Archive for the ‘Mind, Body and Spirit’ Category

h1

On Being An Empath (part two)

May 30, 2012

Part Two – The Delights

Empathy: the state of identification of personalities in which one person feels into the other as temporarily to lose his or her own identity. It is in this profound and somewhat mysterious process of empathy that understanding, influence, and the other significant relations between persons take place.  – Rollo May

In part one of “On Being An Empath” we examined the difficulties of being an empath. In this second part, we’ll now explore how to take care of yourself once you’ve recognised you’re an empath, and the delights which being an empath can bring.

TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF

Now you’ve recognised that you’re an empath, the most important change you can make is to take care of yourself by minimising the number of negative influences in your life. As discussed in part one, as an empath you are susceptible to the detrimental effects of negative energy, whether it’s surrounding energy or your own.

This susceptibility affects your life in a number of ways. Firstly, you will be unable to tolerate an unhealthy relationship at any level. Some people are able to exist in such a relationship for many years, perhaps by operating as though it were simply a business arrangement, but as an empath you are unable to do this. Indeed, if you do attempt to follow this course of action, you will end up becoming physically, emotionally or mentally sick – I have know more than one empath who has become suicidal when stuck in a loveless marriage. I have also known other empaths who have ended up becoming completely numb – unable to cope with the negative energy, they simply cut themselves off from ALL energy and feel nothing at all. What a horrible (non) existence. Consequently, the aware empath would rather remain single than be in a negative relationship.

You will also be unable to tolerate work which is meaningless – what Barry Jaeger in Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person calls ‘Drudgery’. Though many people are able to tolerate a dull job purely for the money, you are not one of them and if you make such a sacrifice, you will ultimately pay for it with your emotional, spiritual and physical health. The aware empath values their time, their well-being and meaningful work far more than they value money and consumer goods. Sadly, our society revolves around the masculine principles of economics whilst the more feminine attribute of empathy is often derided and neglected. And whoever dreamt up the work ethic certainly did not have people like us in mind – and was definitely not an empath.

The empath’s preference for meaningful work means that you will find many of us working in creative fields – the writer, the musician and the artist will often have this trait to some degree. Creativity is food for the soul for the empath and I personally find it vital to my well-being to use creativity in my work. I’ve done many jobs over the years but this is the only work I’ve truly enjoyed – even the more stressful and tedious aspects are easier to cope with when your work means something more to you than just a way of paying the bills.

As an empath, you will also benefit from periods of solitude to recuperate after any energy bombardment. In part one I discussed the difficulties for the empath of being in an urban environment. As I’ve got older (and empaths often become more sensitive to energies the older they become) I find that if I spend the day in a nearby town, I can only last a few hours before I have to get the hell out of there.

I also used to have what I call ‘brain in the jar’ moments. Before I recognised my trait, I would spend too much time amongst other people and become so overwhelmed, that it literally felt as if my head would explode. I would also find myself becoming overwhelmed by stressful situations or issues in my life. Whenever I felt like this, I would comment that I wished I could ‘take my brain out of my head and put it in a jar’, as a way of giving myself a break. At some subconscious level, obviously I knew what I needed – complete and utter sensory rest.

Fortunately I eventually recognised this need so I now make sure that I regularly recharge my own energy by spending time alone, meeting my need for time to contemplate, read, write and generally take care of myself – and my ‘brain in the jar’ moments no longer occur. I also realised that, for the same reasons, empaths need more sleep than most people. If you have commitments such as work and family, this can be easier said than done, but at least try and take half an hour to nap or lie in a dark, quiet room during the course of the day to revitalise yourself.  Some empaths are so unable to cope with energy onslaughts that they become recluses or hermits, but for most of us there is no need to go to this extreme, although time spent in retreat for a few days can be a positive thing now and again. This can be particularly useful for urban empaths, as time out in a tranquil rural environment can really give you a boost as well as indulge your passion for nature, which occurs naturally for many empaths.

Finding a pastime which absorbs you is also a good way of giving yourself a break. My personal favourite used to be jigsaws – you’ll find that  ‘geeky’ pastimes like model-making or stamp collecting are particularly good for this, as are creative pursuits such as gardening, painting, sculpting, or cookery. So long as it takes you out of your conscious mind for a while to give you time to balance your energy, any pastime you choose will do.

Basically then, the rule is to be your own best friend – take care of yourself, eat and sleep well and give yourself little treats now and again. Time spent relaxing with a good book in a local friendly coffee shop is my idea of bliss and is a really cheap and simple way to give yourself a lift and recharge your batteries. And remember to talk kindly to yourself – empaths tend to analyse everything and can end up being hypercritical of themselves. Whenever you catch yourself judging yourself harshly, ask yourself ‘Would I speak like this to my best friend? Would I tolerate my best friend saying this stuff to me?’ If not, then perhaps you need to reconsider.

Ultimately, self care is crucial. The more you nurture yourself, the more you will be open to the following benefits of being an empath.

 UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE – TELEPATHY, SYNCHRONICITIES AND DREAMS

Because of your high level of resonance, you will probably be tuned into the ‘universal energies’ or what Jung called the collective unconscious. This gives you a deep sense of knowing – you just ‘know’ things despite there being no rational explanation as to how you know – as well as a strong feeling of connection, which can lead to the spiritual belief that separation is an illusion and ‘we are all one’. This connection and knowing also opens us up to the ‘universal guidance’ which is contained within these energies, which is why many empaths are natural problem solvers, able to resolve any issue which they put their hearts, souls and minds into.

I mentioned in part one how my daughter and I are so close that as soon as we’re in each others energy range, I start to feel her physical symptoms. This energetic connection with others, often referred to as telepathy, is one of the fun aspects of being an empath. As well as those little tricks which many of us do such as thinking about someone just as they call you, or bumping into someone you haven’t seen in years the day after you thought about them, you may also find yourself connecting energetically with people in other less obvious ways. I find that I often tune into people I’m close to through my dreams, perhaps because my mind is more relaxed and therefore more receptive. For instance, if my daughter wakes before me in the morning and reads a book, I often have a dream which reflects the contents of that book in some way. A recent example was a dream I had about Glastonbury music festival one morning shortly before I woke. When I asked P what she had been reading, it turned out that there was a character in her book that had the nick-name ‘Glastonbury’! Even more bizarrely, I have even on occasion had the same dream as my daughter or my partner.

