Self-Care for Empaths and Sensitive People


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Self-care is essential for all empathic people. When you mindfully and lovingly practice it each day, your sensitivities will flourish.

The self-care practices, perspectives, and meditations I present as daily offerings in Thriving as an Empath will support you in being a compassionate, empowered empath without shouldering the suffering of others or trying to “fix” them. All people deserve the dignity of their own paths. Day-by-day, I’ll offer gentle reminders about how you can be loving without becoming codependent or a martyr.

As a psychiatrist and empath, I am fierce about my own self-care practices and teach these principles to my patients. I feel so strongly about them because I want to keep enjoying the extraordinary gifts of sensitivity–including an open heart, intuition, and an intimate connection with spirituality and the natural world. Shallow emotional waters don’t appeal to me. I love going deep–and my sensitivities take me there.

Still, a big challenge for all sensitive people is how to be compassionate without absorbing the stress of others and the world. We don’t have the same filters as most people. We are emotional sponges who feel everything and instinctively take it in. This differs from “ordinary” empathy, where your heart goes out to others in pain or happiness, but you don’t take on their feelings.

We empaths are helpers, lovers and caretakers who often give too much at the expense of our own well-being. Research suggests that our mirror neuron system (a part of the brain responsible for compassion) is hyper-active, which can burn us out. This is not how I choose to live. I want to be loving, but over-helping or absorbing someone’s distress just puts me on sensory overload which is painful to my sensitive body and soul. It also doesn’t serve the other person in any lasting way.

To stay healthy and happy, you must be prepared with effective self-care practice so that you’re ready to deal with stress. Throughout the book, you’ll learn to keep yourself balanced and whole by trusting your intuition, setting boundaries, and protecting your energy.

The secret to an empath’s well-being is to break the momentum of sensory overload before it consumes you. The strategies and attitudes that I’ll share, which have been life-saving for me, will quickly bring you back to center when you are overwhelmed or emotionally triggered.

Here are two selections from the book I hope will offer more insight into your self-care.

The Gift of Being Different

Like many empaths, you may feel as if you don’t belong in this world. You experience life so intensely, and love so deeply, it’s sometimes hard to find kindred souls to whom you can relate.

As a child, I always felt “different” from my peers. Other kids loved going to crowded parties and shopping malls whereas I preferred climbing trees with my best friend or writing poetry. As an only child, I was alone a lot and found companions in the moon and the stars. Often, I felt like an alien on Earth, waiting for a spaceship to take me to my true home.

Similarly, Albert Einstein said, “I am truly a ‘lone traveler’ and have never belonged. I have never lost… a need for solitude.”
As I’ve grown as an empath, I can appreciate the gift of being different. I am moved by this anonymous quote: “If you feel you don’t fit into this world, it’s because you’re here to create a better one.”

Sensitive people are meant to bring light into the world. Empathy is a strength, not a weakness. I applaud everyone who looks different, feels different, or thinks different. The world needs the difference you will make.

Set your intention. I will honor the gift of being “different.” I will fully be my unique self and not let anyone take my power away. I will shine my light brightly.

It’s Not My Job to Take on the World’s Pain

As an empath, you have an open heart. You don’t have the same emotional guard up that many others do. You feel people’s pain–both loved ones and strangers–and you instinctively want to take it away from them. In fact, many of us have been taught that being compassionate means it’s our job to remove other people’s pain.

This is not true. You can hold a supportive space for someone without absorbing their distress in your own body. Finding this balance is the art of healing. Inwardly you can say, “This is not my burden to carry.” It is impossible to fix someone and it is really none of your business to try. More than twenty years of being a physician has taught me that everybody deserves the dignity of their own path.

Set your intention. I can be compassionate without becoming a martyr or taking on another person’s pain. I can respect someone’s healing process without trying to “fix” them.

I wrote this book of days, this book of seasons, as my tribute to an empath’s loving heart and to the sacredness of time. My greatest purpose is to be in service to the goodness of empathy and love. As sensitive people let’s marvel at our lives and our many openings to grow. Every day the mystery unfolds. No matter what: keep loving, keep taking deep breaths, keep looking at the starlit sky. Allow time to help you remember your timelessness.

(Excerpt from “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” and “The Empath’s Empowerment Journal” by Judith Orloff, MD)

Judith Orloff, MD is a New York Times bestselling author with the upcoming book The Genius of Empathy: Practical Skills to Heal Yourself, Your Relationships and the World (Foreword by the Dalai Lama). She has also written The Empath’s Survival Guide and Thriving as an Empath, which offers daily self-care tools for sensitive people. She integrates the pearls of conventional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, empathy, energy medicine, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice and online internationally. Her 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, TEDx U.S. and TEDx Asia. More information about Dr. Orloff’s Empathy Training Programs for businesses, The Empath Survival Guide Online Course and speaking schedule at

Connect with Judith on  FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

17 thoughts on “Self-Care for Empaths and Sensitive People

  1. Hi Judith, like you and many others I was sure I was born into the wrong family as a child. I just did not fit in and was bullied at school. I’ve done lots of research over years, had a wonderful therapist who taught me about internal boundaries and also did parts therapy with me. At age sixty, it changed my perspective and behaviours for ever……also I did your empath quiz and found out I’m an empath! What a miracle and an eye opener the learning has been. Thank you universe. I have started tai chi, it’s slow, it generates chi and I come away so relaxed. Try everything that’s out there! Love Anne xxx

  2. The hardest thing being an empath is that where you feel the sorrows and pain of people, you are also put in pain and sorrow by other people who feed on your sensitivities. Most of the empaths are sensitive, loving and unique in nature. They are also really nice and very good care takers. In my case, whoever I come in contact with start relying on me deeply so in the end I feel drained tending to everybody else over my needs. I also fell sick taking care of my parents because there was no limit of what I wanted to do for them. Same goes for my husband and son. I have to learn to say no which makes me feel guilty and like I am not doing my duty. That is the hardest thing to do as I never learned to say NO.
    May God help us all in recovery and makes us stronger to face the world.

