3 Practices That Help Ease the Pain of Being Highly Empathetic

“I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” ~Walt Whitman

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another’s experience and understand with depth the gravity of their situation. In general, I believe the world needs more empathy.

But I’ve learned over the course of my twenty-nine years that sometimes being a highly empathetic person is incredibly painful. And sometimes too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Hearing stories of the pain that people experience can be extra painful when your mind tries to carry their pain around with you. Empathy is healthy when it’s useful and helps a wounded person feel understood, validated, or release their pain. But it’s unhealthy when you carry it with you as if it is your own.

Feeling sorrow for someone who is suffering is part of our humanity and connection to each other. Carrying the sorrow as if it belongs to you ends up feeling traumatizing and can cause us to disconnect from others.

I’ve always struggled with holding on to the pain of others. From the stories of suffering I hear on the news to the people I run across in my everyday life, I’ve found it difficult not to get lost in their pain and end up holding on to it. When that problem hit even closer to home, I reached a breaking point that ended up teaching me how to stop it.

My sister is a nurse who was working on a trauma unit floor the day she was assaulted by a patient. Seeing the bruises covering her face and her eyes swollen shut was a gut wrenching experience. For months after that my mind turned over and over again how she must have felt.

I’d see the surprise and fear on her face in my mind’s eye. I’d feel the terror and the pain. And the overwhelming relief when he was finally off of her. Followed by the sense of humiliation and vulnerability at being alone on the floor.

She was wounded. My overly empathetic brain created me as the second wounded one.

I am a highly sensitive woman who struggles with both ADHD and Anxiety. These three challenges come together into the perfect storm to torture me with too much empathy sometimes.

High sensitivity makes me more attuned to others. ADHD makes it extra difficult to control my runaway thoughts. Anxiety creates a sense of ongoing vulnerability that keeps the wound open. This perfect storm has required a strong internal set of resources to combat it. In the traumatic aftermath of my sister’s assault, I finally found the recipe for that resource.

These three things have helped me reduce the internal wounding of being too empathetic.

Mindful Attention to Words without Pictures

I was on the phone with my mom as she was processing what happened to my sister, and I noticed that the most painful part of it all was the movie reel playing in my head as my mind interpreted her story in pictures.

I couldn’t bare the emotional onslaught that I could feel coming and somewhat intuitively picked up on a mindfulness tool that I now swear by. As she continued, I made a conscious effort to hear only her words. To only focus on her words.

When my mind started to create the overwhelming pictures, I would return my focus to the sound of the words themselves. I tried to hear the words and only understand them to the extent of their definition—devoid of the extra meaning and emotional context I had been attaching to them.

Even though this practice was difficult to do, I was able to leave that conversation without feeling re-wounded. And that was a first.

A Mindful Mantra

It wasn’t just the conversations and specific triggers that created the wounded feeling. My anxious ADHD brain would recreate the story on its own. It would play that movie of what my sister experienced start to finish. In those moments, there were no words to attend to. There was only me and my sometimes-torturous brain.

It was out of that experience that I developed what I’ll call my mindful mantra. It starts with the recognition that my thoughts have run away from me. When I see that, I imagine that it was all playing out on a picture book that I can see myself firmly shut. I even imagine the sound of a book being forcefully shut.

Then the mantra. Every time I catch myself in this place I use the same mantra, and over time it has become helpful in its own right. This could be anything, but for me, my mantra goes like this:

“Nothing good goes down this path.”

It serves as a reminder that there is nothing useful to me or to the wounded person (in this case my sister) in fixating on their painful (now past) experience. It’s also a subtle reminder that choosing to stop the internal battle isn’t hurtful to the person who’s been wounded.

With that, I find that I can practice the next skill before re-engaging myself in something else.

A New Visual for Letting Go

Sometimes the mind tries to hold on as if it’s not quite ready to let go. My ADHD mind has extra trouble with this. It’s in those moments that I practice this mindful visual exercise. I sometimes need to practice it several times before my brain is ready to transition on to something more helpful.

But like any mindfulness practice, I find that the more I bring my mind back to the exercise, the better it gets at using the exercise for letting go.

