The Blessing and Curse of Being an Empath

Why Feeling Everything So Deeply Is Both A Blessing And A Curse

What it's like being an empath in today's emotionally disconnected world.

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As I sat outside a sun-soaked café overlooking the French Riviera this past summer, I couldn't help but tune into the sounds of two young Americans sitting behind me, engaged in a heated argument. "Your mood swings are unbearable!" the man said through clenched teeth. "I'm sorry you can't handle how deeply I feel things!" huffed the woman in reply. As their seemingly circular, accusatory exchange continued, I slowly earmarked the page of the book I had been reading and allowed this woman's statement to sink in. Being known as a sensitive individual is something that has been relentlessly mocked in our culture, whether in entertainment media or as a part of cultural norms. Exclamations like "Don't be such a cry-baby!" and "You're a drama queen!", I have found, are statements whose sole purposes are to force others to bury feelings of discomfort, pain, hurt, offense, or even joy from being expressed.

If I fell and scraped my knee growing up or felt like I was about to crack under the pressures of school, my mom would always wrap me in a big hug and say, "The only way out of this feeling is through it". A sometimes nearly-impossible pill to swallow, this piece of advice carried me through every joyful and difficult time I endured as I grew up, yet it wasn't until I was a sophomore in high school that I came to find that my mood, and, in turn, my physical well-being, were being affected by the petty dramas of others. Although I myself was not directly involved in any of the situations, I could not understand why when my friends or acquaintances were sad or suffering, I, too, would find myself getting easily upset, frustrated, or saddened by things that usually would not bother me.

Why was I like this? Did I have something wrong with me? A mood disorder?

The tornado of thoughts and questions inside my head evolved into extensive, nightly Google searches, and after a few days, I came to find that I am what is called an empath. More simply defined as "emotional sponges", empaths are beings with the ability to somewhat absorb the energies or emotions of others. Men and women, alike, online that also identify as empaths stated that this gift is both one of the greatest blessings and curses an individual can bear in this modern age.

Since coming to realize this, I have felt the heaviness of my own heart when my best friends have gone through break-ups; I have carried my mom's stress when she's had a bad day at work; I have mourned for both myself and others at the loss of a family member; and I have passed bitter-looking strangers on the street and felt their frustrations wholeheartedly. Pulling myself away from the grasp of such immense heaviness is something I've had to teach myself and practice over time, but as I sat listening to that American couple in France, I realized that these beautiful and deep experiences were not singular to me and that it is something a specific community of individuals alone can actually understand.

So why try and be happy if feeling the suffering of others is imminent and out of an empath's control? For one reason: the immeasurable and insurmountable joy that is also available in every place where there is pain. The smile of a stranger on the street allows beams of light and love to course through my veins; the small, everyday accomplishments of a sibling bring tears of joy to my eyes; and overwhelming displays of unity, kindness, acceptance, and peace enable a euphoric feeling to warm my heart and soul.

In today's world, we can no longer be afraid or ashamed of feeling/owning our feelings. As much as things like technology or social media may connect us, hiding behind a screen or an image only impedes us from really connecting with others and creating the safe space for them to outwardly express any positive or negative emotions they may be feeling. Like with most everything in life, it comes down to perspective. I could ruminate on all of the things wrong with the world that I feel too helpless to change or accept, or instead I could wake up each day, take a deep breath, and remind myself that light can be always be found, even in the darkest of places, and that feeling is, in fact, man's greatest strength.

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10 Bible Verses for Self Esteem

Sometimes you need to search for inner strength and find your own self worth.
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We all get those days that we just don't feel good enough for anything. Everything is going wrong. For me, I go to the bible to read the words of God. His personal dialog for us is filled with encouragement, hope, and lessons we can learn from. Here are my top ten verses that are uplifting and impacting when at the lowest of lows:

1. Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.

2. Psalm 46:5

God is within her, she will not fall.

3. Proverbs 31:25

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

4. Psalm 28:76

The Lord is my strength and my shield.

5. 1 Corinthians 25:10

By the grace of God, I am what I am.

6. Romans 5:8

I loved you at your darkest.

7. Psalm 62:5-6

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.

8. 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

9. 1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

10. 2 Chronicles 20:15

The battle is not ours, but God's.

Cover Image Credit: chinadaily

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8 Unconventional Ways To De-Stress We All Need

Moody isn't always the move.

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When the stress of finals hits a little too hard and Moody is no longer the move, I use these tricks as a way to stay positive and power through the semester!

1. Plan a Trip

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While it's not always financially feasible to travel all over the world, I've found that when I take 30-45 minutes to plan a 'bucket list' vacation, my stress levels almost always decrease. Granted, I'm a Type-A person so planning gives me extreme joy. I love to look up cheap flights on Google Flights for a date in the future and then plan a trip around it; I'll go onto TripAdvisor and find an ideal hotel, a list of things I want to do, and restaurants I want to eat at. Maybe the trip isn't happening YET, but who knows? At least you'll have it planned when you actually do get to visit that dream destination in the future!

2. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals

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Sometimes I need to feel like I'm being productive when I'm not actually being productive. A bit of an oxymoron, but nonetheless I love making both short term and long term to-do lists of sorts as a study break. This is super easy to do in those odd breaks in classes or even between studying for different classes! Just grab a piece of paper and write down what you want to get done for the rest of the day, week, year... The depth and extent of the list is truly up to you!

3. Online. Shopping.

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Online shopping is definitely a de-stress method for those that love fashion like me. So if you have to be dragged into the mall, this suggestion is probably not for you! I personally love visiting some of my favorite store websites (looking @ you Nordstrom) and looking at some of the new pieces and upcoming trends. Being able to be enveloped in something completely unrelated to what I'm studying for is much needed at times!

4. Go for a walk around campus/ town

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Sometimes I start to go 'stir crazy' if I've been sitting inside for too long! I love putting in some earbuds and going for a walk around campus if it's a pretty day, just to get a break from staring at a computer. And, okay yes, I usually treat myself to a coffee while I'm out (CG is the move if you're at Baylor)!

5. Get some friends together and make a treat of some sort

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Sometimes at the end of a long study day, my friends and I just want to do something low-key and fun. A lot of times my friends and I will go to the store and get a couple of ingredients to make a dessert together. These do not have to be elaborate. Some of the things my friends and I have baked this year include a cookie log, peep s'mores, and pre-made cookies. We're not exactly honing in on our culinary/baking skills, but it's fun to spend time together and have a yummy end result!

6. Make some tea, diffuse some essential oil, and do a face mask

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I absolutely love doing a 'self-care' night every once in a while. When I have a test I, along with many others I'm sure, can get super stressed and anxious! One thing that really helps calm me down is putting on a face mask, making myself some tea, and diffusing some essential oils. I use this time to read my Bible, catch up on a TV show, or just listen to music. As important as it is to prepare well for the test/final, it helps me so much to schedule in some "relaxation" time as well!

7. Use a journal either to reflect on the day or sketch

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I'm going to preface this by saying, I am not artsy at all. However, sometimes getting out a journal and sketching/doodling is a great way to de-stress in the midst of studying! I also really enjoy using a journal to write reflections/prayers/ quotes I love as a way to break up the studying as well.

8. Make a presentation on something you're excited about

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This is for all you fellow type-A personality, planners like me! One of my favorite ways to relax and reward myself after studying is to make a presentation (google slide presentation to be exact) of some events/places/plans I'm excited for. I've made presentations detailing what my friends and I will do in the summer, travel plans, and a study-abroad information presentation for my parents, amongst other things.

Hopefully, these ideas will help get y'all through the stress of the final exams/tests/quizzes to come. Though unconventional, these are just some of the ways I remind myself that there is ultimately more to life than school and studying!

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