Sensitive people are often considered “empaths”. This means that they literally feel other people’s emotions in the same way that a psychic can read your mind. We are all empathic to a point. But, as in all giftings, some people are much more than others. And for these people, times such as these are extremely difficult.

You can leave the house feeling just fine. You have had your coffee. Maybe you meditated. You have thought about what is going on in the world and have come to some kind of peace about it.

And then, you step outside of the door.

You see empty streets. You see people walking 6 feet apart from each other, afraid to touch anything that someone else might have touched. Afraid that someone might cough.

But more than that, you can feel the fear and panic in other people. Suddenly, your system is overwhelmed with so much input, your mind overloads and it can turn into real anxiety. You want to just go home where it is quiet. But maybe you can’t. Maybe you have to work. Maybe you need groceries.

Oh what strange times these are.

So, what do we do to not go crazy? How can we possibly exist without shutting down this beautiful sensitivity to others? The sensitivity is a gift. It is meant to help. It is meant to connect us. It is connecting us through feeling and emotion. This is the closest way that humans can connect.

Accessing our empathy is important in human connection. So, how do we keep it open, flowing and helpful in times of great crisis?

Be Clear About the Facts

In times like this, there is a lot of “information” coming our way. There are statistics flying into our newsfeeds every minute. People are repeating the most disturbing ones over and over again.

This is where you must use your personal discernment in deciding which “facts” are actually facts and which are exaggerations, guesses or completely wrong. This same sensitivity to other people is also an excellent barometer as to whether something is true or not. To sit with something and ask yourself “Is this true? Yes or No” and then trust the answer. Or ask yourself “Is this something I can do something about? Yes or No?” and then trust your answer.

The fear-mongering that happens during this time is especially difficult for empaths and sensitive people because fear multiplies faster than anything else. And it builds upon itself.

So, when you’re watching the news and listening to the politicians tell you what’s going on, watch with your sensitivity turned way up. Imagine it like a “truth meter”. Figure out what truth feels like to you and what the opposite feels like. Then watch the news, watch your newsfeed and keep your personal filter strong.

We are designed to take in whatever is true for us. We need to trust that.

Philosophically Understand the People You are Feeling

Many people live with fear all of the time. They are afraid that they can’t make rent, that their sick child won’t get better, that they will lose their job, that they won’t ever get ahead. They are afraid of others. They have learned that people can’t be trusted…. and so on.

In times of crisis, this fear is definitely heightened. But what you are feeling isn’t so far off their normal state. There is something important to understanding that what you are feeling from others is actually “normal”.

In times of “normal” stresses, we can distract themselves from our fears. We can watch sports, go shopping, visit with friends, go to bars, gamble, and work all of the time. But right now, many of these distractions have been taken away. So, we are left to face the fears that we have been desperately trying to hide.

Having “stuff” buried within us that we don’t want to look at doesn’t mean that we are weak people. We all have things that we don’t want to look at. They are experiences from our past that we couldn’t deal with when they happened… but life had to go on. So, we put them “away” until another time perhaps unconsciously hoping that they will either go away or be healed. It is similar to someone with an incurable illness that goes on in life with the hope that one day there will be a cure. But in the meantime, let’s just keep on living.

This is normal adaptive behaviour.

But in times of crisis like this, it’s like the tide has gone out and we are faced with everything that is on the bottom of our sea… and it’s hard. It’s hard to be faced with all of the issues that we’ve worked so hard to not feel. And now they are spilling out all over the place.

And empaths everywhere are picking them up by the bucket-load. But we need to experience them in in the proper context.

For example, if there was a tsunami coming and you felt a collective fear rising, to feel this collective fear is important because it will fire your adrenal glands and make you run to safety.

This is not what is happening. Most of the fears around us are not based on anything actually happening in anyone’s lives. Some are genuine because they don’t know how they will pay their rent. Perhaps someone they love is actually sick (this is very uncommon). But most of the fear has been conjured up based on fear of the unknown multiplied by a lot of media-hype.

Sitting back and being clear is the only way to stay sane.

Be a Flow-Through TeaBag

My first teacher always said that we had to feel emotions like a flow-through teabag. We let them in and let them flow out. Another great teacher once said the same about thoughts during meditation — that it is fine to have thoughts come into your mind… just don’t serve them tea.