I see my thoughts (or sometimes the book in which I closed them up) floating down a river. I grew up in an area with a ton of amazing waterfalls that debut in this visual exercise. I visualize a powerful, tall waterfall like the ones I grew up with and I see my thoughts fall over the edge.

Then I stand and watch them flow on the river beneath until they are completely out of my sight.

After this, I’ve found that it can be helpful to engage myself in another activity to help my brain transition. Sometimes that looks like a good movie or a walk with my husband. Other times, it’s a hobby or project I’m interested in that helps grab my attention.

If the movie reel starts to play again, I send it back over the waterfall.

With these strategies, I’ve been able to finally find some peace with my mind. Even though they are challenging strategies that sometimes take practice, I’ve found them to be well worth the effort.

About Tia Cantrell

Tia Cantrell is the ADHD brain behind the Little Miss Lionheart blog. She’s a therapist by day and a writer by night whose mission is to help others with what she’s found to work for herself. She talks about all things Mental Wellness, ADHD, and Anxiety. Visit her at www.littlemisslionheart.com.

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Habits over Hustle: How Small Daily Actions Bring You Big Results with Less Stress

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives; it’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins

Being productive and having your life together is hard! Productivity is a habit, just like a plant; the more you nurture it, the more it will develop.

I am an Air sign, and it can be difficult for me sometimes to anchor myself with a goal or vision. Many of you will relate to me on this. I have realized that having a good balance between my emotions and a boss-attitude helps me go a long way.

But how do we do that day in and day out without hustling our way to overwhelm?

You may gather motivation from a video or a social media post, but all those feel-good juices are temporary and only help you change your mindset for a short time.

When it comes to balancing my life as a blogger and an architect, I need to have a mindset that helps me thrive in difficult and challenging situations.

Creating new content every day, along with getting into a design process, is a task!

But over time, I have developed a pattern of habits, a daily routine really, that helps me start my peaceful mornings with a boss state of mind and end my busiest and hectic day with calmness.

Here are some habits that have helped me get into a hustle mindset and be productive in my daily life.

1. Drink a health tonic upon waking.

The very first thing I do upon waking is hydrate my body with a warm cup of water with lemon.

Not only does it flush out all the toxins that developed in my body overnight, but it helps maintain a healthy gut, which is your second brain.

Having a habit of giving back to your body first thing in the morning will not only make you healthy but will have a major impact on your psychological aspect too.

Here are some suggestions for healthy drinks to consume in the morning:

  • Warm lemon water
  • Water with a pinch of turmeric
  • Warm water with apple cider vinegar
  • Green tea

2. Consume inspirational content – before checking email or Facebook

Whenever I feel I am in a slump or feel unmotivated, I listen to an inspirational podcast or watch a motivational video to help me explore different ways to look at where I am feeling stuck and offer a fresh perspective on what I might be missing about my situation.

Every morning, listen to a podcast or audiobook or watch a video that will not only help you grow your business but help develop a positive state of mind.

Here are some suggestions of positive content you can enjoy in the morning for inspiration:

  • Listen to a podcast
  • Read a book or blog post
  • Listen to an audiobook
  • Create an inspirational music playlist

3. Engage in mindful activities

When talking about the state of mind and productivity, your mental health is the first thing that should be considered. Having a healthy brain will automatically help you be centered and focused.

Research has shown the yoga and mindfulness activity in the morning helps you to align your thoughts with your body. Having a highly productive day requires a state of mind that supports you in going through the emotional roller coaster. If your thought process is not in place and expanding in every direction, you may end up working really hard but getting nothing done.

When your body is aligned with your brain and is not ruled by emotions, that’s when you know you are in a healthy state of mind.

Practicing 10-15 minutes of yoga and/or meditation in the morning will help you maintain a healthy brain and a productive hustle.

Here are some suggestions for mindful activities to include in your morning routine:

  • Yoga (minimum 10-15 min)
  • Meditation (minimum 10 min)
  • Pranayamas (breathing exercises)
  • Setting intention through writing

4. Write it out

It is impossible to focus when your mind is going a mile a minute with to-do lists, grocery items, upcoming deadlines, and all those useless facts your brain insists on keeping handy. That’s why it is very important to do a brain dump every day by freely writing down everything on your mind.

