I am an empath. As a child I was always acutely aware of my emotions and the emotions of those around me. As an adult, and as I developed professionally, I began to see myself jump off pages or screens when I read about empaths or highly sensitive people. So I became a “self diagnosed empath” 😊.
Is the term new to you? An empath, in a nutshell, is someone who is highly aware of their emotions as well as the emotions of those around them. Sounds simple enough right?! Empaths feel things before they see it on paper or hear it in words. Empaths understand people’s pain points. Empaths can see the emotional needs of others often before others see it themselves. Empaths can absorb the energy in a room.
Being an empath allows me to connect with people. It allows me to meet people where they are and join them in their spaces for whatever they need at that point. As an educator and coach, being an empath has served me. It has helped me to help others in countless circumstances.
The thing is, there is always a flip side. I am very aware of the fact that I can absorb all sorts of energy, even the energy that doesn’t serve me. Over the years I have learned what is necessary in order for me to embrace the sensitivity in my personality without absorbing it in a way that will affect my well-being. This has been no easy feat, and is a non negotiable daily exercise for me.
I am not alone in this boat though. There are many empaths among us. Many people that read between the lines and just seem to “understand.” The thing is…us empaths, we love to be in nurturing professions.
Early on in the pandemic I found myself reflecting on the healthcare workers that are empaths. As stories emerged of doctors and nurses putting pictures on their gowns so that their patients would know what they looked like under their PPE’s, I thought for sure those ideas came from empaths.
Today though…I am reflecting on my fellow teacher empaths. As teachers, regardless of our level of sensitivities, we often have to move from sponge to Teflon within an instant. We have to be able to absorb what our students are saying and feeling in order to connect and help them thrive, but we also have to be the type of Teflon that allows things to roll right off of us so that we do not take home the difficult, frustrating or heartbreaking situations home to our personal spaces.
It seems as though every corner of the world is having the back to school debate. Who will go back? How will this look? What will we do if… The questions seem to be endless. The thought I often come back to is “but what about the teachers?”
Teachers, this is scary stuff. I hear you. I see you. I feel you. I am with you. In my little corner of the world I have watched teachers do post hurricane teaching in ways that have truly been a definition of resilience walking. I see teachers jumping back into this mode once again. I wish I had answers for you. I wish I had clear cut solutions and a well laid out 12 step plan, but I don’t. This stuff is just too complicated.
What I do have is a suggestion from my empath survival kit. That suggestion is to focus on the parts of this period that are within your control. This is an incredibly stressful time and although teachers often know how to tango with stress, this is a different kind of stress. This has a dashes of anxiety, uncertainty, grief and frustration.
In education, we often say “Maslow” before “Bloom” which reminds teachers that the basic needs of students need to be taken care or before we can be concerned with the levels of thinking that we plan for in our lessons. Teachers, please remember you need your own versions of “Maslow” before “Bloom.”
What is your plan for personal well-being? What will you do in order to be able to take things in stride one day at a time. Although I have my own little morning routine that helps me balance out my empath ways, I am going to borrow Jay Shetty’s. Focus on T.I.M.E.
Insight: Tap into what inspires you. When you can tap into content that will encourage your growth it fuels you to deal with challenges. Read, listen or watch something that sparks your interest. Learn a new skill or hobby that is COVID friendly.
Mediation: Finding moments of peace can be a challenge, but with calm and stillness comes clarity. Creating and practicing relaxed breathing patterns creates an alignment that helps us manage stress and anxiety. Be intentional about incorporating this time in your day, it will have a positive effect on the rest of your day.
Exercise: In addition to exercise being a good companion to any COVID eating habits that have emerged, it also improves our mood, boosts energy, improves our overall health, and allows us to have better quality of sleep.
Will T.I.M.E. solve your pandemic challenges? Nope. But in my books, it will help you build your resilience. In this period, it's not only the empaths that need to go out of their way to be proactive about their resilience. We all need tools that provide daily fuel to help us take uncertainties one day at a time.