12 Ways to Ground as an Empath
The energy of the collective
There have been a lot of intense astrological events happening lately – most notably the New Moon in Taurus and Solar Eclipse of last weekend.
While I am not an astrologer, I am spiritual enough to believe that the energetic potency these events cause has the ability to effect my life. As an empath, I pick up on the energetic imprint of my environment on a micro level – immediate environment – as well as the macro – my place within the collective consciousness of our society.
As everything in the universe is interconnected, these events effect the energetic makeup of the whole planet, stirring things up for many of us all at once. How many people do you know right now who are going through a lot, either personally or professionally? Are things just going wrong for “no reason”? Are you feeling a resurgence of old emotional wounds? Are you feeling more stressed than normal, and does your life feel a bit more hectic?
10 signs you suffering from a lack of grounding
12 ways to ground as an empath
1. Forge a deep connection with your breath
Breathe is life. Most – if not all – spiritual traditions talk about this. If you cease to breathe, you cease to live. Most of us breathe shallowly from our chests throughout the day, or even stop altogether for short stints.
The circulation of oxygen throughout our bodies actually has the ability to calm the entire nervous system, and even helps our nerves to regenerate, as well as stimulate brain function.
To start, just try observing your breathe throughout the day. Are you breathing from your chest? Are you taking short breaths? Are you breathing evenly? Don’t change anything, just notice.
Next, sit down somewhere comfortable and quiet for 5 minutes a day and just breathe. That’s it. Try to breathe evenly and deeply. Imagine the breath starting at your tailbone and traveling all the way up your spine and out the top of your head and back down. Your breaths don’t need to be long – 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out.
Does your breath get stuck anywhere? If so, that’s ok. Don’t force it. Just relax and breathe. Eventually, your breath with naturally regulate and even out. You are training your body’s muscle memory of what slow, even breathing feels like. This can be an amazing tool when you get stressed out – and we all do! If you can remember to just take a couple of slow, deep breathes, your entire nervous system will calm down. (This tip is also directed at me.)
2. Put your needs first/practice self care
This is So Important when learning to ground as an empath. If you are anything like me, you really struggle with this one. But I’m going to say it now – You Cannot Be There For Others If You Are Not Taking Care Of Yourself First.
There is this misconstrued idea in our society that putting your needs first is “selfish”. I would like to dispel that notion now. Actually the opposite is true. NOT putting your needs first – especially as an empath – is selfish! If you’re not taking care of yourself, are you going to have the ability to be loving and compassionate toward others and yourself? Are you going to be able to make decisions about what’s best for you? Are you going to live your life with purpose?
You being a martyr does not make you noble. You cannot give from an empty cup. What will happen very quickly is Burnout, which will affect everyone around you. No one will fulfill your needs for you. That’s your job.
So please listen to me and trust that it’s ok to put yourself first! Just do it and see what happens.
When I was trying this, I got really freaked out when I realized I was so disconnected from myself that I couldn’t even identify a single need. But as I sat with it, they started to trickle in. Little things like “I want to cuddle in bed and watch a movie right now,” or “I don’t want to talk to anyone for an hour and sit in the sun with a cup of tea” or “I really need some chocolate NOW!”
They don’t need to be extravagant, although they can be. But it helps to start small. Eventually you will get to bigger needs like what your work life balance needs to be, how much exercise is right for you, what your diet needs to be to support your best health. Do you see where I’m going with this?
For more tips on Self Care check out my previous article: Sustainability and Self Care – 7 Ways to Listen to Yourself
And this amazing article from my favorite writers for empaths, Luna and Sol: 39 Self-Care Ideas For Those Who Struggle With Self-Love
3. Connect to/listen to your body
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.” – Mary Oliver from Wild Geese
In order to figure out what your needs are, you’re going to have to listen to your body. Our bodies are constantly giving us signals – hunger, thirst, fatigue, excitement. In fact, all emotions are actually experienced in the body.
Many of us are disconnected from our bodies for a plethora of reasons. As empaths, often we experience the world in such an intense way that we can disconnect from our bodies to numb out slightly. That’s ok! It is a coping technique that I know well. But as empaths, it’s especially vital that we reforge a connection to our bodies so that we can be in touch with ourselves and feel empowered in our lives.