I also have prophetic dreams which you can read about in my blog entry The Magical World of Dreams. Empaths are often fascinated by dreams and we are natural dream analysts, due to our ability to see the deeper meaning in things and make lateral links using subtle details. This ability also works in the waking world too and helps us to interpret signs, symbols and archtypes, as well as synchronicities. Aware empaths delight in synchronicities and as our understanding of ourselves and our connection to the universe grows, we find that the universal guidance which appears in the form of synchronicities becomes ever more fluent and clear. You can read more about synchronicities in my blog entry So What Is Synchronicity?

PEOPLE AND OTHER ANIMALS

The aware empath is often described by others as ‘a beacon of light’. You will find that people are drawn to you and babies in particular will adore you – I often notice little children staring and smiling at me from their pushchairs when I’m out and about.

A similar thing can happen with animals. Empaths have a deep connection to animals and love to be around their energies. You may even find you prefer their company to that of people, as you feel animals – and their energies – are simpler and don’t have an agenda. Perhaps those ‘crazy cat ladies’ who prefer to live alone surrounded by felines are actually misunderstood empaths.

As an empath, you will also be able to resonate with the emotions of animals and unlike most people, you will view them as sentient beings who should have the same rights as humans. Because of this, many empaths become vegetarian or vegan at some point in their lives.

As far as people go, the empath makes a great friend for life, as we are loyal, warm and, humorous as well as very loving and affectionate. We are also good listeners, who are unembarrassed by strong emotion as well as being pretty much unshockable. However a healthy empath will have no tolerance for drama queens who seek attention through emotional behaviour. Though we are highly expressive about our feelings and ourselves, with the ability to share openly and honestly, we are also natural peacemakers, so prefer calm discussions to overwrought emotional spectacles or aggressive confrontations.

If you befriend an empath, then they will probably be your greatest champion. Empaths recognise your inner potential, so are able to identify your positive attributes and will remind you of your strengths when you forget you have them. (Paradoxically though, they often find it hard to take a compliment themselves.) They may also subtly alert you to any negative patterns in your life in a helpful and non-patronising way, as your empath friend has the ability to sift through all the confusing emotions you are experiencing which may be clouding the issue, to help you achieve clarity and find the root cause of your problem. And should they ever feel angry with you, you can rest assured that they will express this without attacking you personally – empaths are not judgmental and they recognise that just because a particular behaviour is bad, it does not mean that the person is bad too.

YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND

Being an empath means you have the ability to sense the truth behind someone’s facade. You intuitively know when someone is attempting to mask a negative emotion. One theory is that when we are in the presence of an emotion we have personally experienced, we recognise it and feel it within ourselves, due to our high level of internal resonance. The empath is also able to read body language, mostly at a subconscious level – you will pick up on things like tone of voice, body movements, the words people choose when they speak, the words they avoid, the logic they use – all factors which help you to tune into others and know things about them which other people probably miss. This also makes you very difficult to lie to! Not only are you able to detect a lie, you can also tell whether the intent behind that lie is malicious and selfish, or whether it’s a white lie, told in an attempt to protect someone else.

Empaths are also highly expressive themselves. They project an incredible amount of energy releasing their emotions, with many gesticulations, and as they are so open about themselves, the empath is usually the person of whom it is said that you can ‘read them like a book’. We also delight in using our bodies in a sensual way – empaths can literally become ‘lost in music’ when they dance, their bodies becoming one with the music to create one wonderful mass of  flowing, sensual energy.

NATURAL HEALERS

As you become aware of your empathy, you will recognise more and more how sensitive this makes you to the energies around you. The fact is that as an empath, energy is literally absorbed by you far more easily than more thick-skinned folk (hence the expression) so by increasing your awareness, you will be able to be more selective about which energies you allow yourself to absorb. This also means you will be able to experience a high level of resonance with another, without being overwhelmed by a multitude of outside influences.

When you have achieved this level of balance and awareness, you will find that all your empathic qualities as discussed above – your deep inner knowing, your connection to the universal energies and so on – make you a natural healer and counsellor. Indeed, for an empath a good way of sublimating the energy we talked about in part one – which attracts the energy vampires and lame ducks – and drawing boundaries around your own propensity to give of yourself to others, is to channel it into training in a helping or healing profession.

Being counselled by an empath is an amazing and life-changing experience. After just a few hours of conversation, you will feel as if the empath knows you inside out. This is due to the afore-mentioned ability for high emotional resonance, which allows the empath to tune into your energy and emotional state, giving them an uncanny ability to pinpoint what you most need and want. They will also ask the questions others may be afraid to ask – if you’re willing to face up to some possibly uncomfortable truths about yourself and your life and recognise your negative self-destructive patterns in order to grow and be true to the real you, then working with an empath will change your life.  An empath will not shy away from talking about feelings of loss either, and will help you to gain perspective on your issue as well as heal from emotional wounds, past and present.

In addition to helping you to heal, the empath will point out strengths and abilities you perhaps never realised you had. Personal empowerment is very important to the empath so they will always respect your courage and sense of determination to survive and will trust in your ability to heal and take care of yourself. All this creates a very safe environment with a high level of trust and a strong intimacy. The relationship between an empath and their client is more than just a business transaction – an authentic and caring relationship will be formed between you as the empath helps you to be your best self and to live the truth of who that best self is.

Empaths may also find themselves being drawn to other types of healing work directly involving energy, such as Reiki. With our natural ability to tune into the universal energy, learning to channel this energy through ourselves to help others is a path which many empaths naturally gravitate towards.

