As a psychiatrist I treat many empath-patients who come in exhausted with a syndrome known as adrenal fatigue. This is a collection of symptoms such as exhaustion, body aches, anxiety, trouble thinking clearly, and insomnia. In this condition, the theory is that the adrenal glands can’t keep up with outside stress so the hormones such as cortisol that normally keep you energized begin to get depleted.
In my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender I discuss the very real situation of empathic illnesses where empaths literally take on the stress and symptoms of others. Unfortunately, conventional medicine doesn’t have a context with which to understand this and many empaths are left in the lurch or misdiagnosed. Because empaths can be emotional sponges and take on the literal symptoms of others, it adds to their stress levels and leaves them more vulnerable to adrenal fatigue. To learn more about Empathic Illnesses including strategies to stop absorbing other people’s toxic energy read the chapter “Harmonizing with Illness & Pain” in my book.
Here are some solutions for empaths to treat adrenal fatigue that can turn your symptoms around and restore your energy. But remember, for empaths this isn’t a one-time fix—it requires some basic life style and diet changes so that you can effectively manage your energy over the long term.
Strategies to Relieve Adrenal Fatigue
In addition to these practical tips, get in the habit of practicing positive thinking. By this I mean, do not beat yourself up with negative thoughts such as “I will never feel better” or “I am weak and sick.” Rather focus on the surrender affirmations I present at the end of every chapter in the book such as “I am healthy, happy, and deserve to have vibrant well-being.” You might not have control over some stresses in your life but you can have control of your attitude. To relieve adrenal fatigue, you can remove a great deal of inner stress by surrendering patterns of self-loathing and embracing self-compassion and self-love!
We live in a culture that encourages type-A personalities who engage in multitasking, getting ahead, competing, and growing profits. The problem is, behaviors such as trying to control the outcome, working overtime, and pushing ourselves to the limit leaves us exhausted, stressed out, depressed, and depleted.
There's a better way, and it involves learning how to surrender or let go of control. When we invite spontaneity, let ourselves be "in the flow," and when we're able to trust that everything will get done, it opens us up to more creativity, serendipity, and unexpected benefits such as joy, balance, and better health.
In The Ecstasy of Surrender, learning to let go of our need to control difficult people, win arguments, or be in charge changes the way people relate to us. Instead of arguing, pushing back, or escalating the conflict with a rageaholic or passive-aggressive person, we can let go of the tension we feel. Once we do that, we can find a simple way to navigate the interaction, by agreeing with part of what they say, for example, or by offering a solution that has a common benefit.
Surrender helps us stay focused.
In our business and personal lives, it's easy to get distracted by wrong-headed ideas of success. We compare ourselves to others who are wealthier, higher up the corporate ladder, thinner, younger, or more attractive. Learning to surrender comparisons enables us to wish others well, and then we can refocus on energy on our own opportunities, talents, skills, and assets. As a result, we get instant relief from self-doubt, and a big jolt of confidence and purpose.
Surrender enables goal attainment.
We've been taught to keep our eye firmly on the goal we want to achieve so that everything we do, say, and accomplish gets us closer to that goal. The problem with this approach is that it's premise is faulty: We cannot control outcomes. There's a better way. By keeping your eye on what you can control--your breath, your emotions, your outlook, and your self-care--surprising things will begin to happen for you. You'll feel positive, happy, and healthy. People will respond to you. You'll feel energized and inspired. Soon, you'll have exactly what you want.
Surrender expands creativity.
Being rigid and single-minded in the pursuit of success is like walking on a railroad. You may miss great things that don't fall within your view. Letting go of our addiction to stress and struggle allows us to change our relationship to time and organization. We may find, for example, that looking up at the sky in the middle of a particularly jam-packed day lets the mind wander to the shape of the clouds, which leads to another thought. When we go back to our work, we have a new idea about how to tackle the task.
Want to find out how "surrendered" you are? Take a free quiz HERE.
