The holidays can be an emotional roller coaster for anyone, but if you are one of the 15-20% of the population who are empathic, if you do not protect yourself, November through January can be devastating. If you plan and prepare ahead, and practice daily, you can use these tips to help you survive the holidays.

What Is An Empath?

If you have spent your life being an empath, you understand how difficult it is for others to understand how you work and what makes you tick. You may have heard people, “You’re sensitive, we get it, you need to get over that,” as if it’s a common cold or a recent break-up.

So what is an empath? Judith Orloff, MD, is a leading expert in educating empaths and providing excellent resources and practices to help them manage their empathic sensitivities. If you are not sure if you are an empathic person, or just really emotional at the moment, she suggests you ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your feelings easily hurt?
  • Have you been told you are overly sensitive?
  • Do you literally feel the emotions of those around you?
  • Are you highly intuitive?
  • Are you drained by boisterous crowds, loud noises, pungent smells?
  • Do you get overwhelmed in highly emotional situations?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, then it is possible you are an empath. If more than three fit your life, then you are certainly an empath.

How to Protect Your Energy as an Empath

It can be difficult to protect yourself on a daily basis, and during the holidays, empath protection can seem a Herculean task. Try to establish these practices in advance of the holidays and practice them daily so they are a natural response. Even if you are just starting your protection process now, these tips will still help. Additionally, if you happen to know an empath, you can encourage them to use these practices to help them stay emotionally protected during the holidays.

  1. Set strong, consistent energetic boundaries by keeping toxic people and situations at bay. This is not selfish; this is medically necessary.
  2. Steer clear of the sources of negative energy, which Dr. Orloff so aptly describes as “emotional vampires.” They will suck the joy right out of empathic people.
  3. Center yourself with deep breathing techniques. Breathe in clean positive vibes, and exhale the negative energies. Try to visualize the energies, perhaps by assigning each a color and “watching” them flow in and out.
  4. Practice meditation. Steal a few minutes in a quiet area like a bathroom or unused bedroom, and center yourself.
  5. Identify a shielding technique and practice it daily, even after the holidays. Think of shielding like a Patronus from the Harry Potter stories: a bright, shining guardian that shrouds you in a bubble of energetic protection.
  6. Know your social limits. If more than a couple hours is damaging to your spirit, acknowledge that and make sure arrangements are in place that allows you to leave when you need to.
  7. Respect your own needs. If an excessively loud conversation is overwhelming, distance yourself.
  8. Strengthen yourself in advance. Being an empath is not easy. Spend quality alone time meditating, walking, or doing whatever helps you feel strong and confident.
  9. Establish a safe place and have it ready before you leave for a social event. If you like to unwind with a warm bath, some reading, and a glass of wine, have the bathroom ready, the wine chilling, and the glass on the counter. Just having that knowledge in the back of your mind can help you relax during the holiday festivities.
  10. Just say no. “No” is a complete sentence. You must take care of yourself first, and you may not be able to do everything people ask of you. Say no, and know that you do not need to explain yourself. It is as simple as that.

Empathic people want to be there for everyone and support them in every way possible, but you must remember that you cannot take care of anyone if you don’t take care of yourself. Be your own number one fan, and life—even during the holiday season—can be easier.