Highly Sensitive Person: 5 Things That are Draining Your Energy

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and overloaded all at the same time? Us too. Here are the five things in your life that might be draining your energy without you even realising.

If you identify as a highly sensitive person (HSP) in 2022, you’ll likely be familiar with a general feeling of overwhelm and emotional exhaustion. The term, coined by psychologist Dr Elaine Aron, describes the estimated 15-20% of people who experience the world more intensely and deeply than the average person.

According to Alissa Boyer, a life coach and HSP mentor, highly sensitive people are also more likely to experience “energy leaks”, aka everyday occurrences that leave us feeling weary and overloaded. “Drained? Irritated? Feeling like you’re never actually making progress? Check your energy leaks,” Boyer wrote in an Instagram post.

Because, more often than not, it’s the minutiae of life that slowly wears us down. As such, Boyer identifies five of the key areas where our energy can be drained without us even realising, starting with saying “yes” too often.

You’re saying ‘yes’ too often

It sounds obvious being too available is a quick way to drain anyone, but especially HSPs. Yes, it’s tempting to agree to every brunch plan, birthday party and family day, but it’s essential to make sure you have enough time to recoup between. The same goes for agreeing to emotional labour, too.

As Boyer urges: “Check your boundaries, my friend!” If you don’t have the capacity to be there for a friend, be honest and tell them so. A good friend will understand and respect your limits.

You’re always multitasking

As productive as it may feel, research actually suggests that multitasking takes a serious toll on output. Our brains lack the ability to perform multiple tasks at the same time, so in moments where we think we’re multitasking, we’re likely just switching quickly from task to task.

For HSPs, this can be particularly taxing on their already fraught nervous system. Instead, Boyer advises batching similar tasks together as often as you can. “You’ll be amazed at how much more you get done this way,” she says.

You’re procrastinating on annoying to-dos

Clearing out your wardrobe, filing paperwork and stocking up your cupboards are never anyone’s favourite chores, but having small tasks sit on your to-do list week after week takes up valuable mental space and unconsciously drains your energy. Actually, the best way to tackle it is by just doing the task. It might feel like a slog at first, but she promises you’ll feel much better for it.

You have a messy, cluttered space

“As an HSP, you’re taking in everything in your environment,” explains Boyer. So it’s important to set yourself up for success with a calming, mess-free area, no matter the size of your home. “Tidying up, changing a paint colour, or reorganising a space can do wonders for your energy,” she adds.

You’re too available and accessible

Once again, the key here is setting boundaries. “When we’re always accessible, we take ourselves out of the flow, give away our energy, and de-prioritise ourselves,” stresses Boyer. It can be hard, but checking yourself when you feel like you’re acting on your people pleasing tendencies or allowing others to trauma dump on you can be a vital first step in protecting yourself.

Source: Highly Sensitive Person: 5 things that are draining your energy

Critics by Jacquelyn Cafasso

Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout. People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.

Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Over time, this chronic, stressed-out state can cause permanent damage to your health. Anyone experiencing long-term stress can become emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. In difficult times, emotional exhaustion can sneak up on you, but it’s never too late to get help.

What are the symptoms of emotional exhaustion?

The symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be both emotional and physical. People experience emotional exhaustion differently, but generally symptoms include:

Employers whose employees are overworked and emotionally exhausted may begin to notice changes in job performance and overall team morale. For example, they might start to notice that their employees have:

  • failure to meet deadlines
  • lower commitment to the organization
  • more absences
  • high turnover rate
What causes emotional exhaustion?

Experiencing some daily stress and anxiety is normal, but over time, chronic stress can take a toll on the body. Emotional exhaustion is caused by a long period of constant life stress, whether from personal stress at home or stress related to work.