In many of our cultures, there is a foundational belief that we are here to help others. I personally believe that this is true — that we are truly here to serve each other and stay connected.

However, we are not here to save each other. Absorbing another person’s emotions and processing them through your system DOES NOT HELP THEM.

Wayne Dyer once said “You can’t feel bad enough to make another person feel better.” These are wise words for these times.

We have to be clear about the emotions that we are feeling around us and the stories that our minds are making up as we go along.

Imagine we see a friend whom we know is worried about her aging mother. If we leave it at that, we simply feel compassion for her and continue on our day. But most of the time, our mind jumps in and starts telling a story. “Can you imagine? Her mother is all she has. If she loses her, I’m not sure if she will recover. She hasn’t even recovered from her last breakup. She’s so sensitive. And she lives alone. She has no one to cry with. OMG. She must be having such a hard time….”

Then we get a message from another friend who has been laid off. We feel sad for them. And then our mind gets in there… “OMG. What will he do? He could barely pay the bills before. He was just getting ahead after coming out of his depression. This will destroy him. What if he starts drinking again? What if… what if… what if…”

We must be clear whether it is the emotions we are feeling or if it is the stories that are circling in our minds. Because if the stories are where we focus, in the immortal words of Shakespeare “That way madness lies.” It is an endless loop of disasterizations that will not even happen. We must be very careful and mindful of where our thoughts are taking us.

Taking Action

The worst thing we can do is sit and spin about anything we are feeling. Perhaps we are feeling what we feel because there is something that we can do. And if not, then we must continue on.

It comes down to the famous Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

So, within each situation that we feel uncomfortable and anxious about, we must either use this powerful feeling to do something, make a change or help someone or we must let it go like the flow-through teabag.

Wherever you are, whatever your situation, what can you do? What do you have that could help even one other person? It could be as simple as calling someone or connecting more deeply with the people you are physically close to.

Looking in the Mirror

But if there is no action coming to you or what you are doing isn’t enough, perhaps the work is inside.

Wayne Dyer also used to say “If you squeeze an orange, the only thing you can get out of it is orange juice.

If we are feeling incredibly fearful, sad, angry, or frustrated, it is possible that it actually our own fears that are being heightened.

It is in times of crisis that we truly get to look deeply within. This is when we find out who we truly are. And it isn’t that we “truly are fearful, sad, angry or frustrated”. But we are being shown that we are personally carrying a lot of that around.

It is often the fear within us that “resonates” at the same frequency of the fear in others. So, it’s possible that we are being given an important clue as to something we need to look at personally.

This isn’t a bad thing. Every single one of us is growing every moment. Nobody on this planet is enlightened. As long as we are all here in physical form, we are growing as people. And crisis is often a time of significant growth.

So, maybe if external actions aren’t possible or don’t feel like they are enough, then to look within may be the most important focus to have.

Have a Little Faith

It is important to know that we are part of a collective. We are never alone. There are people everywhere doing good work. There are people helping in small ways everywhere. It really helps to include this in our big picture.

I personally also have faith in something much greater than me. I know that this is a very unpopular topic for many. But for me, it brings me peace. I have experienced real miracles in my life. I have seen serendipity happen in the most unlikely places that has created a curious wonder within me that asks “I wonder how this will turn out?” It isn’t fearful. It is truly curious.

I imagine this experience as part of a much larger story arc that we just can’t see yet. I imagine one day, we will all look back on this time and say “Ahhh yes, I can see how important that was for the growth and change of this. Yes, you just couldn’t have planned it… Hmmm… Interesting…”

This is how it has been in all things in my life. In the moment, life can be so difficult and overwhelming and it often isn’t until years and decades later that we understand the greater context — the greater story that was unfolding.

This I have faith in.

Staying in Our Centre

So, when we are with others who are struggling, we can have full compassion and connection. We can allow them to have their struggle and their journey and have faith that they will be strengthened along the way.

If we become overwhelmed with emotion, we must do whatever we can to find our centre. To meditate, run, sit by the water, walk in the woods, read a book, have a bath, breathe deeply for 10 minutes…

We must do this to find our centre. We are not here to take on other people’s emotions. We are here to feel them, see if we are meant to do something, and let them go — one way or another.

Whatever we do, we don’t want to shut down this beautiful gift of connection. It is so important… maybe even more important in times like these.

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