I do hope this article has helped you to understand your trait a little better. If you feel that anything here resonates with you, do please leave a comment – I would love to hear from you!

h1

What goes on in an Empathic Guidance session? Pt.1: A client reveals all…

March 7, 2011

Recently I’ve been working with a wonderful young man called Matt who I first encountered on Twitter. Matt went through an awakening experience back in July 2006 and after going through the ‘dark night of the soul’ which so often follows an awakening, he transitioned quite naturally to a more authentic and positive place. However, he still felt that there were a couple of areas which he needed to gain clarity in and so to this end, he put out a request to the Universe for a coach or mentor who might be able to assist him on his journey of discovery.

I was more than happy to oblige and have been working with Matt now for several weeks. I have to say that his positivity and enthusiasm for the work we do is infectious and I really enjoy our weekly Skype conversations. And as is always the way of these things, I feel I’m probably learning as much through him as he is through me!

As part of his learning curve, Matt is documenting his progress and part of this involves writing about our Empathic Guidance sessions. Here is the first of these which he published on his own website and which I thought may be of interest to anyone considering investing in a few Empathic Guidance sessions themselves. This particular session focussed on a dream which Matt had – we discussed this during the hour then I added further insights in the follow-up notes which I always send after the session has taken place, as I feel they’re a positive additional aid to the client’s personal development.

In this post, Matt talks about our introduction and in part two, he reproduces the notes which I sent him containing a detailed dream interpretation.

Inner Simplicity with Empathic Guidance

by Matthew Fry

For anyone who has joined me on this awesome adventure of awakening and has been following my journey thus far, you would have been aware that in January, around the time I celebrated my 24th birthday, I wrote a post titled “Infinite Possibilities” exploring the idea that there might be someone within my amazing social network whom would like to coach, guide or mentor me. The response to that post was astounding and I am deeply humbled that so many people came forward showing interest. One of those incredible people was Sharon Simpson “The Empathic Guide” and WOW, to say that Sharon has been a blessing in my life is a massive understatement…

As Sharon writes on her Twitter bio: “Empathic Guidance creates empathy and equality in our lives through increased self- and other-awareness. Join me and help to make our world a better place.”

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
~ Henry David Thoreau

In my first chat with Sharon I experienced the great miracle that Thoreau proposed. We seemingly picked up from where we had left off in some other lifetime, because the openness, sharing and deep sense of connection was so profound it truly felt to me as though we had known each other for a very, very long time. There was a high level of resonance and intuitive intimacy between us as well as a recognition of many parallels between our lives and awakening experiences which allowed for an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable unfolding. As our conversation came to a close I will never forget the Skype call-time clocking in at 44:44 – a synchronistic shout-out from the universe that there was something magical brewing. I was ecstatic when Sharon shared her mutual delight and recounted her own experiences with number sequences, at which point we both felt the tickling shiver that comes with goosebumps – or godbumps as I like to call them hehe – another awesome confirmation that we were at the right place at the right time. I came away from our first conversation literally bouncing around the house bursting with energy and enthusiasm. In an email the next day Sharon pointed me to a wonderful post she had written about number sequences, adding that:

“444 can relate to mastery and empowerment and there’s also this explanation by Doreen Virtue:

444 — Thousands of angels surround you at this moment, loving and supporting you. You have a very strong and clear connection with the angelic realm, and are an Earth angel yourself. You have nothing to fear—all is well.”

And so with universal blessings, we adventured on together, holding hands in the heart, setting out on a deep and wonderful healing voyage of discovery for which I am eternally grateful…

Empathic Guidance is a unique intuitive healing approach which can transform your life and empower you, leading to lasting positive change. As an empath, Sharon is very sensitive to energy, giving her the ability to intuit thoughts and feelings, and allowing her to fully experience, support and understand each person she works with. When she works with you, she tunes into your energy directly and guides you using the empathic feelings and thoughts which arise from the connection.

My first empathic guidance session with Sharon was in early February. During our previous connection Sharon had asked me whether I dreamed, to which I responded that I do dream, but not very often, and that I hardly ever remember my dreams upon waking. She then assured me that after becoming conscious of this and discussing dreams with her, it was highly likely that I would now begin to remember my dreams. The seed was planted in my consciousness and it was a prophetic moment; ever since I have been waking up each morning remembering many more details about my dreams and on one occasion, still half-asleep, I tapped in a dream-stream of ‘unconsciousness’ saving it as a note on my phone. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that dream was going to form the basis of our first session. Sharon is a phenomenal dream interpreter, just one of the many gifts that she has to share, and after a thorough and inspiring dialogue I had uncovered many aspects of myself and was able to elevate my awareness and to shine light into some areas of darkness, recognizing imbalances in my energy field, discovering much about my psyche, meeting some inner orphans who want to be loved and given a chance to grow up, as well as many other personal insights and awakenings, which I hadn’t previously been aware of – it was incredibly liberating to explore my dream with such an aware and empowering guiding light. A few days later I was completely in awe when the notes from our session arrived in my inbox. I’m going to share those notes with you now because I feel they serve several important purposes: one, I am able to reveal what an amazing guide Sharon is! two – it presents me with an opportunity to be totally authentic and share some deeper aspects of my self, my psyche, and other awarenesses and personal revelations 🙂 and also, someone else reading this post might have had similar life experiences and thus, the healing potential in sharing the notes I feel is quite profound ♡

So, let me introduce you to Sharon, the brilliant, the fabulous, the very insightful Empathic Guide….

Part two tomorrow

h1

Waking From Sleep

February 6, 2011

This is an excerpt from Waking From Sleep: Why Awakening Experiences Occur and How to Make them Permanentby Steve Taylor, a book I would highly recommend if you feel you’ve had such an experience  or are just interested in finding out more. This excerpt is from the end of the book and outlines why waking up is important, not just for ourselves but for the human race as a whole, the Earth  and the universe. I also really like the explanation about the ‘universal force’ which sounds very similar to my theory about Universal energy – when so many of us are individually coming to the same conclusions, I feel it shows quite clearly that we’re hitting on some universal truths.


