Rather, it means not getting personally involved in every difficult situation that people come to you about.
We empaths tend to draw a lot of wounded, suffering souls to us, because we feel so much compassion for them.
Feeling someone else’s energy, we know how much they hurt, and want to help them however we can.
As such, many of us feel a need to step in and “fix” whatever is damaging them, troubling them, or otherwise going wrong in their lives.
We’re natural healers who hate to see anyone suffering…
…but that doesn’t mean that it’s our “job” to alleviate their pain.
People grow through what they go through, and stepping in to fix things can actually do an immense disservice to their personal and spiritual development.
As such, we need to cultivate a degree of detachment so we don’t automatically become involved – and emotionally invested – in their experience.
When we see that everyone’s difficulties are part of an important learning curve, the need to step in and “fix” just goes away.
This in turn alleviates a lot of pressure from those people, who will try to use you as their support pillar instead of working through their own issues.
Which leads into learning how to…
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
This one is particularly problematic for a lot of empaths.
As mentioned above, when someone is hurting, we want to step in and help.
Furthermore, when others are hurting, they tend to expect us to step in and help, because well… we can.
Many people feel so much better after unloading their hurt and sorrow onto an empath, and get resentful when they’re no longer permitted to do so.
That’s why learning to say “no, I’m sorry, I can’t right now” is one of the most difficult things an empath has to learn how to do.
Not only do we end up feeling like complete jerks for seemingly abandoning those we care about when they’re hurting, but those other people will often lash out at us for doing so.
That can be devastating to people who are particularly sensitive.
Self-care is absolutely vital for empaths, and being accused of being cold or distant when just trying to tread water can be very damaging.
The empath may feel like their own needs are irrelevant compared to what other people need/want of them, and thus put their own well-being on the back burner.
What ends up happening?
We get sick.
This is why we need to create healthy boundaries, and stick to them.
Furthermore, we need to express those boundaries to others, in a gentle but firm manner.
It’s important to take note of the people in our lives who accept and support those boundaries, and those who get resentful and abusive about them.
3. Create An Energy Barrier
One of the best things you can learn how to do is to create an energy barrier between yourself and all the vibes that other people are tossing your way.
Some empaths envision a bubble of white light that extends a few feet away from their bodies.
They’ll do this before going out in public, or before dealing with others in a potentially difficult environment.
Depending on the person, this could mean a visit to a shopping mall, or a large family gathering.
Just note that when it comes to creating a cocoon like this, it’s important to leave space for energy to flow.
As such, if you decide to create this egg- or sphere-like barrier around yourself, envision a hole at the top and bottom.
By doing this, you allow light to flow down into you from above, and energy to flow out from you down into the ground as well.
Other people, especially those who have a strong connection with their spirit guides, ask their spiritual support network to help shield them.
As such, they have their guides (and/or ancestors, devas, angels, or any other positive-energy beings) form a protective light barrier around them.
Picture it like several spirit warriors standing arm-in-arm around you.
If you don’t have enough faith in your own protective abilities right now, this could be a good alternative for you to try.
4. Use Crystals To Dispel Negativity
Many empaths feel that using crystals helps them to boost their protective energy.
If you have a strong affinity with stones, consider carrying a couple in your pockets.
Alternatively, you can wear them as pendants or bracelets, as direct skin contact can help you feel their positive effects, as they whisk negative energy away from you (and your immediate environment).
If you’re interested in working with protective crystals, check out some of the following:
Pick up a few of these stones, and spend some time sitting with them individually.
Meditate while holding them, and see how each one makes you feel. Then, select the ones that you have the strongest affinity for, and try holding them in different combinations.
Every person will have different affinities for various stones, and you’ll be able to determine which will work best for you after spending solid time getting to know them.
Once you’ve found your magic protective combination, you can keep those stones close to you at all times to help amplify your energetic defense.
Just remember that many of these stones absorb negativity, along with deflecting or dispelling them.