Empathic illnesses are those in which you manifest symptoms that are not your own. Many patients have come to me labeled “agoraphobic” with panic disorders, chronic depression, fatigue, pain, or mysterious ailments that respond only partially to medications or psychotherapy. Some were nearly housebound or ill for years. They’d all say, “I dread being in crowds. Other people’s anger, stress, and pain drain me, and I need a lot of alone time to refuel my energy.” When I took a close history of all these patients I found that they were what I call “physical empaths:” people whose bodies are so porous they absorb the symptoms of others. I relate because I am one. Physical empaths do not have the defenses that others have to screen things out. As a psychiatrist, knowing this significantly changed how I treated these patients. My job became teaching them to center and protect themselves, set healthy boundaries, and let go of energy they picked up from others.
To determine if you are a physical empath take the following quiz.
Quiz: Am I a Physical Empath?
If you answered “yes” to 1-3 questions you are at least part empath. Responding yes to 4 to5 questions indicates you have moderate degree of physical empathy. 6 to 7 “yeses” indicate you have a high degree of empathy. Eight yeses indicate you are a full blown empath.
Discovering that you are a physical empath can be a revelation. Rest assured: You are not crazy. You are not a malingerer or hypochondriac. You are not imagining things, though your doctor might treat you like a nuisance. You are a sensitive person with a gift that you must develop and successfully manage.
Strategies to Surrender Toxic Energy
Physical empathy doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Now that I can center myself and refrain from taking on other people’s pain, empathy has made my life more compassionate, insightful, and richer. Here are some secrets to thriving as a physical empath that I’ve learned so that it doesn’t take a toll on my health.
A Survival Guide for Empaths: 9 Strategies To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Illness and Pain (from The Ecstasy of Surrender)
Keep practicing these strategies. By protecting yourself and your space, you can create a magical safe bubble around you that nurtures you, while simultaneously driving negative people away. Don’t panic if you occasionally pick up pain or some other nasty symptom. It happens. With strategies I discuss in my book to surrender other people’s symptoms you can have quicker responses to stressful situations. This will make you feel safer, healthier, and your sensitivities can blossom.
I’m a fanatic about following your passion. As a psychiatrist and intuitive when I work with my patients and workshop participants my mission is to hunt down and reinforce what creatively jibes for them from jobs to finger-painting. In my book, Positive Energy I devote a full chapter to help people to reconnect with their passion and creativity. Whether you’re writing the great American novel, laying bricks, or sprinkling rose petals on a salad, your delight and surrender to the impulse is what catalyzes energy.
Now this is your chance to investigate what does or doesn’t inspire you. The purpose: to honestly access
where your energy goes so you can constructively re-route it. To remember all inspiring inklings, I suggest you keep a journal and review it. Don’t be discouraged if you’re stuck in a rut or feel far from inspired right now. This inventory will turn all that around. Re-inspiring your life takes courage. It’s a solution-oriented process of uncovering, then commencing change.
My focus will be helping you to re-inspire your current job, even tiny bits of it--there’s always a way. Throughout this process, the poet Rumi’s words will be our mantra:
“Let the beauty you love be what you do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
But how do we get there? Here are some basic steps from my book, Positive Energy.
Step One: In A Journal Define the Conflict About Your Job.
For instance, “I’m exhausted after eight hours, and I hate my work.” Or “I’m bored and need a change.” Or “I feel taken for granted.”
Step Two: Ask yourself the following questions:
Why doesn’t my job inspire me? Pinpoint the cause.
Step Three: Modify Your Current Work Situation
How to Re-inspire your Job:
If you’ve tried to re-inspire your job, but the situation is unredeemable, you may want to look for another. It could be an upward or lateral move. This may make all the difference. One of my patients who felt battered by her Napoleonic boss’s mood swings, found her blood pressure normalized and her inspiration returned when she quit that job and began working with another boss she enjoyed. In these cases, a change of place is just what’s needed.
There is much speculation and anticipation about the advent of the winter solstice on December 21, 2012. This is the date that the Mayan calendar ends and their prediction of the 2012 Galactic Alignment phenomenon, which happens every 25,800 years or so. Some say this represents an opportunity or gateway for the re-birthing of humanity and our planet if we can come together and realize the strength of our collective unity. This means there’s no arbitrary division between Us and Them. That’s only our small-self’s hallucination, but one that can kill off civilization.