The Way to Wakefulness

by Steve Taylor

To wake up is the single most important thing we can do in our life. We need to wake up for our own sake, to become free of the illusion of separation and of the psychological discord which fills our life with suffering. We need to wake up so that we can stop squandering our life and our potential in discontent, anxiety and conflict. Spiritual development is the ultimate form of therapy, healing the underlying discontent and disharmony of the human psyche.

We need to wake up for the sake of the human race as a whole, in order to free ourselves from the social chaos and conflict that have blighted the last few thousand years of history. The only possibility the human race has of living in harmony – without warfare, inequality and the oppression ofwomen and different ethnic and social groups – is through transcending the overdeveloped ego. Only then will the impulse to accumulate wealth and gain power over other people disappear. Only then will we gain the ability to empathize with other people rather than mistrust or exploit them, to sense the shared essence which lies beneath the superficial differences of race or nationality.

We also need to wake up for the sake of the Earth. Indigenous peoples’ wakefulness meant that they revered and respected the natural world, but our state of sleep has meant that we’ve seen nature as nothing more than a supply of resources. We have lost native peoples’ awareness of the sacredness of nature and their sense of bondedness to it. As a result, we’re in the process of abusing the planet’s life-support systems beyond repair. The only sure way to avoid this catastrophe and learn to live in harmony with nature is to transcend our sense of separation from it and sense that it is alive and sacred.

And finally, we need to wake up on behalf of the universe. As the teachings of Tantra and other traditions tell us, the energy of our own being, our life-energy, is an influx of the essential energy of the universe. As philosphers such as David Chalmers and Galen Strawson suggest, consciousness may not be something produced by the brain, but a fundamental universal force, a quality which is ‘woven’ into the very fabric of reality’, and the main purpose of our brain may be to channel this universal consciousness into our individual being. Consciousness exists prior to and beyond the brain; our brain receives and transmits it, so that universal consciousness becomes our own individual consciousness.

h1

Burnout Pt.2: The Causes – and why it may be a blessing in disguise

November 13, 2010

In part one, I described some of the many symptoms of burnout. In the second part of this article, I look at why burnout is not necessarily a bad thing and list some of the causes of this increasingly common syndrome.

Firstly, however, we will briefly discuss the possible physical cause of burnout. It is usually attributed to a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system and the adrenal glands. The autonomic nervous system is a combination of nerves, connections and glands which works in conjunction with practically every other system in our body. All of our body’s regular activities are performed by this system, such as breathing, digestion and so on, and it is this system which acts as the body’s thermostat,  ensuring that it adapts accordingly to external forces – for example, adjusting your breathing and heart rate if you walk up a hill.

Your body can also interpret your external environment using the five senses – sight, sound etc. These perceptions are then transmitted through the brain, which ensures that the appropriate response is activated by the nervous system.

Problems begin when the part of the brain which controls the ‘fight or flight’ stress mechanism starts firing at an abnormally high rate. This can occur when we overanalyse potential danger and perceive threats where in fact there are none, or suffer stressful events which feel like danger because they threaten our sense of self or wellbeing. The adrenal glands begin releasing hormones such as cortisol to deal with the stress, but if this stress is overwhelming then too many of these hormones are produced, swamping the nervous system. This results in autonomic overload, as well as depleting the adrenals, leading to adrenal burnout – and resulting, ultimately, in the symptoms described in part one. (You can read more about this in Coping with a Stressed Nervous System by Dr Kenneth Hambly and Alice Muir.)

Of course, if you are a HSP (highly sensitive person) or an empath, then you will have been born with a nervous system which is already hypersensitive to external stimuli, making you more susceptible to burnout than others with a less sensitive system. This is why HSPs and empaths need to practise self-care a good deal more diligently than most. However, even if you were not born with a sensitive nervous system, you may find yourself becoming increasingly sensitised if you have had a particularly stressful or traumatic life.

As we have seen from the symptoms, burnout can be extremely distressing. However surprisingly, there is a positive aspect to burnout. It can be viewed as a transformative event in our lives – a turning point, a wake-up call and a cry from the soul. Somewhere deep within the heart of us, the barely discernible voice of our intuition is trying to inform us of what our soul really needs and put us in touch with our authentic self. If we listen to this voice then we can transform our lives immeasurably – but if we fail to heed the warning, then the outcome could potentially be fatal. (Viewed in this more positive way, it is also then no coincidence that the symptoms of burnout are so reminiscent of the symptoms of awakening.)

Dr Dina Glouberman talks about this in more detail in her book, The Joy of Burnout: How the End of the World Can Be a New Beginning:

The area in which we eventually burn out, whether at work, with our children or parents, in an intimate partnership, in a social or political group or elsewhere, has two defining characteristics. It is where:

* We invest our creativity, our passion, our heart and/or our ability to contribute.

* We earn a sense of identity, value, belonging, purpose and/or meaning.

As long as the situation we are devoted to is working and our contribution is effective, appreciated or rewarded, we remain wholehearted. Our energy is high and vibrant and our life probably seems positive and successful both to others and to ourselves. But if anything upsets this picture, we become candidates for burnout.

At some point, something changes either in us or in our situation or in the relationship between the two. Our heart goes out of our situation. There is a dawning awareness, often hardly conscious, that there must be another way, that it can’t be right to continue as we are.

Some of us listen to this feeling and make significant changes in our lives – a new job, a new relationship, or a new approach to our old job or relationship. In this way, we stop ourselves from continuing on the burnout trail.

But those of us who keep going, denying everything that contradicts the path we are on, are likely to head for a major burnout. Driven by fear of losing what we had rather than positive intention, we are no longer in a flow with ourselves or with our lives. We cut off from our bodies, our feelings, sometimes our friends and family. We become divided against ourselves. Our head, heart and soul are not in alignment. We operate like a car with the accelerator and the brake working at the same time and the tank down to empty.