As such, they need to be cleansed properly on a regular basis to release all that yuck.
Words have power, and writing down things that you feel – and what you’d like to release – can be immensely cathartic.
If you keep a positivity or gratitude journal, you’re probably already accustomed to writing down several things you’re grateful for, on a daily or weekly basis.
Committing those thoughts and feelings to paper really amplifies them, doesn’t it?
The reverse is also true.
Instead of mulling over negative or painful emotional experiences, write them down.
Take a few minutes, ground yourself, and write down everything that’s troubling you.
As you do so, also write that you’d like to release any negativity that you may be holding due to experiencing these things.
You might cry a bit while doing so, and that’s absolutely okay!
It’s more than just cathartic: it’s a physical energy release. When you cry, you’re allowing pent-up emotion to leave your body, and that’s a very good thing.
Once you’ve written all that out, close the journal.
Envision this like closing a door on something that’s been hurting or upsetting you, and it’ll sever any remaining energy connection.
Hell, you can even rip out those pages and burn them if that would help you really embrace closure.
This kind of release is incredibly important for your well-being. Illness often manifests due to built-up stress and negativity in our bodies, so actively releasing it can help ward off all kinds of issues.
The more you practice this technique, the better you’ll feel.
You may even discover that your spiritual immune system strengthens quite a bit, since it’s not being constantly attacked from all directions.
6. Be Present In Your Body
A lot of empaths feel really alienated from the entire human experience.
Since we can get so overwhelmed in situations, most of us learn how to “tune out” at a very early age.
Quite simply, it’s like spiritual escapism: we allow our energy to veer off elsewhere as a means of self preservation.
The problem with this is that it’s like leaving your door open and unlocked while you’re out playing in the yard.
That’s all well and good if you’re in a safe, secluded environment, but would you be comfortable doing that if you live downtown?
Having that door open allows you to escape easily, certainly… but it also allows other people’s energy in. Really, really easily.
Being more present in your body can be intimidating – even uncomfortable at first – but it becomes easier once you start establishing healthy boundaries, and putting up energy protections.
You won’t have to escape anymore, because there’s nothing to run away from.
Instead of being a cage, your body becomes a protective fortress.
Vinyasa flow yoga can really help with this, as can Tai Chi, or even weight training.
Choose a type of exercise that engages mind, body, and breathwork.
As your physical body and protective energy barriers get stronger, your immunity to empathic pain and sickness will intensify as well.
7. Get Into Water
Water is unbelievably helpful when it comes to helping you release unwanted energy.
How you choose to use it is up to you, as once again, different techniques work for different people.
I like to dump a bunch of Epsom salts into a hot bath, add a few drops of essential oil to calm me, and then soak in there until I get pruny.
When I pull out the stopper, I envision all the negative energy slipping down the drain along with the water I’d soaked in.
Other people use a similar technique under a showerhead. Just picture that water sluicing unwanted energy off you, away from you, circling down the drain.
Similarly, that water can also invigorate you, filling you with positive energy and surrounding you with liquid light.
Use scents, oils, even colored bubble bath to set an intention, and roll around in the tub, allowing all that positivity to wash over you in a healing, protective embrace.
In warmer weather, swimming in a river or lake can be a great option. This leads to the next tip:
8. Honor Your Empathic Sensitivities And Avoid Things That Make You Ill
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting out of situations that make you feel terrible.
Some people might try to make you believe that exposing yourself to certain scenarios will help to desensitize you to them, but it rarely happens that way.
In fact, over-exposure to toxic environments will make you more sensitive over time, not less.
Think of exposure to negative energy situations sort of like exposure to radiation.
You’ll be okay if it’s only in occasional, small amounts, though you have to go through decontamination afterwards to ensure that there are no long-term ill effects.
Do it too often, however, and you’ll be a proper mess.
Are you sensitive to sound and light? Then it’s probably best if you avoid certain live music venues, clubs, etc.