What triggers emotional exhaustion differs from person to person. What might be stressful for one person can be completely manageable for another person. Some more common triggers of emotional exhaustion include:

  • high-pressure jobs, such as nurses, doctors, police officers, and teachers
  • intense schooling, such as medical school
  • working long hours or working at a job you hate
  • having a baby
  • raising children
  • financial stress or poverty
  • homelessness
  • being a caregiver for a loved one
  • prolonged divorce proceedings
  • death of a family member or friend
  • living with a chronic illness or injury
How to treat emotional exhaustion

You can make certain lifestyle changes to help alleviate symptoms of emotional exhaustion. These techniques won’t be easy to carry out at first, but they’ll get easier as you begin to form healthier habits. Making small changes in your daily habits can help manage your symptoms and prevent emotional burnout. Once you recognize the signs of emotional exhaustion, try the following:

Eliminate the stressor

While not always possible, the best way to treat stress is to eliminate the stressor. If your work environment is the cause of your emotional exhaustion, consider changing jobs or companies. If your manager or boss is causing your stress, you can also consider transferring to a new department or asking to be placed under a different manager.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy means choosing a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, while avoiding sugary snacks and fried or processed foods.

We’re told to eat healthy all the time, but it can make a world of difference when you’re stressed. Not only will it help you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but it will also improve digestion, sleep, and energy levels, which can have a domino effect on your emotional state.

Exercise

Any sort of physical activity raises endorphins and serotonin levels. This can improve your emotional state. Exercise also helps take your mind off your problems. Try to exercise for 30 minutes per day, even if it’s just a long walk.

Limit alcohol

Alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, but the feeling will quickly wear off, leaving you more anxious and depressed than before. Alcohol also interferes with your sleep.

Get enough sleep

Sleep is important for mental health. It’s even more effective if you plan your bedtime for roughly the same time every night. Aim for eight to nine hours of sleep every night. Developing a routine at bedtime can help you relax and ensure better quality sleep. Limiting caffeine can also have a positive impact on your sleep schedule.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a term you probably hear a lot, but mindfulness techniques are much more than just a fad. They’re scientifically recognized to reduce stress and anxiety and can be the key to balancing your emotions.

Mindfulness is the act of engaging with the present moment. This can help direct your attention away from negative thinking. There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Examples include:

Researchers recently even found evidence that a single session of mindfulness meditation can help reverse the effects of stress on the body.

Connect with a trusted friend

Talking face to face with a friend is a wonderful way to relieve stress. The person listening doesn’t necessarily have to fix your issues. They can just be a good listener. A trusted friend or family member can listen without judging you. If you don’t have anyone close to turn to, check if your employer has an employee assistance program with counseling services.

Take a break

Everyone needs a break at some point. Whether you take a vacation or simply find the time to take yourself out to the movies, every little bit helps.

Meet with a professional

Along with making lifestyle changes, it’s important to seek professional help to treat emotional exhaustion. A professional, such as a therapist, can give you the tools you need to work through a stressful period. Some of the techniques used by professionals include:

Talk to your family doctor

In some cases, your primary care provider may suggest medications to help manage your symptoms. Antidepressants, such as selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety medications, or prescription sleeping aids have been used to help treat emotional exhaustion.

Medications such as benzodiazepines can be addictive and should only be used on a short-term basis to lower the risk of dependency or addiction. What’s the outlook for emotional exhaustion?

The stress responsible for emotional exhaustion puts you at risk for a total burnout. Over time, it can lead to health problems. Chronic stress can affect your immune system, heart, metabolism, and overall well-being. Emotional exhaustion puts you at risk of:

Emotional exhaustion is a treatable condition. The best way to treat it is to eliminate the stressor or the stressful event. If emotional exhaustion is being caused by your job, for example, it may be time to consider changing jobs.

If you’re unable to eliminate the stressor, take advantage of resources available to cope. Talk to your primary care provider or a mental health professional about ways to manage stress and anxiety.

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How Empathic People Can Set Effective, Loving Boundaries

You’re a highly empathic person. You fully and intently listen to others. You tend to focus on others’ emotions, often feeling them more so than your own. In fact, it’s like you feel someone else’s pain deep inside your bones. It’s that visceral.

And you frequently find yourself utterly exhausted because tending to others comes more naturally to you than tending to yourself, according to Joy Malek, a marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with people who are intuitive, empathic, creative and highly sensitive.