    1. I was like you, please do research on setting internal boundaries ….I promise it is the answer to supporting yourself. I can actually feel physical pain in my body when I see someone in emotional pain, being bullied etc. It’s a physical feeling of anguish. I just stay with it and it subsides after a couple of days. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Xxxx

  3. I would like to be a part of this group! Finally someone that gets me! My daughters say I’m boring cuz I don’t want to hang out and party and be around ppl all the time. I was calling how I felt “overstimulation” but now I have my answer! I’m an empath wow ! All of the traits are me! Thank you Dr. Orloff thank you so much!!!

  4. I turned 50 in August, and over the past two years at long last understood, accepted, and embraced my own truly unique & soul-deep beauty. Striking familiarities felt in just the except & many of the reviews finds me incredibly anxious to read everything I can find about my always felt, just consciously realized power. My life has been a cycle of severe depression, surreal toxic relationships, a 25 year battle with addiction to numb the pain of the world that I’ve always taken on interwoven with an always present, RARELY recognized, genuine longing to make a positive impact on this world. What an indescribable revelation to realize I’m neither terminally unique, an epic failure, nor too late to achieve my dreams of leaving this earth better than I found it. Finally, my journey makes sense & fills me with excitement! I look forward to connecting with some of you other superheroes! Until then, may our lights shine! Much love, RiRi

    1. Hello to Shari, Ted, and Diane,

      Your messages touched me because I can definitely relate on where you are right now and where you have been. I too, just realized what I am- an empath. I was secretly afraid that I was going crazy plus the reading on my biofeed was concerning. I know now who I am and it is real. I only shared it with my mother recently but my grandmother knew and told me I was “different” as a teenager. I was very close to her but she has transitioned and I don’t have anyone to talk with and understands. I realized that my youngest boy is an empath and his gift is stronger than mine. I struggle to say something to him because I don’t want him to think he is crazy or I am crazy. Thank you for your responses and Dr. Orloff. I will be ordering your book so I can better understand how to relate and function better in this world. I needed to understand I am not alone just living in a world where there are others just like me.

  5. Dear Dr. Orloff,
    Thank you for this article, videos and your insight. I scored 16 out of 20 on the empath test. I have much greater understanding about myself and feel like a weight has been lifted. My journey has just begun!
    I recently realized that my mother-in-law is a narcissist and I cannot be around her. Now I have a better understanding of how to deal with this situation.

  6. Havnt read the book..just reading the replies..all women..I am a man 78 years old and a empath…could never work out why so many my life se e med to go against me did all the right things or so I thought a couple of years ago trying to work out the why’s.. I found out my ex’s was a narcissist I did not understand at the time why she destroyed me an my business by embezzling from me sending me bankrupt..once I discovered this all fitted into place..even now I have difficulty not being in tune with people..I have helped lots of people in my life to be treated like a leper ever since

  7. I thank you Judith for your work that has taken a horrible veil off of me. I lived 48 years not understanding myself. I am a full blown empath according to the quizzes in your book. I am very sick now with a rare disease & a single mom who is finally learning self care due to your work. Thanks for saving me just in time.

  8. Thank you for the articles Judith, timely reminders. I learned about internal boundaries last year and what that term means, it has really helped me to care about myself. I too was sure I was adopted or with the wrong family!

  9. Hello Miss Orloff, my name is Breanna and I am an Empath. I’ve only known about my gift for a few years but I’ve always have been spiritual. I rely on my intuition a lot and I’ve just learned how to create a mental block. I just wanted to say thank you for helping me understand my gift and how to not become overwhelmed with my sensitivity.

  10. I can’t tell you how much it means to understand at last that I AM okay — I’m just an empath!! Wow! I so totally relate to what you’ve written about your childhood — I was sure I was adopted, because I just didn’t fit in. I really didn’t seem to fit anywhere, and preferred to be in nature or with my pets than with people. Now I understand this is just the path of the empath an the healer. Not always easy, but I wouldn’t trade it. Thanks for giving me skills to cope better. You’re amazing!

  11. I wish I had Judith here beside me now in the UK. I have been an empath all my life, & she understands it all so VERY clearly. But try as I may, & believe me I SO have, over many, many, long years, I am being destroyed by others, even my own family. I fear I am doomed right now, but am glad that I came across Judith’s teachings before I take my leave of this cruel, cruel world………

    Lyn. B.

  12. Sometimes timing is so synchronized it is hard to believe. Interestingly I can identify with a lot of your story and just recognised that if I’d gone away to school earlier I too would have aimed for your profession. No mystery there. The major difference is that whilst I am far more in need on my own space in this later part of my life, as a child and earlier adult I thrives in spaces with lots of people. Maybe the greater numbers somewhat muted other individuals pain for me.
    Thank you so much for sharing your work.
    The two reminders above are enough for me to ‘tackle’ just for now.

  13. I am 64 years old this month and after listening to a youtube testament of a near death experience and hearing that the woman was an empathy, I had to google the term. Only 2 of the items of the definition don’t fit me. I always felt “different” and “not of this world” and an feel other’s emotions with no words spoken. I know the temperament of a crowded room. I am overly affected by how others feel about me…. the list goes on and on. I can’t wait to read your book. And knowing that this is a gift and not a detriment certainly changes how I feel about myself. Thank you!

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