Highly Sensitive Refuge
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14 Things Empaths Absolutely Need to Thrive

From time in nature to a sense of purpose, there are certain things that empaths just can’t live without.

Empaths experience the world in a unique way: we feel deeply, we love deeply, and we care deeply. There’s no way for us to “turn off” our feelings or “care about things less” (even though many of us probably grew up hearing we should be able to).

What’s beautiful about empaths is the way we care so much; what’s powerful about us is the way we feel the emotions of others; and what makes us amazing friends, leaders, and partners is our ability to empathize with others on a deep level.

Many highly sensitive people (HSPs) are also empaths — but there are also some differences between empaths and HSPs. For instance, being empathetic is just one of the four traits that makes someone an HSP, and aside from emotions, HSPs are affected by many kinds of stimuli. So while most people who identify as empaths are probably HSPs, not all HSPs are necessarily empaths.

Because empaths experience life differently than their less-sensitive counterparts, what we need to live life to the fullest looks a little different, too. If you consider yourself an empath, as well, you may agree that the following 14 items are must-haves for us.

14 Things Empaths Cannot Live Without

1. Time in solitude to get grounded and reconnect with yourself.

Empaths sense other people’s energy and emotions, which is a total superpower. But when empaths are in social settings for a prolonged period of time, they can end up feeling exhausted from feeling everyone’s energy. Similar to HSPs, empaths can get mentally and emotionally flooded

That’s not to say empaths should avoid people, but it does mean you should carve out time to be alone. You need that time to get grounded, shake off other people’s energy, and reconnect with yourself.

2. Plenty of rest, whether that means naps or making sure to sleep enough each night.

Because most empaths are also HSPs, this means that, throughout the day, they’re not only picking up on other people’s energy, they’re also picking up all the other subtleties in their environment, from the lighting to the scent of lavender in the room (that no one may notice except for them). 

All of this is taxing to their nervous system, which can result in overstimulation, in addition to mental and physical exhaustion. 

So this is where sleep comes in — it’s a healing elixir for empaths, as well as for highly sensitive people. It’s a vital time for us to turn off our highly active minds and recharge, whether it means taking a nap during the day or practicing good sleep hygiene, making sure to go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

3. Safe, supportive, and loving relationships.

Unfortunately, many empaths are prone to codependent relationships due to their empathetic and caring nature. They’re often the type to see the best in others and overlook warning signs in hopes of being the helper the other person needs. While it’s admirable to help others, it can become toxic when it’s at the expense of their own well-being. 

With that being said, healthy relationships are incredibly important for those of us who are empathic: When we’re partnered with someone who values us, someone we can trust and rely on, we have the opportunity to flourish. 

And anyone who’s in a relationship with an empath gets the benefit of our big hearts and kind, gentle souls.

4. A spiritual practice, like mindfulness or meditation, to connect more deeply to your intuition.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you were thinking about someone, and then they called? Or maybe you had a gut feeling about something that turned out to be true? 

These moments are examples of intuitive hits. While everyone has the ability to tap into their intuition, we empaths tend to be more tapped in because of the way we naturally pick up on energy.

For many empaths, having a spiritual practice like mindfulness or meditation is as important as an exercise routine. Having faith in yourself and a higher power takes practice; it’s a muscle you can strengthen. 

Having a spiritual practice is also a way for you to connect deeper to your intuition, feel spiritually supported, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, research shows

5. Time in nature, whether it’s taking a walk or sitting in a park.

Sometimes there’s nothing more refreshing than going for a walk on a crisp, fall day, or going to sit in a local park and taking in your surroundings, from the birds to the trees. Especially for empaths, nature is healing. It’s a way for you to escape the bombardment of energy, noise, and stimulation around you. 

Nature is also a place for empaths to reconnect with themselves and with Mother Earth. It’s grounding, calming, and good for our sensitive souls.

As Dr. Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, wrote in a Psychology Today article, “The beauty and health of the Earth nourishes and sustains you.” I couldn’t agree more. 