Journaling is the best habit I have developed and is still helpful three years after making it a daily must-do.

Journaling helps you create space where you can be yourself, without being self-conscious or insecure. It helps you to view your problems from a third perspective, which makes it a lot easier to solve or get past, if needed.

Whenever I face a creative block, I write my thoughts out, and it always helps me get through the blockage.

5. Sweat it out

Your body generates energy, and when it is trapped, you feel anxious and restless.

Every morning, engage in an activity that will make you sweat – hard!

Sweating helps release endorphins, which are happy hormones, and keeps you on track mentally and physically.

You can do any activity you like – a HIIT workout, a full gym session, swimming, running, walking, any exercise that gets the blood pumping and makes you push yourself a little extra, every day!

6. Make an MIT List

With all the goals and visions floating in your head, it’s quite hard not to get overwhelmed and stay aligned. Every day, decide 3 MITs (Most Important Task) and make a list that will include ONLY three major tasks for the day. Remember to align those tasks with your long-term goals.

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”– Bill Gates

It’s easy to get caught up in work and not realize that spending sleepless nights might look the only option, but this can be dangerous to your health in the long run.

7. Wake up early

When it comes to giving a boost to your daily productivity, waking up early is the best solution.

Mornings give you enough time to reflect upon your decisions, plan out your days, work on your physical and mental health, and take a moment for gratitude.

Waking up early does not require you to get up at 4 am or 5 am. I mean it’s good if you can wake up that early but ideally try to wake early enough in relation to your work start time.

Try to wake up at least two hours before you leave for work to have those spare hours for working on yourself and adding a boost in your productivity by doing little things mentioned above.

Take time in the morning to have your cup of coffee, align your thoughts, set an intention, and then head into your day with ease and clarity.

Easy ways to help you get up early without getting tired:

  • Do not use any screen for an hour before going to bed.
  • Diffuse lavender oil for better sleep and reducing stress.
  • Drink camomile tea for relieving fatigue.
  • Get in bed so that you get 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
  • Drink water after waking up (boosts your energy)
  • Stretch (de-stresses your muscles)

8. Read a book

There is no better way of gaining knowledge than reading a good book. Bill Gates reads approximately 54 books every year, which is more than one book a week.

If you are a creator of any type – whether it is art, content, visual content, business, etc. – you need to gain information to generate and execute new ideas.

Take 15-20 minutes every day to read a book and lose yourself into a new world.

Some of the good reads for personal development:

9. Plan Ahead

Planning is the key ingredient for the success of any business or reaching any goal.

The clearer you are about your vision, the more it will become easy for you to achieve it.

Planning is a great way to see your day, week, or even month at a glance so you can make decisions accordingly.

Dedicate a day every week (preferably Sunday) to do weekly planning as it will make you more efficient and help you mark out empty slots in your week so that you can utilize them efficiently. Try to be flexible with your plan and do not get overwhelmed.

Putting it all together

Being ambitious is good, but when you start to lose your body to the hustle, your body and your productivity will suffer.

Daily hustle is not about having sleepless nights and a busy schedule but about growing yourself in a way that is enjoyable and gives recognizable results.

The habits mentioned above will not only help you be productive in your daily hustle but will ensure your physical and mental stability, which is the ultimate key to success.

Shivya Sharma is a graduate student and loves to write about health and wellness. She has written for hustleinorder.com and Fitsri .

Image courtesy of Avel Chuklanov.

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The post Habits over Hustle: How Small Daily Actions Bring You Big Results with Less Stress appeared first on Positively Positive.

A Useful Definition of Art

Art is a human activity. It is the creation of something new, something that might not work, something that causes a viewer to be influenced.

Art uses context and culture to send a message. Instead of only a contribution of beauty or craft, art adds intent. The artist works to create something generous, something that will change us.

Art isn’t painting or canvas or prettiness. Art is work that matters. @ThisIsSethsBlog (Click to Tweet!)

It’s entirely possible that you’re an artist.

Everyone can be, if we choose.

*Originally published on sethsblog.

Seth Godin has written eighteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages. Every one has been a bestseller. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything.

Image courtesy of “My Life Through A Lens“.

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