So how can we get in touch with our bodies
For me, the most potent medicine of all has been 5Rhythms. Most major cities in the world have a 5Rhythms teacher, so click the link above to find a class near you.
5Rhythms is a moving meditation, intuitive dance practice that allows you to follow the impulses of the body in whatever way they lead you. It has been instrumental in my recovery from anxiety, depression and PTSD from a rock climbing accident, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Ecstatic dance, while not as structured, has a similar concept, and is also an amazing way to drop into your body. So is yoga of any kind. My husband has had a lot of success with martial arts, namely jui jitsu.
Sometimes dropping into the body can reactivate past trauma. Trauma is stored in the body and as we release certain parts of our bodies, the trauma resurfaces. If that happens, it’s ok. Just allow yourself to experience and be present with whatever comes up for you. It’s all part of the healing process.
4. Allow yourself to freely express your emotions
Spirituality is not all love and light. And that is ok! It is your right as a human being to feel how you feel without judgement either from self or others, even if those feelings are uncomfortable. This is called Shadow Work.
Sadly we live in a society where this isn’t always possible. As children we were often shamed for expressing strong/difficult emotions, which then caused us to harbor internal judgement about expressing our emotions freely.
But we are emotional beings! And there is no shame in expressing that in whatever way feels organic and natural to you, whether it be rage, grief, sadness, pain, laughter and joy, or a confusing mix of them all. Emotions are not logical after all.
Make sure you are in a safe place, and make space to allow things to come up. You can’t always force emotion, but it can be triggered. What’s worked for me has been listening to music or watching a movie that I know affects me emotionally, or simply sitting in meditation and being present.
Pay attention to your body. How does it feel? What sensations are arising? Is it a tightness in your throat, a weight on your chest, a tightness in your solar plexus? Just allow yourself to cry, scream, punch a pillow/punching bag (if you have access), or whatever other responses come up. It is also perfectly ok to just breathe through it, as long as you’re not surpressing any response of the body.
Be curious about your emotions. Sometimes just giving them the space to be without judgement is all that they want.
Please note that if it gets too intense, or if you are feeling like you want to harm yourself or others, stop immediately and seek professional help. There is no shame in speaking to a mental health professional. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It is brave to ask for help. We all need help sometimes. Your well being is vitally important!
For more information about Shadow Work, please check out Luna and Sol’s article: Shadow Work: How to Let Your Demons Guide You (Without Going Crazy)
5. Seek out a supportive community
You don’t have to go through this alone. There are so many people out there who are going through exactly what you’re going through! When I was at the height of my anxiety, I felt so alone, like no one could ever possibly understand me and my pain.
How wrong I was! The more I opened up to others, the more I realize how many people are experiencing, or have experienced what I was going through. It was a beautiful experience to realize that in all our individuality and uniqueness – because we are all unique – that we can experience the world in such similar ways.
You don’t need a ton of people. I’ve found that having three to four close friends is perfect. But it is vitally important that you share how you’re feeling with someone. Even a spiritual adviser or therapist.
The better I felt, the more adventurous I became and started looking for other like minded people. Having a wider community that supports you is also important, but can take time to find. I found my community on Instagram, believe it or not! I found some amazing women who were having the conversations that I wanted to have about spirituality, and sensitivity, and how to work with the divine feminine, among many other things. I saw they had a circle that met twice and month and I joined. Best decision ever! If you’re in the Denver area and you’re female, I strongly advise you check out Luna Goddess Circle. These women are badass and I love them!
Wherever you are, don’t be afraid to seek community, because I promise you will find it. Check out Meetup.com in your city and type in things like “spirituality”, “empaths” or even “mental health”. I promise you will find something! People are primarily good. I don’t care what the media says.
6. Cultivate healthy boundaries
Without boundaries, you will get nowhere as an empath. And for some reason it is way harder for us. Probably because we can intuit other people’s needs and desires, so it’s much easier to just do that instead of pausing for a moment to listen to what we want and sticking up for that.
