©2020 Erin Newton, www.thewellnessgarden.ca, All rights reserved
Empaths should not look at social media without expecting to have an emotional battle. I am an empath which means that I am highly attuned to other people’s emotions. I regularly take on other people’s feelings and allow them to become my own. Because of this, it is imperative that I have quiet contemplation, inspirational memes and puppy photos to wrap around my heart like a protective shield. I do this as an early morning self-care practice and it provides an emotional layer between me and the cruel, cold world. I know this rule, and yet today I woke up, I reached for my phone and I plunged myself into a swirling undertow of Instagram tragedy. Covid-19. Trump. Death. Destruction.
My wrist fatigues as I swipe my way through the murky waters of politics, the environment, global crisis. The familiar heaviness of anxiety spreads across my chest and I know I should stop, but it's too late now. Like a dewy-eyed Dory, I seem driven to "just keep swimming." I plummet into darkness. So many deaths! So much despair! Within minutes, Trump’s imbecilic voice is all I can hear. A halo of Covid-19 death tolls begins to swirl around my head. What is happening in this world? Suddenly, I feel myself sliding down, down, down into a pool of grief.
It’s dramatic, I know, but some days I deserve the award for how many emotions I can feel at the same time. The struggle of the empath is real, people, and I am splashing in a pool, weighed down by anxiety for people.
The problem with being deeply sensitive is it’s just so hard to find a balance between feeling compassion for others versus committing to carrying their full emotional load. If I close myself off to the woes of the world, I am callous. If I open my heart to the suffering and tragedy, I risk feeling an almost debilitating empathy. To feel or not to feel becomes the theme of my daily soliloquy.
Then, a miracle: the sounds of my children waking up is offered like a lifeline tossed into the raging depths. I sit up and I decide to flip the switch. I remind myself that I can be compassionate and still protect my own heart. I am able to care for others and still know when I need to take a step back. I put down the phone, get out of bed, get dressed and leave my room. I close the door and I leave the sorrow behind me.
Being educated about world issues is important. Being informed about politics is crucial. Using my voice for change is my responsibility. Yet, if I don’t protect my mental health and well-being, I am powerless to act.
Empaths like me should not look at social media without preparing for an emotional battle. It is imperative that I have quiet contemplation, inspirational memes and puppy photos to wrap around my heart like a protective shield. If I consume the negativity of social media before preparing myself mentally, the emotions completely take over. And if I allow myself to take in all of the woes of the world, how can I be a positive advocate for change? So, you see, it isn’t really a question of to feel or not to feel? Instead, it’s a daily recalibration of how much to feel.