5 Protection Strategies for Empaths


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I’m a physician and an empath. In my medical practice of over two decades, I specialize in treating highly sensitive people and empaths like myself. We feel everything, often to an extreme, and have little guard up between ourselves and others. As a result, we often become overwhelmed by excessive stimulation and are prone to exhaustion and sensory overload.

The key to self-care is to quickly recognize the first signs of experiencing sensory overload or when you start absorbing negativity or stress from others. The sooner you can act to reduce stimulation and center yourself, the more balanced and protected you will be. Whenever you start to feel exhausted or overwhelmed practice the following five protection tips from my book The Empath’s Survival Guide to help you regain your balance.

1. Shielding Visualization

Shielding is a quick way to protect yourself. Many empaths and sensitive people rely on it to block out toxic energy while allowing the free flow of positivity. Call on it regularly. The minute you’re uncomfortable with a person, place, or situation, put up your shield. Use it in a train station, at a party if you’re talking to an energy vampire, or in a packed doctor’s waiting room. Begin by taking a few, deep, long breaths. Then visualize a beautiful shield of white or pink light completely surrounding your body and extending a few inches beyond it. This shield protects you from anything negative, stressful, toxic, or intrusive. Within the protection of this shield, feel yourself centered, happy, and energized. This shield blocks out negativity, but at the same time, you can still feel what’s positive and loving.

2. Define and Express Your Relationship Needs

Knowing your needs and being able to assert them is a strong form of self-protection for empaths. Then you can be in your full power in a relationship. If something doesn’t feel right, raise the issue with your partner rather than suffering silently. Finding your voice is equivalent to finding your power–otherwise you may become exhausted, anxious, or feel like a doormat in relationships where your basic needs are unmet. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. Speak up to safeguard your well-being.

Ask yourself, “What do I need in a relationship that I’ve been afraid to ask for? Would you prefer more alone or quiet time? Would you like to sleep by yourself sometimes? Do you want to play more or talk more or have sex more? Or would you like to dance under the full moon together? Let your intuition flow without judgment. Uncover your true feelings. No reason to be ashamed or to hold back.

3. Set Energetic Boundaries at Work & Home

Empaths often suffer in their environment when they absorb the stress in their surroundings. The workplace especially can be noisy and over-stimulating. To protect your energy level in an emotionally demanding or crowded environment surround the outer edge of your space with plants or family or pet photos to create a small psychological barrier. Sacred objects such as a statue of Quan Yin (the goddess of compassion), the Buddha, sacred beads, crystals, or protective stones can set an energetic boundary. Noise cancelling ear buds or headphones are also useful to muffle conversations and sound.

4. Prevent Empathy Overload

When you’re absorbing the stress or symptoms of others and you need to release the negative energy inhale lavender essential oil or put a few drops midway between your eyebrows (on your third eye) to calm yourself. When you able spend time in nature. Balance your alone time with people time. For me, time management is key to my sanity. I try not to schedule patients back-to-back. In my personal life, I don’t plan too many things in one day. I’ve also learned to cancel plans when I get overloaded. This is a skill all empaths must learn so you don’t feel obliged to go out if you’re tired and need rest.

Set clear limits with energy vampires and toxic people. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to keep explaining yourself. I am adamant about avoiding draining people, particularly when I’m overloaded. Finally practice self-compassion. Be sweet to yourself whenever possible—avoid beating yourself up. After a hard day tell yourself, “I did the best I could. It’s okay honey.”

5. The Jaguar Protection Meditation

When you need extra protection I recommend this meditation to call on the power of the jaguar to protect you. I use it when there is too much negativity coming at me too fast. The jaguar is a fierce and patient guard who can keep toxic energy and people away.

In a calm meditative state, from your deepest heart, call on the spirit of the jaguar to protect you. Feel her presence enter. Then, visualize this gorgeous, powerful creature patrolling your energy field, encircling it, protecting you, keeping out intruders or any negative forces that want to get through. Picture what the jaguar looks like: his or her beautiful, fierce, loving eyes; sleek body; the graceful, purposeful way the jaguar moves. Feel secure in the circle of this jaguar’s protection.

Give inner thanks to the jaguar. Know that you can call on her whenever there is a need. Feel the power of that.

As a sensitive people you must learn is how to deal with sensory overload when too much is coming at you too quickly. This can leave you exhausted, anxious, depressed, or sick. Like many of us, you may feel there is no on/off switch for your empathy. This is not true. When you feel protected and safe you can take charge of your sensitivities rather than feeling victimized by them. To gain a sense of safety, recognize some common factors that contribute to empathy overload. Begin to identify your triggers. Then you can quickly act to remedy a situation.

