Self-Protection for Empaths to Fend Off Toxic Stress

Dr. Judith Orloff discusses basic strategies for empaths and anyone else with low energy in her new book.



Empaths are emotional sponges that absorb other people’s stress into their own bodies, which can be exhausting. Here are some basic strategies that work for them or anyone else battling low energy.

Ask, “Is this symptom or emotion mine or someone else’s?” A tipoff that we’re absorbing someone’s energy is to notice if we experience a sudden change of mood or physical state when we’re around them. If we didn’t feel anxious, depressed, exhausted or sick before the encounter, the discomfort is at least partially coming from them. If we move away and the discomfort disappears, it is definitely not ours.

Breathe and repeat a mantra to counter negative energy. When negativity strikes, we can immediately focus on our breath for a few minutes. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, to expel the uncomfortable energy. Breathing circulates negativity out of the body. Repeat this mantra three times: “Return to sender.”

Step away from what’s disturbing us. Move at least 20 feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don’t worry about offending strangers. It’s fine to lovingly say, “No” to certain energies. Giving ourself permission to move is an act of self-care.

Limit physical contact; hugs are a choice. Energy transfers through the eyes and touch. If we’re uncomfortable with someone, limit eye contact and touch, including hugs and hand-holding.

Detox in water. A quick way to dissolve stress and empathic pains is immersion in water. Epsom salt baths provide calming magnesium.

Set limits and boundaries. To thrive, set limits with people. If someone is draining, don’t be a doormat. Control how much time is spent listening to a talker. “No” is a complete sentence. It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, I’m not up for going to a party tonight,” “Let’s discuss this when you’re calmer,” “I need to meditate and be quiet now,” or “I can’t talk more than a few minutes.”

Create alone time to regroup. Empaths need alone time to reconnect with their power. If we’ve picked up unwanted energy, take time alone to re-center. For a few minutes or more, quiet everything—no noise, bright lights, phone calls, texts, emails, Internet, TV or conversations. It’s a way of nurturing ourself and being our own best friend.

Spend time in nature and practice Earthing. Ways of Earthing include going barefoot or lying in a meadow to feel Earth’s power. To shed other people’s energy, feel the grass between bare toes or walk in sand or soil. Being in a fresh, clean, green environment or around waterways also clears negativity. Empaths love nature and feel at ease there.

Take breaks from being online. We all need regular time away from technology that inundates us with too much information. Online media that triggers emotions—such as social media and violent TV news reports—can impair our ability to fall asleep. It’s easy to pick up energy in the virtual world, so make sure to spend time in nature, meditating or participating in restorative off-line activities. A periodic total technology fast does wonders for well-being.

Regularly practicing these strategies replenishes our energies and we become less prone to being overwhelmed. It supports health and happiness so we can more fully enjoy the many gifts of empathy such as passion, creativity and experiencing the gift of giving and sharing love.

Adapted from The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, by Judith Orloff, to be released in Apr.

Dr. Judith Orloff is a psychiatrist, empath, author and member of the University of California-Los Angeles psychiatric clinical faculty. Her next local book signing is at 7 p.m. on May 6 at Changing Hands Bookstore, in Tempe. For more information and to sign up for her free Empath Support Newsletter, visit DrJudithOrloff.com.

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