 

So what kind of scenarios, experiences, traits and behaviours can lead to burnout? Here are some examples:

Trauma

If you suffer from one or more traumas in your life, then you are increasingly at risk of burnout. Initially we can feel that we have handled the trauma well, but find ourselves burning out further down the line when our life seems to have settled down again, as the effects on our nervous system catch up with us.

 

The ‘drip-drip-drip’ effect

Often it is not one major trauma but a series of minor stresses, disappointments and frustrations which can slowly drive us to burnout. Several years ago, I moved house and for six months, found myself plagued with petty problems which involved me making numerous phone calls to a variety of call centres. Anyone who has ever had to ring one of these places will know how frustrating it can be, particularly when the issue you are trying to resolve requires you to call back again and again and again, due to the company’s incompetence. If you’re a sensitive, you probably also know how difficult it can be to make these calls, particularly when you’re already under stress. Needless to say, after six months of dealing with this on almost a daily basis, I was on the verge of complete burnout.

 

Lifestyle

If your lifestyle leads you to neglect your self-care, and you’re not getting enough sleep, not eating or exercising properly and are using stimulants to keep yourself going, then you’re going to be much less able to cope with the issues life throws at you. Living a fast-paced, high-stress and/or fear-based lifestyle is also a sure recipe for burnout. You can also burn out from too much exercise – after a very stressful period resulting in several warning signs such as fatigue, weight gain and emotional problems, Louise embarked on an intensive training regime to try and boost her health. Unfortunately this was the last straw as far as her body was concerned, and the excessive exertion hastened Louise’s decline into severe burnout.

 

Work issues

Overworking and perfectionism, or alternatively job dissatisfaction and lack of challenge can ultimately lead to burnout symptoms. Everyone has heard of the phenomenon of the business man who, when he finally takes a holiday, immediately falls ill. And working day after day in a job which fails to challenge you in anyway is simply soul destroying. Our society is increasingly economically focussed, and sadly this seems to be at the expense of our wellbeing. If you don’t have a sensible work-rest balance or if you are doing a job you hate simply for the money, then you’re a high-risk candidate for burnout.

 

Feeling unappreciated or unrecognised for your efforts

This can be in any relationship, whether business or personal. Joanne is a busy mum of four, who also runs her own business and is studying at college. Already finding herself feeling increasingly tearful, she finally broke down when faced with her teenage daughters’ filthy bedroom. Her frustration and disappointment at the constant lack of respect and appreciation shown by her family for her efforts at keeping the home and family life running smoothly became too overwhelming and Joanne was in great danger of burning out.

 

Lack of social support

Even when we lead busy lives and are constantly surrounded by people, we can feel unsupported and isolated. On the path to burnout, it can feel as if no-one understands us, has time for us or truly cares for our wellbeing.

 

Negative relationships

Nothing will drain your energy more than being around negative people. Abusive and/or violent people, energy vampires, people who are critical or contemptuous towards you, or people who constantly fight or bicker with you are the kind of people who will slowly but surely drive you towards burnout.

 

Lack of confidence

If you lack confidence in yourself, then you will find most situations outside of your usual comfort zone difficult. Being crippled with self-consciousness makes events which would be a breeze for most people a total nightmare. Some people are born with this lack of confidence but others lose their self-confidence later in life, perhaps due to a difficult experience or a health problem.

 

Lack of assertiveness

At work and in your relationships, a lack of assertiveness can create difficult situations for you, as you fail to communicate to others your wishes and needs. Constantly sacrificing your own needs and being unable to say no to the needs of others will inevitably lead to feelings of disappointment and frustration, and to feeling unappreciated and unrecognised, the forerunners of burnout.

 

Unhealthy responses to stress

If you have ineffective coping strategies, you will be more prone to burnout, for example if you have a tendency to worry, get angry or anxious, or if you try and avoid potentially stressful situations.

 

Unhealthy attitudes and thinking habits

The way you think about life, people and the world in general can affect how likely you are to burn out. Are you overly hostile, aggressive, or suspicious? Are you pessimistic, withdrawn, or negative? Or perhaps you have too high expectations, of yourself and of others. All these attitudes are liable to increase your chances of becoming overloaded.

 

Unresolved emotional issues

To prevent yourself suffering from burnout due to accumulated emotional baggage which, as we have seen, can make your nervous system hypersensitive, it’s important to spend some time dealing with this and resolving any remaining issues you may have from the past. Living constantly with feelings of rage, bitterness, resentment, hatred and fear will in time almost certainly result in chronic burnout.

 

People who give too much

This is particularly an issue for empaths and others who work in caring professions or roles, particularly if part of the reason for us giving is the need for appreciation. We can find ourselves becoming over emotionally invested in people – friends, family or clients – which can lead to disappointment when the person fails to appreciate our efforts or respond to our help in what we feel is an appropriate way. We can also find ourselves suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’  if we are working regularly with traumatised clients or are spending time with anyone suffering from trauma, be it physical or emotional.

 

These, then, are just some of the ways in which burnout can creep up upon us. If we are willing to take the time to heal, however, we can turn our experience into a positive one by using it to increase our knowledge of our inner selves and find the way to our true path. In part three, we’ll look at how we can heal ourselves when suffering from burnout and explore how we can prevent it from happening to us now or in the future.

h1

Burnout Pt.1: The Symptoms

November 3, 2010

In my article ‘On Being An Empath‘, I emphasise the importance of self care. Today we’re going to look at what can happen if you fail to take care of yourself – or if life simply makes that impossible to do and overwhelms you.

In our technological, fast-moving society, with its plethora of loud noises and bright lights, toxic chemicals and preservatives, pollution and EMFs,  and its emphasis on money and material acquisition above compassion and empathy for our fellow man, it’s hardly surprising that burnout has become so prevalent. And sadly, if you are an empath or HSP, or spend much of your time healing, helping or caring, you are even more susceptible to this syndrome.

