Holistic coach Nina Endrst shares three important tips on how to protect yourself from absorbing the negative energy around you.
One night, when I was in my mid 20s, I passed out at a party. It wasn’t from drinking too much – I was literally knocked over by someone else’s energy. About an hour before it happened, I was posted up in my usual spot, hanging on the balcony with one of the partygoers – sipping beer out of a red Solo cup, surrounded by clouds of cigarette smoke. It was my sacred party ritual. Some nights I stayed out there for hours, a steady rotation of friends dropping in for deep conversation, then back to the shenanigans they would go. I clung to a nasty smoking habit, in part because it was my escape and also, subconsciously, I associated it with connection. I have always been drawn to people and their stories – as empaths tend to be. I loved being social but never wanted to be at the actual party, I craved the soulful side conversations that took place — along with my smoking — on the outskirts.
I was standing, listening to an acquaintance tell me about the death of his father. I can’t recall all the details, but what followed was intense. I’d had a drink or 3 – which back then was not enough to even give me a buzz, let alone take me down. I remember his words but most of all his emotions. I remember the wave of sadness and grief that poured out of him and washed over me. The topic was not overwhelming — as a natural space holder I’d always been able to handle the “hard” conversations. It was the energy that I wasn’t prepared for. I couldn’t articulate or understand what was happening, so I politely excused myself, opened the door and BAM! I hit the ground. I woke up to friends slapping me in the face and pouring water over my head. I chugged some Gatorade and tried to vomit – convincing myself it was the booze, but it wasn’t. And deep down, I knew it.
In the weeks that followed I went to see a neurologist – maybe something was wrong with me, I thought. Nothing concerning, they said. So, I moved on, but this type of situation happened over and over again. Though these events were never as extreme, I was starting to wake up to my sensitivities as they related to the world around me. From then on, they mostly manifested in the form of panic attacks; on a plane or the subway, a long line at a restaurant. Empaths have “leaky” energy fields, porous like a sponge. If we are not properly protected, we can’t help but absorb the energy of those around us, which is of course overwhelming. At times the anxiety would make me so dizzy that I felt rootless, like I had no feet, no legs – just a floating head. The train station would spin, and I’d reach out to grab a railing or walk right beside the wall – always fearing I would faint. I lived in Manhattan for almost 10 years and tried my best to avoid crowds as much as humanly possible. I literally couldn’t handle them.
Emotional intelligence and energetic education are not typical topics to be discussed around the dinner table. Most empaths do not have the language they need to express themselves, which tends to cause internal and sometimes external chaos. We do not need to “toughen up” or push through in order to get through the day – vulnerability is not a weakness. We do need tools and practices to stay peaceful and rooted on sometimes shaky ground.
The following practices are meant to steady your feet and illuminate your heart:
Nurture Yourself with Movement and Breath
As an empath, one of our most magical qualities is a natural instinct to care for those around us. However, it’s difficult to turn that love inward and hold space for ourselves the same way. Try and commit 15-20 minutes a day for you and you alone. There is nothing more important than cultivating a healthy, loving relationship with yourself. Perhaps a guided meditation on the subway, a bath, or a short virtual yoga class. Movement and breath are so healing and really help to shake off stagnant energy. There are some on my site here. I also love Melissa Wood Health for mindful and accessible Pilates inspired workouts and, for breathwork, try Michelle Baker’s virtual classes. Starting a home practice can be transformative and it’s also affordable. Remember, no matter how much we can handle, we cannot give from an empty cup.
The Crystal Ball Effect
Protect your energy field! We want to stay connected yet feel safe enough to go out in the world. That line can get fuzzy for some of us, and it’s common to feel like hiding out when everything outside is buzzing too loudly. A simple practice: every morning, close your eyes and visualize yourself in a crystal ball, or an egg – some sort of protective shell. Sit with that image for a few moments, and don’t worry if you have trouble “seeing it” — your intention is enough. I use my hands to trace the crystal ball around me. This layer acts as a barrier and helps us keep unsupportive energy out.
Send the Energy Back
It is possible to be available to others while also preserving our energy, thought it may be hard to define what is ours and what is not. Say we show up to a friend’s house feeling fantastic, grounded, fresh as a daisy, and they are going through a really dark time. If we don’t make a conscious effort to protect our bubble while we are holding space, we’ll likely leave feeling a lot of their emotional and physical symptoms. Essentially, we have swapped energies. It is a thing. Bad shit happens. Friends who are suffering need our help, parents and partners are going to cross boundaries subconsciously and energy vampires do exist. We want to avoid shutting down or running away when life happens. So when we leave these interactions, it is necessary to physically push the energy back to that person and scoop yours back in. Do it with intention and breath. You will feel a shift.