Consider the environments that replenish you rather than drain you, and aim for those.
If your friends really want to hang out with you at a bar or concert, suggest a quiet local pub, or an acoustic set at a local venue instead.
If your work environment is making you unhappy/overwhelmed/downright sick, then there may be several options available.
Open plan offices are absolute hell for most empaths, as there’s no barrier between you and literally everyone else.
Does your workplace have offices at all? Is there a chance that you could move into one of them?
Talk to your bosses and see if that’s a viable option. Otherwise, negotiate the possibility of working from home.
If neither of those are possibilities, it might be time to find a new job – namely one that will allow you to work in a place where you can actually function, let alone thrive.
Some empaths buckle under societal pressure to just push through and carry on, despite the havoc that wreaks on every aspect of their lives.
Think of it this way: a person who has an anaphylactic reaction to a particular food or ingredient wouldn’t feel a need to eat it just because other people want them to.
They know that their well-being is of the utmost importance, and if they aren’t diligent about tending to their needs, they’re going to get sick. Possibly incredibly ill.
Just because empathic sensitivity is spiritual and energetic, doesn’t mean that it’s any less serious.
If you know that a particular situation – or person – is going to make you incredibly ill, then it’s best to avoid it.
This isn’t being weak or cowardly: it’s a means of self-preservation.
There are some circumstances that you can build up a tolerance for, but that can take time, effort, and patience.
In contrast, there will also be some situations that will flatten you.
Those situations are like rooms that contain virulent, highly contagious disease.
Exposing yourself to it just to prove how brave and strong you are will undoubtedly result in you feeling like crap for a good, long while.
Do you really want to do that to yourself?
Weigh the pros and cons of immersing yourself in that kind of harmful situation…
If you feel that you’ve reached a point in which your physical and energetic barriers are strong enough to fend off the lurgy, then go for it.
If you still feel vulnerable or anxious about it because you know it’ll make you horribly ill, then it’s best to avoid it instead.
9. Consider An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
No two people are alike, and no diet will work the same for everyone.
If you’re able to see a naturopath or an allergist, they might be able to determine which foods you may be sensitive to, or whether you have any full-on allergies.
Many empaths find a great deal of relief with anti-inflammatory diets, such as those for people with autoimmune disorders.
These eliminate inflammatory foods like nightshades, gluten, and nuts, and focus on nutrient density from whole, nourishing foods.
Some empaths swear by a vegan diet, others do better with paleo or keto.
There’s no one path here: just what works best for you.
Once you find the foods that nourish you on a cellular level and make you feel amazing, you’ll be less susceptible to all kinds of illness – physical, spiritual, and mental.
10. Tend To Your Lymphatic System
Keeping your lymphatic system healthy is key to building up a strong immune system.
That goes for spiritual immunity as well as physical. After all, they affect one another.
Notice how people who are stressed all the time are more susceptible to illness?
It’s doubly so for empaths, since we have to fight off emotional and spiritual sickness as well as physical.
In addition to eating a diet that’s best for your body’s unique needs, you can improve your overall immune system with lymph-stimulating yoga sequences.
Additionally, if you have a good massage therapist, ask them about manual lymphatic drainage, also known as lymph-draining massage.
They can use essential oils and gentle pressure to physically stimulate your lymph nodes, encouraging them to release any dreck they’re storing, thus boosting your immune system.
Think of it like spring cleaning for your body.
You can assist this process by drinking a lot of water (try adding lemon juice to it!) and wearing loose clothing made of natural fibers.
Remember that you’re an incredibly complex mind-body-spirit entity, and building up your tolerance to empathic illness and pain requires strengthening all those aspects.
Keep the healthy boundaries you establish, treat your body as sacred, honor your abilities, and take as much downtime as you need.
Although being an empath can be exhausting, it’s also a rare gift. It’s just a matter of learning the self-care and protective techniques that work best for you.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.