But I promise you that if you learn to set clear boundaries, internally as well as externally, you will immediately notice an improvement.
But how to do it?
I like to call it my “bullshit detector”, that little voice in my gut, my intuition. That thing. Listen to it! It always knows what’s best for you. Always. Without fail.
Just notice next time someone asks you to do something. Is there a light, excited feeling in your stomach, or a heavy dull feeling? I’ve noticed for myself that the light, excited feeling means I want to do it, and the dull, heavy feeling means I don’t.
I used to just say yes no matter what. But I urge you to practice saying “NO!” Say it loud and clear. Say it politely but firmly. “No, I don’t really think that fits for me right now.” You can say no to yourself, too. It’s also ok if your initial yes turns into a no. You can say something like “Upon further consideration, I won’t be able to do that.”
Yes, they might get mad, especially if you’ve done what they wanted in the past. But other people’s reaction to your decisions is not your problem.
I’m going to say that again. Other People’s Reaction To Your Decisions Is Not Your Problem!
Other people’s opinions about you do not define you. Other people’s desires about how you should act are not your business. That is a reflection of them and the self work they need to do.
I don’t mean you should start being an asshole. But you get to be who you are and do what you want because it is your intrinsic right as a human being on this earth.
7. Strive to love yourself
This was also really hard for me. As I started to dig, I realized how deep my inability to love myself went. All the way back to childhood when I was bullied in school for being different. This instilled in me a feeling that who I am is somehow wrong, despicable and unworthy of love.
When I was really struggling with this, I came across Inner Bonding, an amazing set of self love steps by Dr. Margaret Paul. This fundamentally shifted how I was approaching self love. By simply entering into the intent to love yourself, she says, you’re able to start to dismantle your false beliefs that you are somehow unworthy of love.
Because that is really what this is all about – realizing that each and every one of us is deserving of love; from ourselves to ourselves, and from others.
Having the ability to harbor inner compassion toward myself is one of the most healing things I have ever experienced. It took some time, but when I was finally able to feel it in my own skin, I was able to set some internal boundaries and am able to guide myself back towards a more loving mindset when I stray into negative self talk.
8. Don’t forget to play
This is huge! Maybe the most important step of them all. There is this strange notion in our society that as adults we have to take life seriously and that playing is for kids. There is strange notion as spiritual individuals that spirituality is a serious matter to be taken seriously!
Nah. Not really. I mean of course have some reverence/consistency, but lighten up! I mean it. Spirituality can be fun and playful. You are not a Buddhist monk.
If we stop playing, we burn out. How can we be expected to recharge our batteries if we never take any time to play?
I actually forgot how to play for a while. I turned into a dour and sour grandma. My poor husband wondered what happened to his silly, playful wife. I couldn’t even watch comedy anymore. It was depressing! I took my emotional and spiritual development so seriously that I couldn’t even lighten up on a Friday night. Yep, I’m a piece of work! But so are we all.
But I had a big realization that in order to be happy, I needed to play. And so I’ve been experimenting with ways that help me to access the playful child within again. For us, it’s been playing mario kart, going clubbing to hear great underground house and techno, going camping, and smoking marijuana occasionally, among other things. My husband’s motto is “couple’s who party together stay together,” and he’s right!
So ask yourself, how do you play? And make space for that in your life. Even if it’s one night a week on the weekend. Just play. And play some more. Laugh. Be a kid again for a little while. And see how much better you feel.
9. Express yourself creatively
For me, the whole point of all this grounding has been to unblock me creatively. When I was so anxious and depressed all the time, I didn’t have the ability to make art anymore, which made me feel like I wasn’t doing what I came here to this earth to do. Luckily, this past year has given me back my creative practice, and I’ve successfully completed the rough draft of my first novel, and am currently working on learning electronic music production and DJing.
You don’t have to be an “artist” to express yourself creatively. Any kind of creative self expression can be therapeutic and grounding. The point is to allow your feelings an organic way to be released.
I have had a lot of success with keeping a journal, watercolor painting and making music.
How do you like to express yourself creatively?
