying, whether it’s sad or happy tears. I love the feeling of release and flow. I honestly don’t understand people who don’t cry. I can watch a 2 second clip of an abused or neglected dog and cry for 5 minutes. My boyfriend watches the same clip, shakes his head in a brief moment of disdain and keeps scrolling down his Facebook feed, not a second thought. That makes no sense to me.
I strongly endorse crying as a means to release energy from your body and your energetic field. Give yourself a crying session every once in a while. Don’t try to “suck it up”, as we’ve all been taught, instead let it flow. Listen to your body’s needs, if you feel like crying, cry.
In this article by Therese Borchard, The Healing Properties of Tears: 7 Good Reasons to Cry Your Eyes Out, Therese writes:
“Even if you haven’t just been through something traumatic or are severely depressed, the average Joe goes through his day accumulating conflicts and resentments. Sometimes they gather inside the limbic system of the brain and in certain corners of the heart. Crying is cathartic. It lets the devils out before they wreak all kind of havoc with the nervous and cardiovascular systems.”
Here’s a heartwarming, playful interchange between Eckhart Tolle and a questioner who asks “Do you cry? Is it normal to cry?” Eckhart talks about crying in movies, over the beauty of nature and over human suffering and also explains the difference between healthy crying and dysfunctional crying.
Get these 7 techniques as a stand-alone PDF plus exclusive bonus worksheets with exercises to help you dive deeper into each of them, and a powerful meditation technique to help you tune in to your body’s signals – FREE
Make Your Mornings Sacred
Since my dad died in early 2013, I’ve realized how short life really is. I know it’s cliche but until something devastating such as the sudden loss of a loved one happens, it’s one of those things that we know but we don’t really do anything about. We all know life is precious and fleeting, yet we live as though we’re immortal, wasting away our days sunk into the couch in front of the TV or working a meaningless, soul-sucking job for 40 years until we retire, putting off REAL living until we’re too old and frail to do anything.
I realized I had been living this kind of a denial life. Growing up, my dad always said he couldn’t wait until he retired so he can finally relax, enjoy life and do the things he always wanted to do. His dream was to visit Vietnam again, where he had once lived (and birthed 3 kids – me and my sisters). A few years after his retirement, leukemia grabbed him by the neck, slammed him against the wall and ended all his dreams. The Christmas before he died (and before any of us knew he was sick), we talked about going to Vietnam together in the new year. Three months later, I put some of his ashes in a brass container and flew back home, fatherless.
Since then, I’ve been waking up at 2:30am every morning. It’s been by far the most significant and wholly transforming shift I’ve ever made in my life. From 2:30 to 6:30am, I’m the happiest, most energetic and productive person in the world. From 6:30am until I go to sleep around 7:30pm, I’m sustained by this energy and everything I do is infused by the focus, clarity and energy I’ve harnessed in those few hours in the early morning.
I’m not saying you have to go radical G.I. Morning Jane like I did and wake up at 2:30 every morning (even I agree that’s crazy!), but the idea of waking up a little bit earlier and taking time for yourself before you start your day with your family, friends or outside world is crucial for an empath and highly sensitive person. It’s a non-negotiable necessity, like eating, sleeping and breathing.
This is your me time, it belongs to no one else but you. For me, I like to think my mornings belong to me and God together. This is our time to be together one on one. It’s sacred. It’s a priority. It’s the one time you can be alone in your own energy before the busy world wakes up. Meditate, journal, listen to relaxing music. Do whatever makes you peaceful and use it to get fully charged and ready to face the day ahead. Do not check emails, don’t turn on the TV, no social media. Do things that keep you internally focused, in your own head and heart space.
Take an exclusive look at the top 10 actions I take that ensure I remain centered and balanced the rest of the day.
