If you look up the definition of empathy, you’ll find that it is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
As an empath, there are times when I struggle finding the balance between using empathy to help others but also to not let it drain me.
However, is it even possible to stay positive all the time?
We are constantly bombarded with news of social injustice, pain, suffering, confusion, anger, uncertainties, and loss, either through our consumption of news, social media, or in our career and personal life.
During one of my night shifts as a registered nurse, I had a patient who was spewing racist and nasty comments towards me. I know what you might tell me: “Don’t take it personally.” Trust me, I tried. I told myself she was in pain and it was my job to care for others. And of course, I kindly did. Consequently, it took a toll on me emotionally.
Our ability to practice empathy, kindness, and compassion towards others is not only necessary, but vital during this current pandemic. Nevertheless, we have to remember that we have to extend the same practice to ourselves.
“When you plant a lettuce, if it does not grow well,
you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Our limbic system is a set of structures in our brain that deals with our memory and emotions. It is responsible for categorizing our human experience as either pleasant or unpleasant. Knowing this can help us be aware that we possess the ability to find the light in time of darkness. But to be able to do that, we need to find our specific type of fertilizer, lovingly sprinkle it on ourselves, pour some water, and get more or less sun.
May it be foolishly dancing in your bedroom alone, singing in the kitchen using the spatula as your microphone, taking five minutes in our busy lives to sit and meditate or pray, listen to the sound of the birds in the morning as you drink your morning coffee, watering your plants, playing with your pets, walking in nature, cuddling with your person, putting a face mask on while binge-watching Netflix, playing with your children, ordering Ubereats and not feel guilty about it, or cooking a simple meal and eating it with people you love.
Find the time to do just that. Replenish your cup. Fill up the gas in your empty tank.
This coming week, let’s take care of ourselves so we can also genuinely care for others.
Find time to sit still. Listen to what your body needs. Do what makes you feel nourished. Look for joy in the mundane.
And most importantly, breathe like you love yourself.