I went into a store yesterday, just to pick up three things. I was in and out in less than ten minutes. But the whole time I was there, I felt that familiar empath irritation. Everything bugged. The guy who left his cart taking up the whole aisle. The woman who stood too close behind me in line. The clerk that coughed into his hand before offering me my receipt (I told him to toss it). I came out feeling that familiar dreaded empath exhaustion, wishing I hadn't bothered in the first place.
Thankfully, my next stop was The Buttered Tin to pick up my take-out lunch. My brother works there, so he filled me back up with a smile, a hug, and an extra side order of my favorite rum caramel sauce. As I drove home, I wondered how many other empaths are feeling it, this increased sense of irritation, exhaustion, lack of sleep, and overall general state of bugs.
When I got home, I consciously ate each bite of my tomato basil soup, affirming with each bite that this comfort food would do just that for me, comfort me of all the feels. And it did.
In the northern hemisphere, we have entered the darkest time of year. The days between Halloween and Christmas are the shortest and darkest. They bring with them all the shadows we can more easily ignore the rest of the year. Heck, on Halloween we celebrate those shadows and invite them out to play. Then, between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's things like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and suicide rates and other mental health issues surge. This year, the year of the COVID pandemic, is off the charts in terms of the shadows that have come out to play. Even the least empathic most un-feeling creatures on this planet are feeling all the feels of it this year.
As EMPATHS, our job is to feel and hold the feels for those who don't have the sensitivities we do. We are the emotional alchemists of the world, picking up energies like velcro, and churning them and turning them like compost, and exuding love, peace, compassion, kindness, and joy.
It ain't an easy task, especially this year. Just as our healthcare workers (who are all natural born empaths), we have been called up to the front lines in big ways this year. So this time of darkness is hitting us hard. Really hard. But wait, there's more.
The holidays ALWAYS bring with them the shadows. And this year, the shadows are bigger, meaner, darker, denser, heavier, and more ominous than we have ever seen before. While I do believe that we are in the last wave of the medical aspect of this pandemic, I also know that once we start emerging back into the light, after the winter solstice, after the New Year, after the inauguration, we will be facing another wave, a silent and insidious one. This last and final wave of the pandemic will endure for far longer than this corona virus because it will be entirely mental and emotional in nature. As we come out of the intense stress, and our bodies recover from a year of stress hormone imbalance, we will be facing a mental health pandemic in the form of hormone imbalances like we've never seen before.
As a result, we EMPATHS need to be prepared. We need to take this dark winter time to prepare, protect, preserve, and build up our reserves. As the rest of the world goes more into hiding and hibernation, we must too. BIG TIME. Because as the light starts to shine again, we need to be the ones in balance to bring the rest of the world to a new normal equilibrium of perspective, hope, faith, and persistence. Non-empaths will be experiencing feels like we feel them all the time. They have been for a year now, but come the dawning of the light, they will start to existentially want to understand it.
So this all seems dark and glib and scary and...WTF...HOW DO WE DO THIS?! I guarantee, we empaths are up for the task. Is it daunting? Damn right it is. Yet, this is what we have been training our entire lives for! This is our life's purpose! We have to step up, prepare, and usher this world towards the brighter new order! It's time for us to teach, to love, to share, and to heal this planet in all the big ways we have dreamed.
Right now, in this time of darkness, we need to honor our own darkness, face our own shadows, and remember they are our friends. Then, they will take off their hoods, and take our hands and help us drink the nourishment in the light. We know this. We do this all the time, for ourselves.
So how do we do this??
We need to amp up our practices, our disciplines, our self-care routines, our boundaries, and our faith and hope and strength.
Step One - Identify & Preserve Your BUBBLE
Who are those people you invite into your personal sacred space? I'm the people you would show up for if they got the 'rona. These are your flat-tire friends. The ones you would jolt out of bed at 2am in Minnesota sub-zero temps to go help them change a tire on the icy freeway. These are the people in your speed dial that you would call first if you were diagnosed with cancer. These are the people who FILL YOU UP, and you FILL THEM UP. I'm talking less than ten individuals, probably somewhere around five or six people. Be careful, as empaths, it is more than common for us to be a flat-tire friend for someone who wouldn't give us the same in return. You need these friends/chosen family members now more than ever. And they need you.
TASK - Call them up, tell them they are in your inner bubble (they will say they know). Take the time to tell them how you love them, how important they are to you, why you need them. This is key, GUSH at them. Let your tongue spill all that sticky sweet goodness all over them. They need it, and it will activate the juices in you that you will need in the coming weeks.
TASK - Make plans with them, regular consistent date plans where you connect with them at certain times throughout the coming weeks. Commit to each other. That may be in the form of weekly zoom calls, daily good morning texts, sit down meal-times. These times are your recharge, your re-fuel. You need them more often.