There are many symptoms of burn out, and in part one today, we’ll take a closer look at them. Though this is quite a comprehensive list, it is by no means exhaustive as burnout can affect everyone in very different ways.

Physical symptoms

* Fatigue – one of the main symptoms which is likely to affect everyone is exhaustion (emotional and mental as well as physical) which is not alleviated by sleep or rest. The outcome of this, should it continue, could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as ME.

* Sleep disturbances – you may find you are no longer able to drop off at bedtime like you used to, or perhaps you are waking up in the night, once or several times, and are unable to get back to sleep.

* Vivid, disturbing dreams – if you do manage to sleep, you may wake up feeling like you’ve run a marathon, after a night of overactive dreaming.

* Inability to relax – when at leisure

* Aches and pains – back pains, stiff neck, frozen shoulder, head aches and chest pains (including tightness in the chest) are all potentially symptomatic of burn out. You could also have severe joint or muscle aches, which could develop into fibromyalgia.

* Physical weakness – due to low energy and weakened muscles. Even climbing the stairs can feel like an ordeal.

* Numbness, tingling, pins and needles – particularly in your arms and legs, and hands and feet.

* Digestive problems – you could suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or other gastro-intestinal disturbances.

* Loss of appetite – resulting in extreme weight loss.

* Food cravings –  in particular sugar or carbohydrates, due to low blood sugar levels. This could result in significant weight gain, which you find impossible to shift.

* Operating on ‘low’ – like a weak battery, all your body’s systems could be running low. As well as low energy and low blood sugar, you could also be suffering from low temperature and low hormone levels, including low cortisol (stress hormone).  Low cortisol is also another cause of weight gain around the stomach area.

* Faulty thermostat – you could find yourself always feeling cold and suffering from chills and/or overheating and suffering from hot flushes.

* Lowered immune system – suffering from chronic and/or recurring low grade infections.

* Allergies – skin rashes, chemical sensitivities, respiratory difficulties and sinus problems, such as rhinitis.

* Toxic build-up in the body

* Pre-menstrual problems and period pains

* Decreased libido

* Fertility problems

* Sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights

* Tinnitus

* Sore throat

* Swollen glands

* Bladder problems

* Tremor or general feeling of shakiness

* Excessive yawning or sighing


Emotional and psychological symptoms

* Depression, despair, suicidal tendencies

* Lethargy, apathy, inertia

* Anger, irritability, resentment

* Anxiety, fear, worrying

* Guilt, shame, nervousness, apprehension

* Feeling helpless and hopeless

 

* Emotional deadness

 

* Mood swings

 

* Low self-esteem

 

* High self-criticism

 

* Overly introspective

* Compulsive and obsessive-compulsive tendencies

* Addiction – to over-stimulating substances such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, or activities such as excessive exercise, sex, loud music or other forms of excitement, in an attempt to stimulate the adrenal glands.

* Cognitive difficulties –  Memory loss, confused thinking, inability to concentrate. One of the scariest symptoms of this kind is ‘brain fog’, when you find yourself unable to remember something which you should easily be able to recall, for example, where you live or what your home looks like, or the name of an immediate family member

* Increasing sense of being cut off from ourselves and other people – feeling trapped, distant and disillusioned.

* Negative attitudes towards others, self and life in general – losing your sense of humour

* Defensiveness, pessimism, cynicism and/or intolerance towards others.

* Loss of interest in friends and family – withdrawal from others. You may find yourself using avoidance tactics when it comes to socialising, as you prefer to engage in solitary – and not necessarily healthy – activities such as isolative substance abuse, watching too much TV or spending an inordinate amount of time on the Internet.

* Feeling that the world is an evil place and losing faith in humanity

* Where work is concerned, you may find yourself losing interest with the result being that your performance suffers, you are frequently absent or late, and you participate in negative activities such as gossiping.

* Decreasing ability to be effective at doing what we have always done, either at work or at home

* Poor attention – speeding up without increased effectiveness

* Lack of assertiveness

* Indecisiveness

Do you recognise yourself  or someone you love in any of those symptoms? If so, in part two, we’ll be exploring the possible causes of burnout.

h1

The Miraculous Healing Power of Positive Energy

July 21, 2010

About eight weeks ago, I received the terrible news that a longstanding and close friend of mine, G, had been involved in a horrific road accident, resulting in serious head injuries. G and I first met almost two decades ago when we worked together and ended up being housemates for two and a half years, a time in my life which I have very fond memories of.

We stayed in touch for a while but life being as it as, lost touch for a few years while my daughter was growing up. However, thanks to the internet, we made contact again three years ago and picked up our friendship where we left off,  chatting on the  web and having some fun times together during G’s visits to us.

G had been going through a difficult time following the break up of her relationship, so I was thrilled to see how radiant she looked and how positive she seemed when I attended her 40th birthday party back in February. She proudly told me that she’d finally put the past behind her and was planning on taking a sabbatical from work so that she could do some volunteer work abroad.

When the news reached me that she was currently lying in hospital in a coma after suffering horrendous head injuries, not only was I devastated, I was also extremely angry. How could this happen to such a good person when she was finally getting her life back on track? It seemed so bloody unfair. I didn’t sleep a wink that night and spent the whole time pacing around, worried about what the outcome may be and feeling helpless whilst simultaneously wondering what on earth I could do to make things better.

As soon as we could, my partner Lawrence and I went over to the hospital to see her. I’ve never been in an intensive care unit before, and it was very distressing to see G lying there surrounded by machines with all kinds of tubes attached to her. I held her hand and spoke to her, as I’d heard that this was the best thing to do in these circumstances and I hoped that maybe a familiar voice might help to bring her round from her coma. I talked about things which had happened to us in the past, about mutual friends and acquaintances, about TV shows she liked ‘You know you’re missing the big story line in Corrie, don’t you?’ and gently teased her about her hair – ‘have you any idea what they’ve done to your hair, mate? You need to get better soon and get that sorted pronto.’ But most of all, I told her how much we loved her, and reinforced how strong she was and that I knew that she could beat this and come back to us.