10. Connect to the earth
Spending time in nature is crucial to grounding! Understanding that you are an integral part of the body of the earth is so important. You belong to the earth, and the earth belongs to you. We are so disconnected from the earth in our modern society, and I’m positive it’s causing all of us to become anxious and depressed.
It’s not hard to connect to the earth. She is a living, breathing, conscious entity that wants to have a relationship with you. All you have to do is be willing to go and meet her. Go on nature walks; even a park will do if you live in a city. Sit in fields and observe cloud formations. Go up into the mountains and breathe the crisp air. Go to the ocean and let the waves lap your toes. Listen to the wind in the trees, the bird song. Smell the musty soil and the aroma of growing things. Watch insects climbing blades of grass. Pay attention to the sway of the seasons and how your internal cycles are mirrored in the cycles of the earth.
We are all deeply interconnected.
For me, this lead to going zero waste and completely rethinking my modern lifestyle to live more in harmony with the earth.
In what way do you want to connect to the earth?
To read more about this, check out my past article: 5 Ways to Connect to the Earth for a Life of True Alignment
For more information about zero waste living, check out: Zero Waste is a Journey – 8 Steps to Help You Get Started
11. Eat well/Exercise
Diet is very important as an empath. What we eat literally becomes us, so it’s vital we are getting balanced nutrients. I’m a big believer in intuitive eating, and I believe that once we are truly listening to ourselves, we know what foods are good for us.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Make sure you are eating whole, organic foods. Leafy greens are vital! Local if possible, because the microbes/nutrients in the soil where you live are great for your gut bacteria. Plus it’s more environmentally friendly.
Drink kombucha and eat fermented foods. Your gut needs all those organisms to replenish itself!
It’s important to get a balance of carbs, vegetables and proteins. I prefer a low meat diet, so try to get my protein from some plant based sources, such as rice and beans and nuts. I also eat eggs. I’m allergic to cow dairy, but do eat some goat dairy.
Please note that where you source animal products from is very important! Factory farming is inhuman, and if the body of the animal you are ingesting is sick, that sickness will pass to you. Plus, I can’t bare perpetuating any kind of suffering! So make sure to source meat from humane sources, local if possible, and get local pastured eggs and dairy. It is possible.
Try to eat a low refined sugar diet. I need chocolate to live, but have found that good quality dark chocolate a couple times a week stems my sugar cravings.
I also think genetics have a lot to do with it. I tried a no carb thing for a while, but felt ungrounded and tired all the time. When I added a small amount of good quality local bread to my diet, I felt much better. I believe this is because my family ancestry is entirely European, and there would have been some form of bread eaten for thousands of years. My husband comes from the Dominican Republic and can survive on nothing but rice, beans and meat.
Also getting the right balance of exercise is so important. I need to get cardio at least three times a week, and I do yoga a couple of times a week as well. Your body will know what it needs. But as an empath, a sedentary lifestyle will keep you stuck. Move that energy through!
Try jogging. Dancing (5Rhythms, or even Zumba or something) is also great. So is martial arts, strength training, yoga etc. You don’t have to be an “athlete” to move your body.
The more we take care of our bodies, and treat them as the temples that they are, the better we will feel.
12. Trust yourself/find your rhythm
Lastly, trust yourself. You got this! I promise. You have to believe in yourself that you can achieve anything you set out to do in this life. You might not be able to see every step laid out at your feet, but if you did, wouldn’t that be boring?
But just trusting in your own ability to figure it out will do so much. You have to give yourself credit. Life is not easy, and we don’t need to make it any harder by being hard on ourselves.
My dad’s motto is “just do the next right thing.” Wise words. You have to trust that if you just do the next right thing, things will unfold. There is no security in life, so if you’re always staying within your comfort zone, you may never feel the glory of flight.
I’m not saying be reckless either. But push the boat out and trust that it will reach a greener shore.
Also trust in your own unique rhythm. I believe we each have a sort of internal current that we can tap into. Maybe it’s our higher self, or our soul. But once we make contact with that part of ourselves and just listen to that guidance, we are able to start to truly flow with life. Then we become unshakable. Sometimes it takes time to find this current. But once we find it and memorize how it feels, we can always find our way back to it.