TASK - if these people are in your physical circle as well, people you have committed to touching through the pandemic, then HUG THEM and hug them often, and hug them longer. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Hug each other for more than 10 seconds at a time. Embrace them.
Step Two - Establish & Protect Your BOUNDARIES
Thinking in terms of the virus, what are your lines in the sand? What risks have you been taking? What risks do you want to stop taking? Now take some time to sit down with your bubble of peeps, and re-draw those lines.
Think of this not just as protecting your physical self from getting the big bad virus, but also as protecting your mental/emotional/spiritual self from falling victim to the next big wave, the mental health pandemic. As an empath, you know the ugliness of the depths of despair better than non-empaths. You know how hard it is to climb out of that locked dungeon. So this is the time you need to barricade everything that makes you tiptoe around the entrance.
TASK - Determine your time-limits. How much time are you comfortably able to expose yourself to the outside world, knowing that said outside world is full of empath feels...just like my ten minutes in the store yesterday. For me, ten minutes was manageable. Twenty would not have been. My time limit is 10-15 minutes. For now, during this darkness time, I will not go into public places for more than 10-15 minutes. For some of you, that may be not at all. For others, it may be more like 20-30 minutes. What you need to do is find that threshold, back it up a few notches, and be firm and disciplined about that line.
TASK - Determine your space-limits. Which spaces and places in your outside world are safe and which ones are not? For me, The Buttered Tin is safe because my brother is there, it's familiar to me in a happy hormone feeling kinda way, it's a small mom and pop that feels like walking into grandma's kitchen when she's baking cookies, and they have really clear social distancing boundaries. On the other hand, Walmart with all its big-box corporate commercialism, well, it's never safe anyway...but nowadays more and more big-box stores are getting put in the Walmart box during the pandemic.
*tip* - if there is a store where you get your supplies that borderlines that safe/unsafe boundary, find out their curbside pick-up routine and use it. Curbside pick up is one of the best inventions for introvert empaths! It's one of the greatest side effects of the covid. USE IT!
Step Three - Build up your RESERVES
Over the last year, everyone's hormones have gone way off whack. As a planet, we have lived in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and WTF is gonna happen next. This means that juices running around inside our bodies trying to get sh*t done are stress hormones. Namely, adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline is your fight or flight hormone. He kicks in when you have to deal with massive bullsh*t right the f*ck now. When he kicks into high gear for too long, your adrenal glands get tender. Do you have an aching low back? Have you been suffering with back-pain that your chiropractor, doctor and massage therapist can't touch? Adrenaline overload is likely the culprit. In order to balance that, you need to turn down the fight or flight exposures and turn up the healing hormones. (we'll get to that in a minute)
Cortisol is your task master. He is the guy who tells functions of your body to stop doing their jobs so that the energies and fuels can be used for the essential work. Have you gained the "COVID -19"? Have you completely lost your appetite, but still keep eating those comfort foods trying to fill up whatever hole is aching there? Has your sex drive taken a hike? That's likely because cortisol has told your digestive system to stop. You are hungry, but your digestive organs have been told to stand down. You crave intimacy, but your libido has been told "not now, I have a headache to tend to."
Adrenaline and Cortisol are assholes. They don't play nice with others. They prefer to keep the happy hormones like Oxytocin and Serotonin red-shirted on the sidelines, permanently.
But in getting through this pandemic, and coming out of the darkness into the light we need Oxytocin and Serotonin to do their jobs, and to tell Adrenaline and Cortisol to take a knee for awhile.
TASK - Increase your OXYTOCIN. Oxytocin, often called the cuddle hormone, is also the healing hormone. Oxytocin is instrumental in healing and repairing tissue and returning function back to equilibrium and homeostasis. So yes, when someone holds your hand when you're hurting, the hand cuddle actually does stimulate healing! Here is a short list of ways to increase oxytocin in your system.
10 second hugs
playing with a pet
telling someone you love them (remember the gushing I mentioned above)
hearing from someone that they love you
talking to a dear friend
watching a sappy love story movie
TASK - Increase your SEROTONIN. Serotonin is your happy hormone. It takes the baton out of Cortisol's hand and reminds the rest of your body that it doesn't have to answer to him all the time. Here is a short list of ways to increase oxytocin in your system.
time in nature (forest bathing, beach walking, nature hikes)
hobbies - doing things you enjoy for the pure enjoyment
vitamin D - SUNLIGHT
Phew. That was a lot. I woke up at 1am with these ideas spilling out of me. Another 'rona effect us empaths are feeling....massive inspirations and pushes of creativity at very odd times.
Until next time. I love you all...and there...I just got a dose of oxytocin. time to take that to bed and cuddle with my hubby and puppy to get some more!