When we got home after that first visit, I contacted the Healing World Network and asked them to please send positive healing energy to G. I got some photos printed up of G and placed them around the house and whenever I could, I sent healing energy to her, imagining her totally engulfed in white light. I also contacted all my Reiki friends and asked them to put G in their distant healing books and practice distant healing on her. I had used distant healing before on people I knew in difficult emotional situations (alone and with my Reiki group) – some of these situations had been going on for months, if not years, and I had been amazed at how quickly they seemed to resolve once positive healing energy was being focussed on them. G was one of the people who I had been sending emotional healing energy to and I had witnessed firsthand how great she was feeling only a couple of months before. I had never tried to use this energy to heal such a serious physical trauma and had no idea if it would work, but other than visiting her as often as I could and continuing to tell her how strong she was and how much we loved her, there seemed to be little else I could do.

My partner and I continued to visit G twice a week, as I felt it was really important that she had as much positive stimulation as possible from the people who care about her. (Sadly, the sheer distance of the hospital and time restraints due to work and children meant that we could not manage any more, otherwise I would have been there every day.) When G had been in a coma for two weeks, I had a dream about her. In the dream, she opened her eyes then began speaking to me, gibberish at first, but gradually getting clearer until we were having a proper conversation. Then she stood up and took her first few tentative steps. It was like watching her recovery in fast forward. I told Lawrence about it and said ‘I hope it’s a premonition and not just wishful thinking’.

We arrived at the hospital a few hours later and  – lo and behold – G was lying there with her eyes open! ‘Oh my god, she’s awake!’ I cried. The nurse who was taking care of her (a really lovely woman called Fiona) said ‘Yes, she woke up last night’. We couldn’t believe it – and neither could the nurse when I told her about my dream. ‘Ooh, I’ve got goosebumps now!’ she said.

Her progress since waking has been nothing short of miraculous. Every single visit we have made, we have seen a huge improvement. On our next visit, we could make out tiny little facial expressions – a little smile and a barely discernible nod. Then on the next visit, we arrived at the door of her room and she sat up and whispered ‘hello’ – another truly joyous moment. And after that, she has come on in leaps and bounds, as I intuitively knew she would, despite the caution and fears of others – another tube removed, her memory, mobility and all her other faculties returning, and getting chattier by the day. It’s now almost eight weeks to the day that the accident occurred, and G is now in rehabilitation, totally tube free, and pretty much back to being the G we used to know – albeit a much more talkative version! –  and is even able to leave the hospital to stay with her parents at weekends. Hopefully she will be back home for good some time in the next couple of weeks.

The speed of her recovery has astounded everyone, including the doctors and nurses  (who of course also deserve credit for the amazing work they have done – all power to the NHS). In fact, all the hospital staff who have worked with G have said that her recovery has been quicker and better than they’ve ever seen in anyone else with the same injuries. My belief is that this is due to G’s strength – what a fighter! – the love of her family and friends, who have made sure she had plenty of visits and continually told her how strong she is, how much she is loved and how proud of her we are – and the miraculous healing power of positive energy. So many kind and caring people from all over the world have united to send healing energy to G and I really believe that the power of this energy has contributed towards her speedy recovery. We’ll never know for sure, of course, but I for one am happy to believe that my wonderful friend has been the recipient of an amazing miracle.

As often happens in these situations, the accident seems to have also changed G’s outlook on life. Back when she was still unconscious, in an attempt to put a positive spin on things, I remember saying that I hoped this was simply the universe giving her a wake-up call and that she would fully recover and make some really positive and much needed changes to her life. G is already talking about how the issues she had prior to the accident are no longer upsetting her – ‘and I hope it stays that way’ – and is talking about potential changes in her work and home life. I really hope that she continues to flourish and grow to be the best that I know she can be. Here’s to you, G – you’re a truly incredible woman and an inspiration to us all.

h1

Visits from departed loved ones – dream or reality?

June 28, 2010

A couple of months ago I wrote here about the sad loss of my cat, Binbag. Binbag had been my cat companion for 16 years so as you can imagine, I was devastated. My other little cat friend, Pyewackett, who grew up with Binners, had died suddenly three years previously and Binbag’s demise brought memories back of this,  as well as symbolising the end of an era for me, so I found myself  grieving for both of them and for happy times, never to be revisited.

I also felt a lot of guilt and concern about the way Binbag died. I’d noticed him acting strangely over the previous week and had begun to wonder whether he was perhaps going senile. His personality began to change – he no longer seemed to be his usual laidback happy little self – and he spent a lot of time just staring at his food dish, or seemingly staring into space. When I realised that he  was also beginning to struggle with his breathing I decided it was time for a trip to the vets.

Despite his advanced age, I still hoped that the vet would offer some remedy for his problems and that our old Binners would be back with us, right as rain. We’d had a little scare six months earlier when his eye swelled up enormously and blood started to trickle from his nose, potentially the signs of a tumour. Luckily it turned out to be a simple infection and a couple of shots of antibiotics had him back to his old self in no time.

However, this time it wasn’t to be. The vet examined him and told me that he had a lot of fluid round his lungs, which was why his breathing was difficult, and also appeared to have a swollen liver. To remove the fluid would have involved a painful operation and she said that at his age, there was a good chance that the procedure in itself would kill him. The swollen liver was also a bad sign and she advised me that if it was her cat, she would probably do the kindest thing – and euthanize him. Ultimately though, the decision was mine.

I was utterly distraught and completely torn over what to do. After composing myself outside of the room (I didn’t want Binners to pick up on my distress), I went back in and after a lot of thought and soul-searching, sadly gave her the nod.