Chris Winfield’s Ultimate Guide
Chris Winfield has an insanely long, thorough and free guide on his website called The Ultimate Guide to Creating the Perfect Morning Routine (Even if You’re Not a ‘Morning Person’). It’s stock full of tips, advice and links to other resources that can help you as you set out to change your morning routine. While going extreme and completely shifting my schedule around worked for me, Chris doesn’t recommend this all-or-nothing approach. He recommends taking it in much smaller doses and in a week’s chunk at a time by setting your alarm 15 or 30 minutes earlier every day next week to let your body slowly acclimate. The following week, set it for a larger amount of time and continue in this way until you reach your desired goal.
Entrepreneur.com has a cute infographic with tips on how to reclaim your morning starting from the night before. Click on the image below to see the full infographic.
Hal Elrod’s “The Miracle Morning”
After almost 2 years of waking up early, a friend raved about an amazing book that she’d just started and asked me for help in motivating her to get up early every morning.
The book was “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life” by Hal Elrod. Though I had already experienced first hand the incredible power of waking up early, I had to get it, and I still learned a ton from it.
“How you wake up each day and your morning routine (or lack thereof) dramatically affects your levels of success in every single area of your life. Focused, productive, successful mornings generate focused, productive, successful days—which inevitably create a successful life—in the same way that unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre mornings generate unfocused, unproductive, and mediocre days, and ultimately a mediocre quality of life. By simply changing the way you wake up in the morning, you can transform any area of your life, faster than you ever thought possible.” – Hal Elrod
You can get two free chapters here.
Mama Gena’s 6 morning practices for exquisite self-care
If you have not heard of Mama Gena, OH TO THE EM TO THE GEE, go to her website NOW! Ok wait, finish reading this guide first. And then go! I love everything about her.
“If we disregard the sacred within us, we cannot connect to our ability to turn on. And when we are not turned on, we are not connected to our life force. And if we are not connected to our life force, we are not moving from our sacred center, not experiencing the essential raw goodness of life, and not owning our power. And if we are not standing in our power, we perpetuate the sense of ourselves as victim, rather than the heroine of our lives. Self-care is a pathway to power – unimaginable power.”
Mama Gena said the above in her article about nurturing herself every morning. She has 6 practices she does every morning when she wakes up, you can read about them here.
I write this next section fully aware that after you read it, you’ll probably think I’m officially crazy and will leave this site never to come back again. I also write this in full awareness that there may be trolls, negative comments and others out there ready to burn me at the stake.
But I write it anyway.
I absorb a little courage nudge from the words of another one of my favorite authors, Brené Brown:
“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
“I see you; I hear you, but I’m showing up anyway.”
Why is this my “secret” weapon? First, because I’ve never shared it with anyone. Those who are close to me have an idea, but I’ve never talked about it in depth like I’m about to with you, right now. I’ll share the second reason at the end of this section.
But for now, I’d like to introduce you to my #1 secret weapon. Actually, you’ve already met her. She’s all over these pages and her name is Happy Stick Girl.
Before you think I’m crazy (too late, isn’t it?), let me explain.
Empaths naturally have wild imaginations. We often have vivid, lucid and intensely detailed and emotionally charged dreams. Many empaths visit other ethereal worlds, see spirits and angels, have imaginary friends or sense other entities around us. Some even communicate with and see dead people.
I don’t see dead people, but I see Stick Girl.
She’s with me always and in all ways.
By that, I mean, she’s here for me 100%.
When I was 5, my dad and I got into a fight (little did I know our battles would be ongoing for nearly 3 decades until he died). He told me if I didn’t want to live by his rules, I could leave. So I did. I packed a pair of pants and 2 little shirts in my mom’s lime green 70’s suitcase and I dragged it outside to the end of the dirt driveway.
We lived with my grandmother in a 1,000 square foot house in the forest in Falmouth, Maine, miles from any populated urban areas.