And this struggle includes setting boundaries. Your discomfort with boundary setting may stem from these three reasons, Malek said: You don’t know your needs in the first place—and only realize that a boundary was necessary after the fact. You fear that the validation you receive for being so caring and nurturing will disappear, and when you say no, others will no longer see your value. And many of the suggestions on boundary setting stress assertiveness, which to you might actually feel aggressive.

So you have a tough time ending conversations when you’re tired, or declining requests when you’re completely drained and desperately need downtime. So you remain silent when you’re uncomfortable, or don’t ask for help when you’re hurting, too.

When you do try to set boundaries, you might find yourself over-apologizing, and minimizing your concerns so you can again focus on the other person’s feelings, Malek said.Ultimately, you conclude that you’re just “bad at boundaries.” In reality, however, “you haven’t found a style that feels organic to your nature.”

Here, Malek shared invaluable insight for setting boundaries that protect your needs and boundaries you feel good about.

Identify your own needs. “Empathic people can especially benefit from boundaries that put limits around the amount of time and energy we give to others,” Malek said. “Without these limits, we often find that our needs are met last, or not at all.”

Take the time to think about your needs. How much space and solitude do you need to feel your best? What genuinely refreshes and recharges you? What tends to drain you? What people tend to drain you? When do you feel your best? When do you feel your worst?

Start creating boundaries around your responses, and check in with yourself regularly. Because our needs change and evolve. You might check in with yourself every hour or so for only a few minutes. Then you might do a more thoughtful check-in every evening, and journal about your thoughts and feelings for 15 minutes.

Pause before saying yes. When someone asks you to do something, you might blurt out, “yes, of course!” without even thinking about it. Your automatic response is to help—and you might feel awkward saying anything other than yes. Plus, sometimes the other person creates a sense of urgency that doesn’t exactly exist (or we somehow feel one).

However, Malek suggested simply pausing before committing. You can always say, “I’m not sure. I need some time to think about that,” or “I need to check my schedule, but I’ll definitely let you know tomorrow.” “In that pause, we can ask ourselves how we actually feel, and whether we have the time, energy and desire to accept the request.” Which means that it’s totally OK if you have the time and energy but simply don’t want to. Your wants count, too.

Shift your perspective. When you want or need to say no, think about how you’d like someone to decline your request, Malek said. For instance, this might include expressing empathy for the other person, and explaining that you’re unable to meet their request, she said. What does this actually look like?

For instance, Malek shared these examples of kind, empathic personal boundaries:

  • “I know you’re hurting and I really want to be there for you, but the truth is that I’m struggling right now, too. I’m looking forward to supporting you once I’m back on my own feet, emotionally.”
  • “I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and part of me doesn’t want it to end! I’m noticing, though, that I’m getting really tired, so I’m going to head home.”

Malek also shared these examples of professional boundaries:

  • “I’d really like to take that project on, but I know I’d be compromising the quality of the projects that are already on my plate. It’s my priority to do a great job with what you’ve entrusted to me.”
  • “I’m in the office during business hours Monday through Friday, and I return calls, texts and emails during those times. If you reach out in the evening or on a weekend, I’ll look forward to following up with you during the next business day.”

See reactions as valuable signs. Pay attention to how others react to your boundaries. Do they push against them? Do they have a hard time taking no for an answer? Do they make you feel guilty or bad about yourself in some other way? Do they take you seriously or think your boundaries are unreasonable or don’t apply to them?

All of this is helpful information about the quality of that relationship, Malek said. Of course, it really hurts when the people we love and care for don’t have the same consideration for us.

However, “It makes sense to invest more in relationships where our boundaries and needs are respected than in those where they are not.”

When you’re a highly empathic person, setting boundaries can feel impossible. But it can absolutely be done. The key is to find a style that works for you, and to keep practicing. Boundaries can be kind and loving—and remember, as Malek said, your needs are legitimate, too.

Also, don’t wait until you’re completely exhausted and overwhelmed to care for yourself and to protect your energy. Start setting boundaries that are respectful of yourself and your natural tendencies right now.