Judith Orloff, MD is the New York Times best-selling author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. Her latest book Thriving as an Empath offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people along with its companion The Empath’s Empowerment Journal. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today. Dr. Orloff has spoken at Google-LA and has a TEDX talk. Her other books are Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive HealingExplore more information about her Empath Support Online course and speaking schedule on www.drjudithorloff.com.

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

35 thoughts on “5 Protection Strategies for Empaths

  1. Thank you for your books and wisdom. I’m dealing with an elderly father with failing health and treatment. He is like dealing with a child. I feel like I absorb his fear, frustration and symptoms, leading to anxiety and nervousness that borders on a panic attack. Your visualization strategies and deep breathing are beneficial, however getting the quiet space at times is a challenge. I just keep willing myself to remain calm and let go of my propensity to want to control the uncontrollable.

  2. Your information is wonderful!! I have been second guessing myself over this being empath. I felt and known for a long time but was in denial – and still am. How do a person know for sure they are empath?

  3. I just discovered that I am an empath, it’s so hard for me to deal with everyone emotions, I get into depression and I do not know how to social with people. I also push my family away when I know all they do is care and try to help me. I don’t know how to deal with these outgoing feeling I have any advice in regards to this?

  4. I’m going to have to try these, in the last few years I’ve been told by therapists that I am an empath, but none of them ever explained how to work with it, just made it sound unfortunate. I have been feeling the weight of stress and sadness from all angles, not just of those I live with but others as well, if you could say each energy was a different colored oil mixed with water, it’s like billions of colors drowning at once, draining me of what little I have of my own. I can’t seem to escape it no matter where I go, and it’s even worse now with the loss of both my parents in the same 365 days. (not asking for pity just saying it’s been a difficult year) I can hardly breath sometimes. I have all sorts of crystals on my desk the only one I’m missing right now I think would help is black tourmaline.

  5. My sister told me, recently, that It’s like I’m being circled by a Komodo dragon. It bites, and watches me. It follows me, and observes my pain. It studies me to know when I’m feeling a little stronger, and then the circling begins again. I too, am a born empath. The jaguar visualization helps. I feel I’m no longer circled by only the dragon, but the dragon is now being carefully watched. Protection 🐆. Thank you.

  6. The pandemic has made ppl depressed & worried. A few relatives & friends were in touch sharing their problems & stress. Tried my best to help & guide them, now I’m having anxiety attacks. Being empath & light worker is not easy in this dense environment.

  7. Hello, I am a 50 year old Empath that suffered mental illness froM the lack medical knowledge and therapy when I was in my early preteens when I realized that I had subconsciously trained myself to finally disengage fron negative people, emotion over load, and began a schedule of such busy routines and schedules that I grew up successful and emotionally cut off from all relationships. This finally after medication, cognitive therapy, years of psychiatric treatment…. I was blessed with one child who by 4 years old I knew she was born an empath. Where we are, it took me several conversations with sver psychotherapists to treat my child as Empaths treatment guidelines are still not solid in the medical field, and you need to find someone, usually a serious and committed academic who has touched on this gift, in unrecognized situations, it could look like an illness. Being Empath due my research you are born with, you do not develop it over time will skill. If you are an empath, watch your children at a young age, the signs are there. Even though, by experience it is
    a difficult quality to manage when you just want a “go with the flow” happy energetic child.

  8. Thank you so much for the info. I have known I am an empath for a long time but it has been very hard with this pandemic of the century and now with a huge example of how racism still plagues our nation. I hope you all are doing good and protecting your energy honey! We all need to come together.
    We’re here to OBSERVE not ABSORB. 🙂

  9. Have learned that many ppl wish for empaths to absorb their stress. This is in connection with how humans are primates. During primate competition, the primate trying to be most dominant intentionally tries to produce cortisol stress hormones within the other monkeys. The subordinate monkeys have the highest cortisol levels of stress hormones. It is an ingrained behavior in the constant fight over resources, territory, and reproduction. Many times may wonder, why does this person need to fight over that? Especially having two completely separate lives. But it is hardwired. They often psychologically project (as well as energetically, in differing meanings of the word). They want the other person to carry their stress so that they can dominate and the other become subordinate.

    1. Thank you for that insight. I think you’ve helped me understand why my partner does what he does…everything seems to become an issue.