My favorite memories of Nana’s house consisted of getting lost in the woods for hours, exploring, meeting and talking to the abundant life in the forest. To this day, I feel most at home when I’m surrounded by trees. Put me in the middle of a forest and I may not know the technical skills to survive, but I’d feel safe and protected. There’s something about the presence of the trees, the feel of the leaves and dirt underneath my bare feet, the bird songs, the critters and the sound of random crackling of twigs and rustling of the leaves. Especially after the rain when there’s a layer of mist blanketing the leaves, the trees, the ground, and even the air. Sheer Heaven.
Deep connection with nature is another Empath trait.
I stood at the side of the road, waiting for someone to drive by and rescue me. My grandmother, mom and dad watched me from the kitchen window, shocked but curious about what I was going to do. My 2 sisters were crying, screaming that they’d never see me again.
I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, I just knew I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to live by my dad’s rules. I felt alone and scared.
I looked down and saw Stick Girl sitting on top of the suitcase next to me. She was looking left and right, humming and swinging her calves and heels against the suitcase to the beat of her own inner music as she waited right alongside me watching the lonely long stretch of black tar disappearing in the woods in both directions on Hardy Road.
Suddenly I felt not so alone.
I don’t remember what happened next, my mom says she came out and got me, my dad says he did. All I remember clearly about that day is Stick Girl and how her presence comforted me.
She didn’t judge me, she didn’t tell me to go back in, she didn’t say anything, she was just there. I was too young to recognize this then, but the fact that she was with me and willing to go with me, even if it was a dumb idea, made me feel that I would never be alone.
Here’s a photo of me as a kid (bottom) with my sisters and Stick Girl. See, this proves she’s real, doesn’t it?
As I grew up, there was a long stretch of time that I forgot about Stick Girl, especially when I was going through my depression. I would draw her every now and then throughout the years but I didn’t bond with her the way I did when I was a kid. She was no longer real to me. As a responsible, rational adult who knew the difference between real and imaginary, I placed her in that “imaginary friend” phase of my life and I didn’t think much of her other than she was just a character I liked to draw.
But she emerged again for me when my dad died of leukemia in 2013 and I was going through a painful post-breakup with my ex-boyfriend at the same time. In a matter of months, I had lost my dad, my boyfriend, our home, our business and the life we had built together for the past 5 years. I also lost the dream of our future together and any hope of having children. I was 40.
Perhaps because I was completely drained emotionally, physically and mentally and my defenses were down, I started seeing her again.
While my ex and I were sorting out our finances and figuring out what to do with our house, I moved into our guest bedroom, which was next to our master bedroom where I used to sleep and where his new girlfriend was now sleeping. Many nights, as I would cry into my pillow because I could hear my ex and his new girlfriend moaning through the wall as they had sex, Stick Girl was there, her face softly pressed against my cheek, quietly sending me her healing energy.
We became friends again, and this time I accepted her fully into my life as I once had when I was a child. I don’t care much anymore that people think it’s silly I have an imaginary Stick Girl friend. And more importantly, I don’t care that sometimes even I think it’s silly and wonder if maybe I really am crazy.
But here is what Stick Girl does for me, and she can do this for you too, if you’re silly and crazy enough to invite her into your life.
She’s ALWAYS here, no matter what I’m going through, she’s with me, right beside me, ready to offer a gentle pat on the hand, a kiss on the cheek, a leaning in of her head to rest on mine. She doesn’t judge, she doesn’t criticize, she doesn’t tell me I’m too sensitive. There is nothing I can ever do that is wrong for her. She won’t leave me, she won’t forsake me, she won’t ever be angry or disappointed with me. She’s here when I’m happy, she’s here when I’m sad.
In fact, she happily takes the emotions I don’t want to deal with and transmutes them.
She’s an energy absorber and transmuter.
When I was overwhelmed by grief, guilt and shame after my dad died, she took some of the pain off my chest. We both knew I had to experience it as part of the healing process, so she took only some of it when it started to consume me. She lightened my load, she didn’t carry it for me.
In a similar way that I absorb the energy of people around me, she absorbs my energy. She’s a true empath. And she teaches me how to be a better empath and how to better manage energy.