In Positive Energy I emphasize that every human being is of one family, a truth I’d bet my life on. Alas we no longer have the luxury to keep debating this. Our Earth, our home, is being plundered. No survival without Her. The fate of our species, of all species, depends on caring for nature’s ecosystems. At a subtle energy level, when wilderness is raped, so are we. When oceans are poisoned, our bodies wail. Causes of physical and emotional suffering are not as pat as they may seem. No coincidence that depression is epidemic and cancer is ravaging so many people dear to us. In our own way, we energetically process the surrounding violence. There’s a metabolism between the exchange of nations, communities, the earth, and our bodies. We must do our part to fight for the abundance of a healthy Earth and its people.
Recognizing that the path to peace is not outside us, we must be cognizant of the energies we project. Remaining naive to this is irresponsible; so is lip service. Though talk alone can uplift, its power pales next to embodying the change we long for. Practicing what we preach is the imperative of our millennium. It may be hard, we may falter, but so what? There’s no escaping that our energy as human beings collectively mingles. “Evil doers” never do it alone. Apathy to healing makes us their accomplices.
The key to this realization is that love is a sustainable energy. Always remember that. The mandate is simple. If you’re tired, love. If you’re happy, love. At your final breath, love some more. When it feels utterly impossible--such moments arrive--try to love again later. I promise: you’ll never leave empty handed when the heart is true. There comes a point when we must decide what our endgame is going to be, personally and for the planet. To me, the only one that makes any sense is love. It’s how we have to define ourselves beyond all other criteria. This will ensure the health and abundance for all.
The present informs the future. So make your present bright. A belief in love is unstoppable. You’ll have the courage to do anything. I want to share with you from my book, Positive Energy an interview I did with the legendary Rosa Parks, the mother of the civil rights movement and recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. Rosa Parks exemplifies what the power of love can accomplish.
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama my decision not to give up my seat on a bus to a white passenger was intuitive and spontaneous. Like usual, I was just headed home from work at the department store. I was forty-two then, had always thought about freedom. My grandfather and mother taught me that all human beings were equal. But on that bus I just knew that we, as a people, had suffered too long. Even though I was afraid to make a protest--I risked being beaten or killed--I set my mind not to give in to fear. I couldn’t continue to be mistreated for no reason. Then things would never get better. After my arrest, the bus boycott began. We were fortunate that Dr. Martin Luther King, at twenty six, was willing to take the lead. After 381 days of the boycott, the Supreme Court overturned the old laws and made segregation illegal on public transportation in Alabama. This became the model for other southern states to change. I don’t feel angry or victimized about the past, just grateful that the conditions we were under came to an end. If you stay angry at other people, you might miss finding friends among those you were angry with.
I believe that the most positive quality in the human spirit is love. The most negative quality is hatred that has no reason. We can create a more loving world by learning to respect our differences, not judging them. Hatred, like other negative emotions, is a choice. If you choose kindness and humanity you will have peace and prosperity. It also comes from being generous to others when there is no benefit to yourself. My friend, Dr. King, set a profound example for me and many others. He was an extremely kind person. He understood the soul of man.
I know that we can achieve Dr. King’s dream of a world where we come together and live as one. Love, not fear must be our guide. I see a world where children do not learn hatred in their homes. Where people don’t call each other names on the basis of skin color. I can see a world free of violence, where people from every race and religion work together to improve life for everyone.
As we step through the threshold of December 21st let us as one family, hearts joined, keep saying a prayer for the world: “May our people and planet be healthy. May our people and planet be happy. May suffering be lifted. May we know enduring peace.”