6. An environment you love indoors, too.

Having a space that’s clean, inspiring, and calming is important for empaths; a messy, disorganized home can make us feel chaotic and overwhelmed internally.

Since we empaths are already taking on so much, our environment should be a space that relaxes our nervous system, nurtures us, and gives us positive energy.

Even simple updates, like adding more plants, fragrant candles, or a Himalayan salt lamp, can do wonders for creating a more calming space.

7. A community of fellow empaths.

Being an empath is a unique experience and one that can be difficult for others to understand. When empaths are in community with one another, they can lean on each other for support, guidance, and mutual understanding. It’s empowering to know that we have other people who just “get” us.

Whether we find these people through friends, family members, or online groups (like Highly Sensitive Refuge on Facebook), there are plenty of ways to connect with fellow empaths.

8. A sense of purpose, whether it’s leading a movement or becoming a parent.

In the opening credits of the Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast, Cathy Heller says, “The opposite of depression isn’t happiness, it’s purpose.” 

Having a purpose gives us a reason to look forward to waking up every morning. It fills our lives with more fulfillment; more color; more joy. Empaths are deep-feeling beings, and we crave meaning in our lives. 

Having a purpose — whether it’s leading a movement, owning a flower shop, or being a mom — is essential to an empath’s happiness.

9. Creative expression, like redecorating a space or cooking a new meal.

Creativity is an innate part of us and a way for empaths to release pent-up emotions, share a piece of their soul, and add beauty to the world. 

And creative expression isn’t limited to creating art in the traditional sense. It can also be redecorating a space, cooking a new meal, or landscaping your yard. (The possibilities are only limited to our imaginations!)

Being creative is also healthy: it’s an amazing way to express our feelings, reduce stress, and get into a state of flow. 

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10. Maintaining diligent self-care habits so you don’t get burned out.

Since empaths can sense other people’s feelings, they know when something’s off and want to make it better.

However, if they’re always caring for others, their own self-care can be neglected. That’s a problem!

Having a diligent self-care practice is essential to an empath’s happiness. When they aren’t taking good care of themselves, they’re at risk for burning out. Self-care comes in all forms. It can look like having healthy boundaries, having ample time to relax, and knowing when you need a day to yourself.

11. Daily movement of some sort, from yoga to going for a walk.

Research has found that exercise isn’t just important for a healthy body, but it’s also important for a healthy mind. It can do everything from improving your memory to lowering your stress.

With empaths being so connected to the emotions of others, our minds get easily overwhelmed

So one of the best ways to get rid of that excess energy is by moving the body. Whether it’s a slow yoga flow, a brisk walk, or an intense workout, movement of some sort is an important way for empaths to feel more clear and connected to their own energy.

12. Sticking to a balanced and healthy diet.

Similar to exercise, a healthy diet is essential for a healthy mind. For us empaths, I’d say it’s a non-negotiable. 

When empathic people drink too much caffeine, for example, they risk overstimulating their already-sensitive nervous system. Overstimulation is what causes feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and stress. Sugar, too, can have a bigger negative impact for empaths, contributing to feelings of anxiousness and moodiness.

While it may not always be fun to eat carrots instead of Cheetos, your empathic body will be happier and more grounded as a result.

13. Space in your schedule (vs. back-to-back meetings or events).

We empaths do best when we have plenty of space in our schedule.

Space is important so we have the opportunity to recharge and reconnect with ourselves. It allows us breathing room so we can continue to show up in our best form.

Otherwise, we have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and stressed when we’re running from one meeting or event to the next. 

14. A go-to grounding technique, like putting your bare feet in the grass.

In my opinion, having a grounding practice is, arguably, one of the things an empath needs most — and is often overlooked.

It’s essential for empaths because it brings us back to the present moment and returns us to a relaxed state. 

Some examples of grounding techniques are: putting bare feet on the earth, breathing deeply, or going for a mindful walk.

Want to reduce stress and thrive as an empath? We recommend these online courses from psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland. Click here to learn more.

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