If you know me, you know that I can be expressive in a lot of ways, but don’t often dive to deep into the ethereal domain of the metaphysical language used to describe my spiritual being. Not because I don’t believe in it, but its just not how I speak or understand my own conscious self. I much rather stick to the more pragmatic ways of understanding the inner workings of my brain. Particularly how it functions in response to how I believe I’m subsequently protectively evolving by building resilience internally in these times.
Now I would be today years old that I learned that Emotional Hibernation has already been identified as a thing- but mostly in relation to men, and typically described in a negative way. Here I thought I was on to something unique? But in my searches and readings I came across this poem called The Reptilian Brain:
This Old brain is here to stay.
Hunger pangs and Primal Instincts,
A never-ending search for pleasure.
Questions nagging the human mind,
Are you safe, Are you Secure?
Emotion is a human addiction,
Chase the highs and suffer the lows.
Fear of failure and love of power,
The lizard brain is fuel to the fire.
It couldn’t have captured the essence of what has exhausted me over the last year or so. The repetitive themes replaying in in my head like a broken record have since overstayed their welcome to the point where I have now reached a new state of being- not absent- but not present either. The way a bear may tuck itself away during the winter months: Alive, Breathing and Regenerating- or what we know as Hibernating.
I also believe, everything that changes can also be likened to seasons, that is why I used the word Hibernation, some animals are known to hibernate during the harsh winter, remaining inactive for some periods of time to save energy. Did you know that all mammals—whether on land or in the sea—have adaptations to help them survive in cold water.
One adaptation is known as the mammalian diving reflex (or MDR). When exposed to cold water , all mammals’ bodies respond in a similar way. The heart rate slows, and the blood vessels in the arms, hands, legs, and feet constrict, or tighten. These changes help the body conserve oxygen, and make sure that the brain, heart and other vital organs get the most blood flow.
Now apply this concept to how we regulate our environments and social climate. Emotions just like every other form of energy can also be spent and we sure spend a great deal of them, any sane person in today’s society should feel emotions not just to personal issues but to societal and environmental issues.
But there comes a time when we must realize when we are spending too much emotions on things, recognizing that point could save us from getting drained emotionally. This I believe is where the Emotional Hibernation kicks into high gear, at least for me. I’ve had to purposely coach myself through this realization whereby there is no need to panic- I’m not dropping into a despair or turning into a recluse. I’m just merely slowing the rate of stimuli being thrown my way so that I can preserve my energy and allocate them into the areas that need the most attention.
So I have to ask myself is it indifference or is this an emotional shield? I strongly believe that adopting the skills around practicing Emotional Shielding brings protective factors to our own consciousness and ability to practice them in more purposeful ways than just implying indifference.
Dr. Judith Orioff- Author of The Empaths Survival guide breaks it down beautifully in the article: 5 Protection Techniques for Sensitive People-Learn to feel balanced and protected from sensory overload and negativity.
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 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 and 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 a boundary. Noise-canceling earbuds or headphones are also useful.
4. Prevent Empathy Overload
When you’re absorbing the stress or symptoms of others and you need to release the negativity, inhale lavender essential oil or put a few drops midway between your eyebrows to calm yourself. Are you able to 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 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 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 thanks to the jaguar. Know that you can call on her whenever there is a need. Feel the power of that.
As a sensitive person, 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.
References-Adapted from “The Empath’s Survival Guide” by Judith Orloff MD.
What I like is that she states that 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. So whenever we start to feel exhausted or overwhelmed to practice the above five protection tips to help regain balance.
So before you start to type out a lengthy reactive response to some strangers ignorant triggering rant on Facebook or Instagram, think about what I’ve brought up today. In addition, don’t feel for one second guilty about not being there for everyone or a crutch to lean on while in this state of emotional hibernation mode. Its okay to hang the Do Not Disturb Sign up as you please. We have but one constant in our lives, and thats being our own guardians of galaxy.