Related contents:

Empathy vs. Sympathy, Explained (Finally) Women’s Health

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4 Key Ways To Tell If You’re An Empath, or Just Empathic

There are key differences between being an empathic person and identifying as an ‘empath’. Psychotherapist and author Lucy Fry explains how to tell these traits apart. I used to think I was weird, even unwell, because I could ‘catch’ the emotions of others.

It happened mostly with sadness, but also anger. For a long time, it seemed like a curse, until I stumbled across psychiatrist Dr Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide.

Dr Orloff defines empaths as “highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions”. Reading those words something clicked. I identified with many of the characteristics and learnt that being empathic – a wonderful trait that most people can learn – is very different to being an empath, which according to Orloff, is much rarer and requires careful handling if it’s to be used to positive affect.

Here are four ways to recognise if you’re an empath, or just empathic.

Empaths easily lose themselves in feelings

For most people expressing empathy means making a concerted effort to see the world through someone else’s lens in a kind way.

For an empath, however, it can get confusing. These types of people absorb others’ emotions so quickly and easily they’re sometimes unsure which lens is whose. The boundaries between the self and others can be thin, which means they are super sensitive to other people’s needs but can also entirely lose track of their own.

This is why it’s so important for empaths to learn how to take care of themselves (and their gift), so they can find ways to protect themselves from drowning in feelings that don’t belong to them.

Empaths feel what others won’t

In my experience, one of the main situations in which an empath will absorb someone else’s emotion is when another person is suppressing or denying their feelings. That’s because being an empath is a bit like being telepathic; they often know things about someone else before they even know it (or want to admit it) themselves.

Before I understood this, I found it painful to be around people who were unhappy or melancholic, or even exhausted and just annoyed. I found it particularly mind-bending to be around anyone who said they were fine but seemed to me to be clearly not. After a few minutes in their company, I could feel my own joy or peace drain away, only to be replaced by their negative feelings. This was not their fault, but a marker of my own flimsy boundaries – my empath’s gift that was not yet honed.

Empaths are easily overwhelmed (by noise, light, activity, emotion)

Another key difference between empathic people and those who identify as empaths are that empaths, by their very nature, have a particularly sensitive nervous system. This means they are easily knocked off centre by shocks that for a non-empath might be only momentarily.

For example, if someone loses their temper and starts shouting, this might upset or anger a non-empath but could floor an empath for hours or days after. They are generally more sensitive to things like light and sound and appreciate small details and changes in a room or atmosphere.

This can make empaths very sensitive to music, smell and touch. I need blackout blinds to sleep, for example, and have to wear noise-cancelling headphones on the Tube as the screeching on certain lines physically wrecks me, whereas many other people hardly notice it at all.

Being an empath is developmental, whereas empathy can be learnt

Empathy involves stepping away from offering solutions or giving advice, and instead imagining what it is like to walk in another’s shoes and understanding why someone might feel the way they do. To some extent, it’s something most people can learn to do.

Being an empath is different. It is usually developed during childhood from growing up in an environment where it was necessary (for survival, physical or emotional) to develop a psycho-emotional antenna to let you know what was going on around you, so you could adapt accordingly.

Since it has this developmental aspect to it, being an empath is not a choice in the way expressing empathy is. It’s innate and needs accepting and respecting. If you’re an empath, learning how to take care of yourself in a tough, brash world (particularly in a city) is very important.

By : Lucy Fry

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More contents:

How Can We Make More Empathetic Technology?

According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

There are three types of empathy: cognitive, where you take on the viewpoint of another person; emotional, where you are able to feel for the other person; and compassionate, which is a mix of the two. Empathy can be expressed via body language, too. An often-overlooked fourth category of empathy is motor empathy, where one repeatedly mirrors another’s actions.

Empathy is a vital part of our society, and many global organizations tout the importance of empathy when it comes to being an effective leader.

Source: How Can We Make More Empathetic Technology?

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“Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2009-07-04. Retrieved 2009-04-22.

