Do you get easily overwhelmed with excess noise, light and crowds of people? Have you ever been told, or felt that you were more sensitive than others? Do you find suffer with things such as IBS, burnout and mood swings that you can’t explain….If so, there’s a very good chance that you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), or an empath!
It’s important that you understand this so that you learn how to manage your energy effectively, because your sensitivity does not have to be a curse, which is what so many people initially feel.
Just so you know, I identify with both of these labels and so if this is you, I know and fully understand the challenges you face….because I have been there and lived it too.
I know how confusing it can be to work out what it means to have these unique gifts and skills and also the relief when someone actually puts a name to it all. Finally I was not alone. Before we continue with exploring these concepts, I want you to remember that everyone is different and therefore their sensitivity and empath abilities will also be different. So don’t get caught up in comparing yourself to others and wondering if you aren’t doing it right, or if there is something wrong with you because you sense things differently.
I believe that this topic is hugely important, because it’s estimated that 15/20% of the population are sensitive and yet we live in a crazy and busy world that is not set up to understand or deal with these sensitives. Unless we can understand and accept ourselves, how can we set loving boundaries and express our needs without worrying what other people think!
I have spent my whole life trying to understand these gifts and in the most recent years, I have experimented with different techniques to manage my own energy. Over the last 9 years I have worked with in excess of 600 clients using a variety of healing modalities and with nearly all of them, they were HSP’s or empaths who had become overwhelmed with the world and other peoples energy, emotions and negativity! Whether they associated with the term highly sensitive or empath, it still affected them.
So, let’s start with understanding the terms, or labels a little more, because I know how confusing it can be to be unsure about exactly who you are and what it means to have these gifts!
Highly Sensitive Person:
A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”” Elaine N. Aron
The work of Elaine is extremely powerful and informative, I learnt so much from her and it was through her work that I realised I wasn’t alone. Finally I had found a term that explained the way I felt in the world and my preferences.
Use this short quiz to see if you are a highly sensitive person (HSP):
- Do you find yourself easily overwhelmed by too much noise, light, extremes of temperature, wearing irritating fabrics or large groups of people?
- Do you find that the negative moods of others affects you?
- Are you sensitive to foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and medication?
- Do you often find yourself deeply moved by things? Just think about art, music, or even movies and things on the TV?
- Does watching the News or violent movies leave you feeling uncomfortable?
- Do you get easily overwhelmed when there is a lot to do?
- Can you reach for food to calm you to numb emotions?
- Do others see you as shy or anti social?
- Do you need lots of alone time to recharge?
- Are you a deep thinker?
- Can it take you a long time to wind down after a stressful day?
If you answered yes to even one of these, then you are very likely to be a highly sensitive person and the more you answered yes to the more sensitive you are. We are all on a scale or spectrum and of course different days and situations will also affect us.
Before I even knew the term HSP, I would often try and push on with life because I just didn’t understand what was ‘wrong’ with me… my friends and colleagues didn’t look at the world in the same way, they weren’t impacted to the same extent and they certainly didn’t need the time and space alone that I craved.
I wanted to fit in, because I had spent my whole life feeling different and even though I had lots of friends and an active social life – I had coping mechanisms that could only last so long!! I remember having to be blinding drunk just to deal with nightclubs, the alcohol dulled my senses and suddenly I wasn’t overwhelmed anymore and I could actually relax in these noisy, smokey, crowded places. Not very classy, but it got me through my younger years!
Even now, I know how easy it is to think you are on top of things and can cope with what life has to throw at you, only to be caught out! My logical mind often tries to tell my body that it ‘can’ deal with a bit more stimulation or noise, or that the person I am meant to meet for coffee won’t be that bad. Not listening to my intuition often leads to me being frazzled, frustrated and annoyed at myself, because I knew better and I ignored how I felt!
