Empathy & Self-Care: Feeling Every Emotion a Little Too Deeply

I once came across a quote that read, “It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply” …words that resonated in my gut and thumped in my chest the second they ran through my brain.

I am empathetic. No, I am not bragging, I am admitting a struggle I have battled for years; both a blessing and a curse in my field of work and in my daily life. I avoid movies that may have an overly sad or heartwarming part, I fast-forward commercials that could cause me to feel a certain way, I avoid people I love when they may need me most because it hurts my heart too much to see them that way. I laugh often, VERY often, and cry tears of joy and sorrow more times per week than I can count. I love hard, and with everything I have to offer, even sometimes more than I can afford to spare.

 A cycle of crying, laughing at myself crying, crying at my lack of emotional control and then spilling tears of laughter down my face at the ridiculous rhythm that is my empathetic self. 

However, it isn’t always so easy to mask and when working with the vulnerable sector, there are bound to be times that emotions are high, crisis is happening and it’s up to you and your team to get things under control.

I’ve been there when students lose control, I’ve been there when children trash classrooms, I’ve been there when children have lost themselves in their emotions and stare at you blankly as if they have no idea who you are through their eyes of flowing tears. I’ve seen what sensory overload looks like, I’ve watched children hurt themselves because they feel shame, guilt, embarrassment or any emotion that they cannot seem to process at that moment. I have waited them out, and I have stayed by their side until the room finally stopped spinning, the noise became muted , the mess was cleaned up  and their little world began to make sense again. 

These are the moments I live for, the moments that make this career worth every minute (even the tough ones), because in that moment, they realized they made it. Their world didn’t end, the people that cared for them didn’t leave, and with some debriefing…life will go on as normal. 

But what about me? No, that isn’t a selfish question as some people may assume. What happens to the person who watched the little person they care for fall apart in front of them? To the person who dodged flying items, hurled with frustration? To the person who may have felt helpless, held in tears, and did everything they could to let this little person know that everything was going to be okay, even when they may have been scared?

You cannot pour from an empty bucket. 

Life moves on, but if this were to happen again tomorrow morning when you walked in the door (which it often does), could you give your entire self to do it over again?

This is where self-care plays a major role. Self-care is not selfish, though it does take practice and is absolutely vital in ensuring that when you wake up each morning, you are bringing the best version of yourself that you possibly can. It looks different for everyone and can include a variety of activities, people, objects and places…

No one can tell you what it is supposed to look like, only how it should feel

Self-Care for me looks mostly like creativity. I love to write (can you tell?), crochet, use my Cricut machine, paint, draw, and make random (excessive) gifts for people. I like  to walk (sometimes), drink tea, read books, snack on things, and spend time with my friends. Sometimes self-care even means getting away for the weekend with my (super supportive) boyfriend and eating/binge-watching shows.

Bottom line is, self-care isn’t always working out, eating incredibly healthy food and drinking 8 bottles of water. While this is good for you and can definitely improve your physical health (which is linked to your mental health), sometimes it is just about what is going to make you happy in that moment…make you click that reset button and give you the courage to tackle whatever the next day brings…even if it is a lot of tears.

Don’t be embarrassed to laugh extra hard (and maybe snort), sob while watching a commercial about a dog or eat that extra handful of goldfish crackers while you crochet yourself a hat. Life is short…and if we have learned anything lately, it is to cherish those little moments and love yourself and your loved ones a little harder. 

Sending positive vibes, stay safe friends. 

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