  10. Thank you. Can you say how you know when someone is draining your energy? Also have you ever caught yourself in doing that with others? How does it feel like

      1. I work in PT geriatrics too, Amanda, and I find it extremely challenging to deal with. So many of our patients carry so much negative energy with them, whether they know it or not, and I feel like I’m battling all day just to not absorb it, on top of course of all the crazy multi-tasking we do, under productivity standards, with barely enough time to eat lunch, go to the bathroom, and breathe. Just wanted to let you know there’s someone out there who totally understands. XO

  11. Unbelievable, even if the person does not know he or she is an empath. I am a 44 y/o Male. My field has grown substantially, I am bombarded and often unable decipher my own emotions. I am aware of the blocking techniques, but now I am lucky if last a full minute. Please help.

      1. I can relate “Empath in need of help” – I have always known that I am empathetic, but just recently found out that I am an Empath/exactly what that meant. I need to learn how to protect my energy and not take on everyone else’s – it has gotten to the point of not knowing if they are mine or not…so I completely understand. Within the last few days I have been meditating a lot more and listening to energy healing music when falling asleep and throughout the night. This article has been a huge help, but am looking for as much good information as possible also.

  12. First heard of Dr. Orloff back in 2008 on Conscious Media Network with Regina Meredith. Have been learning much since that time as that Network has sort of been my liftoff. Recently watched Sounds True – The Understanding Narcissism Summit & her talk on “The Toxic Attraction Between Empaths and Narcissists” (excellent). She was the first I believe that really validated by experience spanning decades from family of origin through long-term marriage I finally ended. No longer a victim – I have survived & it was really tough going during the escape. Found myself in the cross hairs to be destroyed financially, character assassination, terribly gas-lighted complete with flying monkeys – like guerrilla warfare, didn’t know who was who. Physical health deteriorated, mentally/emotional tried to be strong & robotically do what I needed to do to get a better life. In time I focused much attention on healing & self-nurture & now I am thriving most of the time. Thank you Dr. Orloff.

  13. How can I continue to advise/coach my adult son who is mentally fragile and has no other friends or family to listen regarding his problems while I his 73 year old mum am an empath. I absorb all his anxiety and lack of energy and also feel unable to help as much as I feel is needed regardless of the energy he drains from me. Cheryl

  14. I’ve literally just realised the last few days I’m an empath. All my life I have struggled with something and Letting others feelings and emotions control me.
    I knew I always felt different and unique, now this all makes so much sense.
    Any tips for a new awakend empath??

  15. As a psychologist and fellow empath I discourage the last method as the main method for handling people. Communication is the first choice; many empathy unknowingly violate boundaries too, and many in general do so unintentionally. However, if you have tried everything else, then blocking the person out – completely if you can, is IMHO, a viable option. But if you have to do this frequently it might also mean you need to protect yourself and find a different environment.

  16. Hi Judith,

    Thank you for your most informative website.
    I am researching Empaths and I have found your work very helpful, thank you.

    Love and light,

    Belinda. x

  17. So much of what you’re saying resonates with me down to the princess and the pea. I realized as I child that was true for me.

    Thank you so much for your insights.

    I’m on a leave from work to renovate my new home. I feel wonderful.

    Have a great day.

  18. Thank you Judith for your amazing insight. You have helped me considerably over the years and I often refer to your teachings in my work as a Human Resources professional. You are a gift in my life.

  19. Dr. Judith, thank you so much for the concept of the “Jaguar meditation” as a fierce protector & guard. Now, I can not hardly wait to produce and experience this guardian type of protector. This will Help!
    Dr. T.S. Brodar

  20. Very Helpful and Informative Post. I Often Feel Overloaded in My Emotions and Drain Relatively Easy in Certain Surroundings!

  21. These are very good tips for those of us who are empaths. I especially like the one regarding the Jaguar. They are beautiful creatures and this one is an easy tip to remember.
    Thank You.

  22. Best advice: don’t even allow them to register in your field of recognition. eventually they’ll get it that you find their behavior revolting and will either disappear or leave you alone. since most grown ups are socially astute enough to feel when they’ve crossed a boundary, ignoring them will send a message. those that fight with you in response to your erecting a boundary have control issues and you are really better off shunning them completely. it’s a good method to weed those types out of your life.

    1. What if you work with them and just realized their intentions after having befriended them? Every time I’m emotionally weak they try to take control and drain all my energy.

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