Just like you, I can hate missing out and seeming as if I’m anti social, but the reality is, like many other sensitive people I get completely over stimulated by all the noise, smells, energy, emotions and general chaos of people.
“The Empath is often said to have such a great degree of empathy that they can literally feel what others feel, and thus intuitively know many of the yearnings, sensitivities, tastes and even thought patterns of the people they’re around.” Aletheia Luna
Often these two labels or terms get placed together, but they are in fact different. It is believed that all empaths are highly sensitive, BUT not all highly sensitive people are empaths. So let’s explore the difference:
An empath takes all of the traits of a highly sensitive person one step further and its estimated that only 2-3% of the population are true empaths. As the quotes says, we can literally feel the actual emotional and physical pain of others, as well as their thought patterns.
We sense and absorb the energy around us into our own bodies – which highly sensitive people don’t do! We are talking about clairsentient abilities (feeling with the body) and picking up energy, rather than having a high sensory awareness.
Let me give you an example. Your friend tells you that they are going through a bereavement – a highly sensitive person would feel empathy and imagine what their friend must be feeling. It can even trigger something within them which causes them to touch their own unresolved pain or trauma. Sometimes the highly sensitive person will even piece together a story about what is taking place, or how it could play out! However, an empath will actually be able to feel the full extent of their actual emotions, not their own projections, but the actual emotions present for their friend.
Another example is where a highly sensitive person can recognise when someone is feeling upset or sad, but an empath will be able to feel into the actual emotions behind the sadness or upset.
Look at these questions and see if you resonate with any of them:
- You find that people often open up to you and share extremely personal things with you! I can’t even begin to tell you about the random conversations I’ve had with strangers about really personal things! I often get people saying ‘ I’ve never shared that with anyone’…..
- People will tell you that they feel much better after talking to you – chances are you feel drained and exhausted!
- You can literally feel the aches and pains of those around you. As a healer I can often feel the clients physical pain before they even tell me what’s going on
- Being on your own is usually a very peaceful and calm experience, but when you are with other people you can find yourself overwhelmed and battling with emotions that were not there before. They can hit you out of the blue!
- Some people feel very uncomfortable around you and it’s because on some level they know that you see right through the mask. No chance of them lying to you or pulling the wool over your eyes! You can detect BS a mile off!
- Sometimes it can be confusing to work out if emotions belong to you or others – but the very fact you have to ask the question, shows you are likely to be an empath. You can feel emotions and then discover someone close to you (physically close or in terms of a relationship/friendship) is going through this
If any of the above sounds like you, then there’ a good chance you are an empath. The more of these examples that resonate the stronger your empathic abilities are likely to be.
I hope this helps you to see that although being highly sensitive and an empath are very similar, they are not quite the same. Being an empath is taking things one step further and actually feeling and absorbing the energy of people, animals, plants and places!
This is a topic I feel incredibly passionate about and I believe it’s becoming increasingly important as more people wake up to their gifts. The world is shifting and sensitive people need support in managing their energy and their health, especially when they are healers, light workers and/or run their own businesses.
I want to help women to release the emotional and energetic baggage they are taking on from others. Just think about the people who dump on you with their negativity, drama and who often overstep your boundaries. When you’re sensitive this has a massive impact on your emotional and physical well-being and no one needs to live like that. Your sensitivity does not need to feel like a burden or a curse, it’s something to be celebrated and embraced. The key is in knowing how to manage your energy and to be more self aware of your needs.
If you have any questions then just let me know.
Until next time!
Helping sensitive souls to embody self-care, self-acceptance and self-belief
The following are some of the most common questions I get asked about being sensitive or an empath. If you have a question of your own, you’re welcome to drop me an email.
How do I know if I’m highly sensitive?
The best way to know if you’re highly sensitive is to take some time to reflect on the questions I ask above. If you answer yes to quite a few of them, or your reaction to some of them is ‘definitely yes’, then there’s a very good chance that you are highly sensitive.