As a psychiatrist, I’m a big prescriber of laughter. Not the contrived or canned kind, but laughter from the soul. Just as I guide patients, I’d like you to sense when your funny bone is legitimately hit, an energetic place that resonates. True laughter is a surrender to hilarity; a sound, a smile, a heart opening. You feel it in your chest, or your whole body may shake. Also, notice that prior to a joke, there’s an air of expectation, a subtle shift in consciousness and attention, the promise of mood transformation. But faking laughter is like faking orgasm; no positive energy to be had there. Since I’ve never gotten most conventional jokes, I know the awkward position of hating to fake a smile but being afraid to offend or seem clueless. Now I just make a joke out of my not getting it: that feels more authentic and relieves me of the negative fallout of pretending to be something I’m not.
Energy comes from humor. However, each of us, even the crotchety, must locate our sense of what’s funny, raucous or wry. Although jokes often elude me, I really respond to the spontaneous comedy of life itself. I get a huge kick out of quirky little things such as children squealing as they pop bubble wrap. I consider loss of laughter a crime against psyche and spirit. With my patients, laughter’s absence never gets by me; I make it my business to notice when it’s missing, and help them recoup it. Otherwise, laughter-less, they’re unknowingly living in energetic poverty. We don’t ordinarily equate lack of laughter with deprivation, but, from an energy perspective it is.
5 Strategies to Reconnect with Your Inner Child and Laugh More
I see laughter as a survival tool. As Emerson says, “The earth laughs in flowers.” When you laugh at something everything lightens up. Whatever tightness you have, that particular log jam is broken. The energy of your life force begins to flow again.
As a psychiatrist, patience is an invaluable skill that I teach all my psychotherapy clients. In my book Emotional Freedom I emphasize the importance of patience as a coping skill and how to achieve it. Frustration is not the key to any door. Patience is a lifelong spiritual practice as well as a way to find emotional freedom.
We need a new bumper sticker: FRUSTRATION HAPPENS. Every morning, noon, and night there are plenty of good reasons to be impatient. Another long line. Telemarketers. A goal isn’t materializing “fast enough.” People don’t do what they’re supposed to. Rejection. Disappointment. How to deal with it all? You can drive yourself crazy, behave irritably, feel victimized, or try to force an outcome--all self-defeating reactions that alienate others and bring out the worst in them. Or, you can learn to transform frustration with patience.
Patience doesn’t mean passivity or resignation, but power. It’s an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act. I want to give patience a twenty-first-century makeover so you’ll appreciate its worth. Patience has gotten a bad rap for the wrong reasons. To many people, when you say, “Have patience,” it feels unreasonable and inhibiting, an unfair stalling of aspirations, some Victorian hang-up or hangover. Is this what you’re thinking? Well, reconsider. I’m presenting patience as a form of compassion, a re-attuning to intuition, a way to emotionally redeem your center in a world filled with frustration.
To frustrate means to obstruct or make ineffectual. Frustration is a feeling of agitation and intolerance triggered when your needs aren’t met; it’s tied to an inability to delay gratification. At our own risk, we’ve become too used to immediate results. Emails zip across the globe in seconds. Parents text messages to their kids to come in for dinner instead of yelling from a front porch. You can get the temperature in Kuala Lumpur or the Malibu Beach surf report with a click of a mouse. Despite the digital age’s marvels, it has propagated an emotional zeitgeist with a low tolerance for frustration--not just when you accidentally delete a computer file, but in terms of how you approach relationships and yourself. Without patience, you turn into your own worst taskmaster. You treat spouses and friends as disposable instead of devoting the necessary time to nurture love. But with patience, you’re able to step back and regroup instead of aggressively reacting or hastily giving up on someone who’s frustrating you. You’re able to invest meaningful time in a relationship without giving up or giving in. In fact, patience gives you the liberating breath you’ve always longed to take.
Frustration prevents emotional freedom. Expressing frustrations in an effort to resolve them is healthy, but it must be done from a non-irritable, non-hostile place. If not, you’ll put others on the defensive. Wallowing in frustration leads to endless dissatisfaction, placing us at odds with life. This emotion makes us tense, kills our sense of humor. It also leads to procrastination; we put things off to avoid the annoyances involved. Conquering frustration will revive your emotional life by making it your choice how you handle daily hassles and stresses.