5 Tiny But Impactful ‘Microaffirmations’ To Make Everyone on Your Team Feel Valued and Included

When it comes to making sure colleagues from different backgrounds feel comfortable at work, tiny things really do matter. We often hear about how “microaggressions” like always expecting female employees to organize birthday cards or questioning non-white colleagues about “where they’re from” can alienate, exhaust, and distract people at work.

But the opposite is also true. Even small actions and moments of thoughtfulness can make people feel welcome, valued, and included. New research out of the University of Kansas, for instance, found simply having male allies who spoke positively about gender equality helped make women working in unbalanced tech and science fields feel more supported.

Microaggressions matter, but so too do “microaffirmations.” These “are little ways that you can affirm someone’s identity; recognize and validate their experience and expertise; build confidence; develop trust; foster belonging; and support someone in their career,” according to Change Catalyst CEO Melinda Briana Epler, who has worked on diversity issues for 25 years.

Microaffirmations cost nothing and take mere seconds but can make a big difference to how well your company lives up to its ideals (and attracts and retains diverse talent). In a recent TED Ideas post, Epler laid out 13 of them, but here are five to get you started.

1. Mirror the language that someone uses to describe their own identity.

Can the fast-changing rules about the “right” words to use around sensitive subjects and identity markers seem confusing sometimes? Sure, but there’s an easy solution that doesn’t require keeping up with complicated theories or ever-changing debates. Just talk about people the way they talk about themselves.

“Listen and learn how someone pronounces their name, describes their identity and uses their pronouns. Then mirror the language they use to describe themselves — it shows them you’re paying attention and that you care about them,” instructs Epler.

2. Acknowledge important holidays and life milestones.

Not everyone in your office may celebrate the same holidays or tick through the same life milestones. But everyone you work with deserves to have the biggest occasions in their lives recognized by their colleagues.

“Keep an eye out for key moments that might be important in someone’s life, and recognize them. You might wish them a lovely Diwali if they celebrate it,” Epler offers as an example of a long list of potentially relevant occasions including Juneteenth, Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Pride Month, etc.

3. When someone isn’t participating, take notice and support them.

It’s easy to write off someone who is quiet in meetings or brainstorming sessions as simply short of courage or ideas, but if you do so, you’ll likely miss out on both valuable insights as well as a chance to bring out the best in your people.

“A person who is feeling marginalized or excluded, tokenized or like an impostor may sideline themselves — by not speaking up, not contributing, not showing up. In the remote workplace, people may turn off their video because they aren’t engaged, don’t have a home environment they want to show on video, feel excluded, or are burned out from inequities and exclusion. Check in with them, and see if and how you can support them,” advises Epler.

4. Invite someone to speak and share their expertise.

If you’re invited to speak on an all-white guy panel or notice a certain sameness in who gets chosen for the big presentations around your office, fixing that lack of diversity isn’t just in the hands of the organizers. Epler urges those with clout to help push forward underrecognized talent in their professional circles.

“If you’ve been invited to give a speech or presentation, ask if you can bring an expert colleague with you to the stage, or consider stepping back and recommending someone who isn’t often asked to speak,” she suggests, adding that “if you’re asking someone to share their expertise at a corporate event or at an event that makes a profit, make sure they are paid equitably for their expertise.”

5. Provide both positive feedback and constructive criticism.

Studies show that women in particular are often give only “nice” feedback that ignores areas for improvement and robs them of opportunities to learn and grow. So be cognizant of your constructive criticism and make sure you’re not shying away from sometimes awkward but ultimately beneficial conversations with certain members of your team.

On the other hand, Epler reminds bosses to also remember to mix praise for what’s positive in with notes on what to work on. “When I was in film school working with actors, one of my directing teachers taught us that you should always give an actor two to three pieces of specific positive feedback before providing negative or constructive feedback. It can make a big difference in their next performance,” she writes.

Author image for Jessica Stillman

Source: 5 Tiny but Impactful ‘Microaffirmations’ to Make Everyone on Your Team Feel Valued and Included | Inc.com

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“Organization Science – INFORMS”

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