The difference between us (aside from the minor fact that I’m a human being and she’s a stick figure) is that I’m still affected by negative emotional energy and she isn’t. The only energy she knows is joy. Anything else is simply transmuted and dissolved into nothingness or transformed into joy.
When I hand over my sorrow to her, she doesn’t become sorrow, she takes it and turns it into joy. The same with any emotions I’m not wanting to process in any given moment.
Sometimes she’ll hold on to an emotion for me until I can adequately deal with it. For example, I got mad at someone I work with recently but we had a tight deadline for a project and there was no room for hurt feelings, resentment or confrontation. I needed to focus on the task at hand and concentrate, so I handed my anger to Stick Girl and asked her to hold onto it for me until I finished the project. She took it happily and put it in her pocket for safe keeping. After the project was completed, she handed it back to me and I could then process it in a healthy, releasing way without the pressure of a deadline looming over me, adding anxiety to the fire.
I mentioned earlier that there’s a second reason she’s a “secret”. It’s because she can help you even if you don’t know about the story I just told you.
I’ve had TreeDoodles up on my site for almost 2 years (I started it shortly after my dad died and after I moved into my own place after the breakup). I’ve never shared my story about my friendship with Stick Girl anywhere on the site or with anyone, other than what you just read above. Everyone who initially lands on my art thinks they’re just cute, silly drawings of stick figures with inspirational sayings.
But after a while, for many, something shifts.
Take a look at some of the messages I’ve received from people who have visited my site but did not know my Stick Girl story.
I love your stick girl sayings. She kept me motivated and comforted during a few very bad months personally. I’m in a new path and feeling better.
My husband yelled at me last night and I got so mad. I stewed in it for hours by myself after he left and couldn’t let it go no matter what I tried I kept thinking about it over in my head I was obsessed. Then Stick Girl smacked me! Yes I actually felt something hit my face! It didn’t hurt but when I looked over I actually saw your Stick Girl in the pink dress on my shoulder. She was rolling on her back laughing and pointing at me! It was the weirdest thing but suddenly I wasn’t so mad anymore and I forgot why my husband had even yelled at me isn’t that the strangest thing you ever heard?
Stick Girl makes me so happy. I feel like the world is in order when I look at her. She brings peace to my soul.
I was driving home one day, overwhelmed by everything I had to do. I was hungry and grumpy and just all around in a rotten mood. Then I saw a little mini Stick Girl running at full speed back and forth on my dash, laughing and acting goofy. It was just the way you draw her! And I couldn’t help but laugh. She made me so happy instantly!
Just thinking about stick girl and looking at your tree doodles instantly put me at ease. sometimes I feel like she jumps out of the screen at me and wants to pull me in.
Do you see the common themes?
- They all write as though she’s real, as though she is a “she” and not an “it” or merely “a drawing”.
- She’s actually seen by some, in a very real way (not on screen or on paper), as though she’s physically in front of them.
- She lightens their load, transmutes their emotional energy and shifts it into joy.
None of these people or the tons of others who have emailed me knew anything about my Stick Girl story or how she helps absorb and shift my energy. But they have all experienced for themselves first hand the benefits of knowing of her.
In this way, she’s able to do her work secretly in the background of their awareness. And that’s why I call her my #1 secret weapon.
This invitation is open to anyone who’s crazy enough to accept. As empaths, we’re pretty used to being called crazy anyway. Don’t worry, you can’t give her too much to handle, she’s backed by the power of our loving empathic energy and there are no limits. You cannot hurt her no matter what you do and any dark emotions you give her is not felt by her in the way they are by us.
Sometimes I feel bad that I’m unloading all this hurt on her and she looks up and smiles at me with her big stick grin and I remember again that she’s incapable of being hurt and she’s here to help.
She’s an energy worker and her payment is your joy.
Let’s give her a raise by increasing our joy.
