Life is a balancing act. This is no secret. As humans we balance work and life, friends and families, parties and sleep, exercise and downtime. Every person has their own unique set of responsibilities, hobbies and passions that they balance every single day.
For those of us who are empaths, there is an extra balancing act we must master: the balance between what we give and what we do to protect ourselves from emotional exhaustion.
Empathetic people instinctively hold a lot of space for those around them. Hopefully most of that space is reserved for their nearest and dearest, who deserve the empathetic energy and who give something back. The space is held so that we can support those we love when they are going through tough times.
What doesn’t come naturally to empathetic people is protecting the space that they hold for themselves. Without this protection, an emotional depletion occurs, which I have termed empath exhaustion.
Empath exhaustion can occur for many reasons. It may be that several of your nearest and dearest have tough times at once and the frequent input of negativity seeps into your life.
This isn’t anyone’s fault.
You are supporting your loved one and they are sharing with you because that’s the established relationship. It’s up to you to do enough self-care to ensure that you have that space available to them, without it negatively impacting you.
You also have to become really good at putting up a shield in order for you not to feel that negativity and to prevent it from seeping into your life. The shield will protect you when multiple loved ones are having tough times, but it also needs to protect you from those who either use and abuse your giving nature or who wear a badge of negativity.
Those who wear a badge of negativity are people who live their lives looking through the lens of the half empty glass. As an empath, your instinct will be to listen to these people, to offer help and advice, but it may be fruitless. If you keep trying, their badge of negativity may wear down your shield and will ultimately lead to empath exhaustion.
Your job is to identify those people who can’t, or won’t be helped and who will just take up your emotional energy blithely, without giving back, without changing and without considering the toll on you. Once you’ve identified them, your shield goes up and you reduce or stop the amount of emotional energy you have going to that person.
This might look like less time with them, better boundaries around their sharing or less effort in consoling, advising or trying to help them. It may mean changing your relationship with them completely, and while this may be confronting, if it’s the thing you need to prevent frequent draining of your emotional energy, then it’s important to do.
HOLDING SPACE FOR YOURSELF
While you have to protect and shield yourself from those around you, it’s also important to remember to hold space for yourself. Many empathetic people who love to give their emotional energy find that they forget to share what’s happening in their own lives.
This may be because empaths know what the energy of sharing feels like and how much space it takes up in the world. It may be because they just love to give and forget to care for themselves. It may be because they don’t have trusted people around them who they feel will hold their sharing in a secure way. It may be that they simply don’t want to affect people with their energy.
Whatever the reason, find a way around it. Find someone trusted who has the space for you and will hold your sharing securely and in the right way. Check yourself in your close relationships and ask whether the balance of sharing is equal. If you worry about impacting the person you’re sharing with, you can always ask them if they have space to talk before sharing.
Finding the balance between what we give and protecting ourselves can be a long road and we won’t always get it right. When that happens and you find yourself emotionally exhausted, make sure you take the time to recharge.
Make time to switch off, take a chill pill, read a trashy book or watch a favourite show. However you recharge, make sure you do it. Reserve the time and make it all about looking after yourself.
Without this self-care, you’ll never be able to make the space to be there for your loved ones, which is ultimately what all empaths love to do.
So do the work to protect your own space, set boundaries, change relationships where necessary, hold space for yourself and when you need to, make time just for you, to recharge.