I’m defining patience as an active state, a choice to hold tight until intuition says, “make your move.” It means waiting your turn, knowing your turn will come. Once you’ve gone all out toward a goal, it entails trusting the flow, knowing when to let the soup boil. With patience, you’re able to delay gratification, but doing so will make sense and feel right. Why? Intuition intelligently informs patience. It’ll convey when to have it and if something is worth working on or waiting for. As a psychiatrist, I’m besotted with patience because it’s intimately intuitive, all about perfect timing, the key to making breakthroughs with patients. I can have the sharpest intuitions or psychological insights, but if I don’t share them at the right moment, they can do damage or else go in one ear and out the other. With regard to this, I strive for enormous patience; anything less would impede healing.
I’m also struck by the fact that every world religion sees patience as a way to know God, an incentive for me to practice it, and perhaps you too. Whereas frustration focuses on externals, patience is a drawing inward towards a greater wisdom. Lastly, patience doesn’t make you a doormat or unable to set boundaries with people. Rather, it lets you intuit the situation to get a larger, more loving view to determine right action. Patience, a gift when given or received, moves within reach when you can read someone’s deeper motives.
To practice patience, try this exercise. I do it all time to turn frustration around in long lines. I advise my patients to do this too.
Emotional Action Step. Practice Patience In A Long Line
To turn the tables on frustration, find a long, slow-moving line to wait in. Perhaps in the grocery store, bank, post office. Or if you’re renewing your driver’s license, dare to take on the mother of all lines in the DMV. But here’s the switch: Instead of getting irritated or pushy, which taxes your system with a rush of stress hormones, take a breath. Tell yourself, “I’m going to wait peacefully and enjoy the pause.” Meanwhile, try to empathize with the overwrought cashier or government employee. Smile and say a few nice words to the other beleaguered people in line. Use the time to daydream; take a vacation from work or other obligations. Notice the stress release you feel, how your body relaxes. Lines are an excellent testing ground for patience. To strengthen this asset, I highly recommend standing in as many as possible.
Practicing patience will help you dissipate stress and give you a choice about how you respond to disappointment and frustration. When you can stay calm, centered and not act rashly out of frustration, all areas of your life will improve.
As you go through the intuitive healing process you need to know: each of us has our own special power. We carry it within; it waits to be awakened. Call it your inner self, your spirit, or light--however conceived, you must meet and come to know your core-essence. The source of all intuition, it is your fiercest ally and advocate against danger. By connecting with this part of yourself you'll mount confidence, feel safer in the world. Then whatever or whoever crosses your path--even the devil incarnate--will be no match for your resilience.
I want you to flush out beliefs that divert you from your intuitive healing power. Begin by asking yourself, "What in my life throws me off center and why?" I'm referring to everything from a stranger flashing you a dirty look, to fear of rejection, to dealing with someone in pain. Interactions where your energy dims. Weak spots, points that need securing. And what about negativity? How do you deal with yours, or another's? If a supervisor says, "You'll never be successful," or an ex-lover announces, "You're incapable of a healthy relationship," do you buy into it? We each have our triggers. The basis for centering and protection is grasping where we get caught, and then disengaging the trigger.
Four common beliefs that drain your intuitive healing power:
1. I'm not strong enough to protect myself.
As children, many of us aren't taught to believe in the full power we contain. Yes, our parents may support our intelligence, talents, physical attractiveness--even teach us sound ethical values, the difference between right and wrong. But what happens to our inner self? Might even devoutly religious parents fail to realize it is there? Our starting point is to recognize we possess a very real internal source which enables us to deeply see and know. Yet when something goes wrong, frequently our first impulse is to look outside ourselves for someone to "fix" us. We get sick; we rush to the doctor. We become depressed; we call a therapist. We're in pain; we take a pill. It's fine to seek expertise--but we have it backwards. Look inside first. Really, it's not a big blank in there. Then act on what your wisdom tells you. What stops us? A likely culprit is the vulnerable child we each carry within. Mogul or mailman, mother or monk, this aspect of our psyche yearns to be taken care of, protected, and is unequipped to do it alone. He pops up in the darndest circumstances, reducing us to a helpless tiny tot. Of course we must tenderly acknowledge her needs--but know where to draw the line. Would you want a baby running your boardroom? Your life? Remember: Your inner self is more than your inner child. Far grander--capable of ministering to all your needs--is the radiance of your spirit. Feeling this, knowing this, is the best protection of all. You must become your own champion before anyone else can. When you believe in yourself, no one else can diminish you.