It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever experienced. It all felt faintly surreal and the moment when the needle went in was truly horrible – I knew at that point he was going to die and that there was no way back from then. What made the experience even more traumatic was that his circulation was so bad, the vet had to inject him in his stomach which was clearly very uncomfortable for him as he squirmed in a desperate bid to free himself. The vet then had to hold his head up due to his breathing difficulties, so as he died he was looking straight into my eyes. As I stroked his paws and told him what a great little cat he’d been and how much I loved him, I saw the light finally go out of his eyes for good, but because of his illness and where he had the injection, he still continued breathing despite apparently being brain dead. The actual end – which in reality probably took a couple of minutes – seemed to take forever to arrive. I was heartbroken.

Over the next couple of weeks I found myself constantly in tears, unable to sleep and feeling desperately guilty about whether I’d done the right thing. Maybe if I’d allowed the operation, he might have stood a chance? He’d always been a fighter, after all. I also felt terribly traumatised by the manner of his death –   I’d always imagined euthanasia would be quick and peaceful but this wasn’t the case at all with poor Binners. My father, who was with me during all of this, assured me that I’d done the best thing for him and my friends and family all told me that he’d been a very lucky cat who had had a wonderful life, but none of this could console me.

I spent a lot of time over this fortnight pacing around and wandering  about aimlessly, unable to settle or concentrate on anything. Then one day during yet another aimless wander around my garden,  a bee began to follow me. Everywhere I went, there was the bee, buzzing around my head despite my attempts to flap it away.  I suddenly recalled that I’d heard of people being visited by deceased loved ones in the form of a non-human creature, and I began to wonder if the bee was Binners, particularly as it was a bumble bee (BB standing for Bumble Bee and Bin-Bag). So I said to the bee – ‘’Ok, if you are Binners and you’ve come back to let me know that you’re ok, then please give me another bee sign in the next 24 hours.’

The following day, exhausted through my lack of sleep, I decided to go for an afternoon nap. I always dream a lot when I have a sleep during the day, and this time was no exception. In my dream, I was in a strange house with my parents and daughter which was apparently our home. Despite the unfamiliarity of the house, I accepted that this was home and believed this to be real, until I suddenly spotted Binners curled up asleep on the floor. ‘ Hang on a minute,’ I said ‘this can’t be real! Binners is over there and I know for a fact he died. I’m dreaming this! I need to wake up!’

And I promptly did wake up – only to feel the familiar sensation of a cat jumping onto the bed. I sat up, eyes still closed, and was elated to feel fur rubbing against my skin. Binners was here! I was too afraid to open my eyes as I seemed to sense that if I did, he would disappear, so I contented myself with stroking him and was delighted to feel by the sleek texture of his fur that he was young and healthy again. He nuzzled against my face, and somehow wordlessly communicated to me that he was happy and at peace, and that he loved me and that I should no longer feel sad or guilty about him. And then he jumped off the bed, and finally I had the courage to open my eyes – just in time to see the tip of a black tail disappearing out of the door.

I lay in bed for a while after, feeling stunned and excited. Was that really him? Did that really just happen or was I still dreaming? I had heard about people being visited by deceased loved ones whilst they lay in their beds, so maybe this was what had happened here. When I eventually got up, I decided to do what I always do when wondering about something, and went on the internet to google it.

I typed in ‘dreams of deceased loved ones’ and came up with over a quarter of a million results. The first entry I looked at was a discussion forum which I felt would offer a number of different experiences, one of which may be similar to my own – and on the first page I viewed, under a comment which particularly resonated with me, was this ‘signature’:

 

It was the bee! And as you can see, not only is it a bee, it’s a bee who appears to be jumping up and down and waving at me, as if to say ‘Well, you wanted your sign and here I am! NOW do you believe it was me?’

This whole experience was of  enormous comfort to me and I was finally able to let go of the guilt I felt about Binners’ death. It was also a very exciting experience and over the next week I found myself sharing the story with a number of people. I live in Yorkshire where the people are very down to earth, and I expected that many would at best, humour me or at worst, look at me as if I was slightly mad. But amazingly nearly everyone I told, including those who I expected to be the most sceptical, had a similar tale to tell of being visited by a recently deceased loved one whilst lying in their bed. Each of these stories had striking similarities – no words were spoken yet there was a telepathic communication between them, the message usually being ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me’, the loved one appeared youthful, well and happy, and there was a surreal feel to the experience, with the person being visited unsure whether they were awake or asleep. Further research on this brought up that same surreal feeling time and time again – that it didn’t feel like a dream, that it felt real yet the fact that the visit occurred during the night made them uncertain of how real it actually was.

Having considered this for some time and done a vast amount of research, my belief  now is that this experience is a genuine visitation and that for most of us, this is probably the only time when energy of a more ethereal nature can interact with us. When we are resting, our mind is relaxed and therefore much more receptive than during the day, when we are usually over-stimulated and stressed out by our daily routines. When we are lying in that limbo state – half-awake, half-asleep – we are also probably less likely to be afraid of a ‘spirit’ appearing before us. At rest and away from the harsh realities of everyday living, it seems all of us have the abilities and sensitivity of the empath…

If you have recently lost a loved one, I hope this story is of some comfort to you – and if you have experienced something similar, please leave a comment as I would love to hear your stories too.

Incidentally, when my cat Pyewackett died, it was a shock as it was unexpected – we came down one morning and he had simply died in the night – but it was nowhere near as disturbing as the experience with Binners. However, even though I was relieved that he’d died the way we’d probably all want to go – suddenly, without any prior illness, and at home (especially as he hated going to the vets more than any cat I’ve ever known) – I still felt guilty that I hadn’t been with him, particularly as I had heard him miaowing in the night and had just told him to be quiet. He was always a very talkative cat, regardless of the time of day or night, and there was nothing in his tone to suggest anything was amiss, but I still felt upset that I hadn’t been there for him in his last moments.

A few days later I was in a local supermarket waiting for a friend to finish her shopping. As was usual at this time, I was thinking about Pye and feeling upset that I hadn’t been there for him when he needed me, when I suddenly spotted this rather bizarre headline on the newspaper stand. It said simply, in huge letters  right across the front page:

“I’m happy to die at home.”

 

%d bloggers like this: