Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

6 Survival Tips for Empaths

Judith Orloff - Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s book,“The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” (Sounds True, 2017)

Being in crowds and around energy vampires can be very challenging, almost overwhelming for empaths. During times of stress their ability to be emotional sponges heightens, which overrides their sublime capacity to absorb positive emotions and all that is beautiful. If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Crowds or negativity, though, often feel assaultive, exhausting.

For empaths to fully enjoy the holiday gatherings with family and friends, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. Since I’m an empath, I want to help them cultivate this capacity and be comfortable with it.

I’ve always been hyper-attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. Before I learned to protect my energy, I felt them lodge in my body. After being in crowds I would leave feeling anxious, depressed, or tired. When I got home, I’d just crawl into bed, yearning for peace and quiet.

Here are six strategies to help you manage empathy more effectively and stay centered without absorbing negative energies.

  • Move away. When possible, distance yourself by at least twenty feet from the suspected source. See if you feel relief. Don't err on the side of not wanting to offend anyone. At the gathering try not to sit next to the identified energy vampire. Physical closeness increases empathy.

  • Surrender to your breath. If you suspect you are picking up someone else’s energies, concentrate on your breath for a few minutes. This is centering and connects you to your power. In contrast, holding your breath keeps negativity lodged in your body. To purify fear and pain, exhale stress and inhale calm. Picture unwholesome emotions as a gray fog lifting from your body, and wellness as a clear light entering it. This can produce quick results.

  • Practice Guerilla Meditation. Be sure to meditate before the gathering, centering yourself, connecting to spirit, feeling your heart. Get strong. If you counter emotional or physical distress while at an event, act fast and meditate for a few minutes. You can do this by taking refuge in the bathroom or an empty room. If it’s public, close the stall. Meditate there. Calm yourself. Focus on positivity and love. This has saved me many times at social functions where I feel depleted by others.

  • Set healthy limits and boundaries. Control how much time you spend listening to stressful people, and learn to say “no.” Set clear limits and boundaries with people, nicely cutting them off at the pass if they get critical or mean. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence.

  • Visualize protection around you. Research has shown that visualization is a healing mind/body technique. A practical form of protection many people use, including health care practitioners with difficult patients, involves visualizing an envelope of white light around your entire body. Or with extremely toxic people, visualize a fierce black jaguar patrolling and protecting your energy field to keep out intruders.

  • Define and honor your empathic needs. Safeguard your sensitivities. In a calm, collected moment, make a list of your top five most emotionally rattling situations. Then formulate a plan for handling them so you don’t fumble in the moment. Here are some practical examples of what to do in situations that predictably stymie empaths.
  • If someone asks too much of you, politely tell them “no.” It’s not necessary to explain why. As the saying goes, “No is a complete sentence.”
  • If your comfort level is three hours max for socializing--even if you adore the people -- take your own car or have an alternate transportation plan so you’re not stranded.
  • If crowds are overwhelming, eat a high-protein meal beforehand (this grounds you) and sit in the far corner of, say, a theatre or party, not dead center.
  • Some empaths are highly sensitive to scents, if you are overwhelmed, for instance by perfume, nicely request that your friends refrain from wearing it around you. If you can’t avoid it, stand near a window or take frequent breaks to catch a breath of fresh air outdoors.
  • If all else fails and you absorb stressful or negative energy while at a gathering when you get home take a bath or shower. My bath is my sanctuary after a busy day. It washes away everything from bus exhaust to long hours of air travel to pesky symptoms I have taken on from others. Soaking in natural mineral springs divinely purifies all that ails.




    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Angie commented on 30-Dec-2014 10:20 AM
    Great info!!!!! At 50 years of age I finally understand why I get so exhausted being around groups of people!!!! Not to mention the borderline, narcissist that I am married to. It is truely a fight for survival at this point... I pray for love and light to fill every cell of our bodies!!!
    Latoya commented on 04-Jun-2015 11:15 AM
    I would love to share with you my story of being an empath. I believe that you might be hosting a great seminar and I wondered if I could write something for your book? Thank you so much for all the work you do Dr. Orloff.

    Latoya Beverly
    Rainer commented on 11-Jun-2015 03:32 PM
    I thought i never end up in a situation i am. I am a sensitive person and my new Partner in life for the last 4 months is in to Reiki healing, crystals, vibrations and so on. I am not but respect her passion& believes. My question is to you; How does one survive an empath? I feel as if i am not being able to be myself with such a person.Perhaps you could write or provide a strategy in dealing with such a person?
    Alyssa commented on 24-Jun-2015 10:56 AM
    In response to Rainer, you might want to check out the video "Living the Empathic Life" by Bernadette Dickinson. Even though it's geared towards empaths, it mentions some things about what family members/partners can do and be aware of with empaths.
    Anita Marie Colbert commented on 14-Sep-2015 10:56 AM
    I just celebrated my 65th birthday. I have spent many years understanding my HSP personality and having done so, I am very proud of how I feel today. It is not easy to be able to "feel" so much energy, emotion, and have highly intuned senses. Through reading books, seeing an excellent therapist and trusting in a power greater than myself I am happy that I feel as centered as I do now, even though it is later in life than I would have wanted. Since I believe firmly in reincarnation, and our spirits moving on - I will not have to repeat this class again....I have learned to cherish who I am and not feel as different and ostracized as I once did. That is the greatest gift I can give myself, and I have done that. Thank you for your powerful and truthful work Dr. Orloff. You are a Godsend!!!!
    Pata commented on 24-Feb-2017 09:15 PM
    I am highly sensitive and although I found this information only a few years ago through Elaine Aron and Michaela Chung and I just turned 70! I am so grateful to them and look forward to Dr Orloff's new book about Empaths It is so exciting to know and feel better about myself through the understanding of these women. Thank you so very much.

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