2. Other people's negative thoughts can harm me.
In my workshops, I'm struck by how worried participants are about being thwarted by other people's negative thoughts. Such concerns need to be addressed. On an intuitive healing level, ill intentions or feelings can affect us, creating anxiety or physical dis-ease. We must train ourselves to deflect them. What is negative energy? Any force antithetical to your well-being. How does it turn up in everyday life? Let's start at the lower end of the spectrum. Your neighbor doesn't approve of you. A friend puts down your plan to start college at forty. Your ex-boyfriend's girlfriend is sending you bad vibes. What do you do?
Strategies to develop intuitive healing:
3. I'm too sensitive for my own good.
The arch-enemy of intuition is lack of sensitivity. Know this: There is no such thing as being overly sensitive. To grasp the concept, you may have to reconfigure old ideas that have been drummed into your head. When parents or teachers said, "You have to toughen up," or especially with boys, "only sissies cry," unknowingly they were undermining the very crux of your intuitive tie with the world. Male sensibility, in particular, has been bludgeoned by such rigid conditioning. But, for both sexes, to break down childhood armoring requires extraordinary commitment, trust, and resolve.
What I'm speaking of isn't simply expressing your emotions. It's slowly learning, in your own time frame, to remain wide open to an intuitive realm--being one with the wind, the moon, other people's joys, sorrows, the continuum of life and death. From this comes an intimate ecstatic bond with all of existence, exactly what you don't want to protect yourself from. Sensitivity only turns against you when you feel overwhelmed. But how do you stay receptive and not get obliterated by the intensity of such input? It is possible to remain vulnerable and feel safe. The answer is never to shut your sensitivity off but to develop it as a creative resource.
4. It’s my job to take on the pain of others.
We're trained that as big-hearted people it's laudable to try to relieve the pain of others. A homeless person holding a cardboard sign, "I'm hungry. Will work for food" at a busy intersection; a hurt child; a distraught friend. It's natural to want to reach out to them, ease their angst. But many of us don't stop there. Inadvertently, we take it on. Suddenly we're the one feeling desolate, off kilter, bereft, when we felt fine before. This loss of center is what I want to address. It does not serve us. I am adamant: the most compassionate, effective route to healing people is to be a supportive presence, not attempt to live their pain for them. Moreover, sometimes suffering has its own cycle that has to be respected, hard as that may be to witness.
We must lie to rest the old metaphysical prototype of the empathic healer. Typically grossly obese women (extra weight, they mistakenly argued, was the only way to stay grounded), who cured patients by absorbing symptoms with the technique of laying on of hands. The result? Patients would leave feeling better; the healers would be a sickly wreck. These women were convinced such a sacrifice was necessary to lessen the suffering of others. As a young physician, I almost got snagged in the same trap. During the first months of private practice, I used to drag myself home, flop into bed half-dead from everything I'd absorb: a sure path to burn-out. This tack wasn't good for me or my patients.
I've learned the value of being a catalyst for people's growth without compromising my well-being. Patients themselves have taught me I can't do the work for them. That is not my job. Nor is it yours. Keep this in mind: it is none of our business to deprive anyone else of their life experiences. I understand the impulse to want to make things better. Compassion and the desire to console are human. But there's a fine line between supporting someone and trying to do it for them. No matter how well-meaning or heartfelt your intention, doing too much is not an act of love but of sabotage. You can be caring and honest with someone, yet still let them be. Don't equate honoring their growth process with abandoning them. A practical philosophy of intuitive healing must include preserving your energy as well as serving others. Striking a balance is essential.