If you’re still reading this (wow, I’m impressed!), chances are you’re struggling on some level to survive in this world with your sensitive nature. Life can be incredibly cruel and harsh. And it can be amazingly beautiful and pure. I wanted to write this survival guide to help you cope with life, to help you tap into that place within you that’s peaceful, strong, calm and empowered.
Believe it or not, this is only the beginning.
There’s a life waiting for you beyond survival.
It’s beyond merely coping.
It’s beyond stress, overwhelm and anxiety avoidance.
It’s beyond invisible shields and finding new ways to protect yourself.
It’s beyond grasping for tools, tips and tactics about how to survive when you’re a deep feeler.
This life is a THRIVING life.
I know it’s hard to imagine yourself thriving with this sensitive curse of yours. But I know deep down, there’s a part of you that knows – or wants desperately to know – that your sensitivity is an amazing gift, not only to you, but also your loved ones and those around you. To your husband, children, parents, brothers, sisters, co-workers, friends and even the cashier at the local grocery store who felt just a little happier for no apparent reason when she rang up your groceries.
You have no idea the powerful impact you have and can have on others and this world.
Let me show you a glimpse with my personal stories below.
Imagine being fully 100% present and available for your family and loved ones when they’re suffering.
Instead of taking on their suffering, you stand beside them as a beacon of light and hope. Instead of being overwhelmed by their pain or losing yourself in your own, you lift them up, support them when they’re too frail to stand on their own, emotionally, spiritually or physically.
Though he could barely talk, he told me he was terrified of dying. I sat with him, held his hand and opened the space for peace to flow. I put my own suffering aside and became completely present for him. He had given up on God decades ago and had no idea what was in store for him once he passed on. He was afraid of the ultimate unknown and was having terrifying hallucinations, slipping in and out of them while we talked. Would God be angry at him? Is there a God? Does heaven exist or does everything just go black for eternity?
I didn’t have answers to his questions, but more important than answers, he needed comfort. I held his hand and listened as he slurred his concerns. I absorbed his pain but didn’t take it in as my own, I took it in and transmuted it to peace. In return for him sharing his pain with me, I gave him peace.
My dad died a few nights later, peacefully in his sleep.
Imagine knowing exactly what to do and say to a perfect stranger in need, without even knowing his or her struggles.
Empaths are compassionate, empathetic beings. We truly care about people. We can sense someone else’s pain even though we know nothing about them. The old lady crossing the street or the middle age man in line in front of you at Starbucks… if they’re feeling something, like loneliness, for example, chances are good that so do you. You can feel their pain. Imagine being able to lighten their load, even if just a little, in a matter of minutes.
So I asked him about his wife. She had passed away less than a year ago. They had been together for 65 years and she was the love of his life. She had cancer and he watched her wither away the last year of her life until death mercifully took her pain away but also mercilessly took her away from him.
He cried as he told me the story. A man who once fought in two wars, crying, in the middle of a surgical eye center’s waiting room, to a perfect stranger. I deliberately took his pain in and transformed it to hope. In the moment I breathed out, he paused for a second, as if contemplating whether he should say what he was about to say. Then, he looked at me with vulnerable eyes begging not to be judged and said, “do you believe in angels?” Absolutely, I affirmed, giving him permission to continue without fear of what I’d think of whatever he was about to share next.
Then he told me the story of how he prayed one night that his wife was still with him, watching over him. He didn’t believe in angels but he was desperate, he said. The next morning he woke up to the most delicious smell of baked bread wafting through his home. He described it as heavenly and pure. It gave him a feeling of being loved and comforted. He said his wife used to bake bread for him and he felt this was her way of telling him she’s still around. A day later, he found out that the previous day was Feast of the Guardian Angels day.
Imagine using your sensitivity to build a deep, intimate relationship with your partner that supports and uplifts both of you.
One of the deepest desires of a highly sensitive person is to be in a deeply intimate and connected relationship with someone who loves them unconditionally. It’s also one of our scariest desires. We say we desperately want someone to see us, to truly see us for who we are, but the moment our partner gazes into us, beyond the first few layers, we shrink a little and hide. We feel vulnerable, raw, exposed. We push and pull, give and take, open and close. And we often end up in relationships feeling more alone than we felt when we were single. Imagine being in a relationship with someone who knows you so well, little upsets and ego bruises heal within seconds, because you know that love is the divine order of the relationship and everything else takes a back burner.
He’d bought me a beautiful dress earlier that day, came home and surprised me with it. No one can buy me clothes. Like many empaths, I’m picky with how things feel on my body, the texture, the pattern, the fit, and more importantly, how I feel inside when I put it on. Has to be perfect or it’s going in the back of the closet to live eternally on a hanger until I get over the guilt of getting rid of a gift someone gave me.
But this dress is perfect. If you could take everything about me and turn it into a dress, this would be it. I don’t know how else to explain it than it’s me. I AM that dress. He hadn’t been out looking for a gift for me, in fact, he was on his way up north to go fishing. As he reached the midway point, the intersection in Mojave with the last gas station before a long stretch of desert, his eye caught a glimpse of something red swaying in the wind. It was me, in dress form.
He said the moment he saw it, he had to stop and get it for me. I don’t care that it’s a dress bought off a mobile rack from some third world street entrepreneur in the parking lot of the last gas station in the Mojave desert. I don’t care if it cost $20 or $200. What matters is that he recognized me, hanging there, dancing in the wind, beckoning him toward me. And he actually listened and pulled over.
Hearing his comment, I feel an immediate mild defensiveness poke my gut from inside. It’s an automatic monkey mind reaction, from decades of people criticizing me for being too sensitive. I touch the tips of my fingers and feel the soft fabric of the dress caressing my thigh. It reminds me who I am and who he is.
He loves me, I know this. The only person who’s ever found a materialized dress version of me – and knows me well enough to recognize it – deserves better than a defensive response. I let go of the defensiveness and reply playfully, “Tell me something I haven’t heard 3,600,743 times before.”
Willing to play, he thinks for a moment, then he floors me again for the second time that day.
“You disenrage me.”
“What? I disengage you?” I’m surprised. I used to disengage from people all the time. It was my default defense mechanism when I felt emotions starting to overwhelm me. I didn’t know what to do with them so I shut down, disengaged before I spontaneously combusted. But I had made a commitment to myself not to do that anymore. Especially with people I love. I catch myself sometimes starting to disengage and I force myself to stay, to remain present and face the moment rather than retreat in my own little mental world. I was surprised to hear him say that, I’d been doing amazingly well, I thought.
“No. Not disengage. DisENRAGE.”
Whoa. Now that’s something I’ve never heard before. Tell me I’m too soft, I cry too easily, I need to toughen up, and I’ve heard it all before a bajillion times. Tell me I disenrage you and now you’ve earned my attention. Now I’m completely engaged in what you have to say.
My boyfriend is of the traditional uber masculine men-don’t-cry mindset. He claims to have no feelings, though I, and every empath who’s ever heard a person say that, know it’s not true. We know because we can feel their emotions even when they can’t.
His default go-to emotion is anger. It’s the way he expresses fear, hurt, shame, sorrow, and every other emotion on the darker end of the spectrum.
I ask him to explain what he means but he can’t. He tries, says I calm him. He can’t vocalize why or how, he just knows he feels calmer around me. I balance him, he says, his anger dissolves somehow when we’re together. But he doesn’t know why.
I enjoy watching him squirm as he struggles to find the right words. I marinate in it for a bit longer, this intimate feeling of knowing what he means without having to use words. I don’t need the words to explain, I already know.
Finally, I let him off the hook.
I wink and tell him it’s because I’m too sensitive.
He looks at me, with that look… the one that says “what do you know, I have feelings after all,” reaches for my hand and we remain silent the rest of the ride home. Our hearts have expanded and there’s no more room for words.
This is the power of being too sensitive.
It’s time to embrace your sensitivity and make those above examples your reality.
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