Do you ever take on other people’s “stuff”? Their mood, their energy, their worries, their stressors?
My clinic was created with the intention of providing a comfortable and safe space for people while they are healing. And I’m glad how often patients tell me how comfortable they are here and how relaxed they feel, despite various situations going on in their life.
Depending on what’s going on in my patients’ lives, some days can be emotionally intense.
Although most will bring physical symptoms to their appointment, very often the physical will overlap with emotional symptoms. Life happens and we are all affected by what’s going on in our lives.
On any given day, I can be working with someone who has gone through a horrific trauma. Or grieving the loss of a loved one, including beloved family pets. Or worrying about a new diagnosis. Or frightened by a past abuse. Or reeling from a fight with a family member. Or facing their last weeks and days of their life.
There can be some intense emotions that come up, and my goal with every treatment, no matter what we’re treating, is that the patient leaves the clinic feeling better than when they came in.
I would describe myself as empathic, meaning that I can sense the emotions in the room, whether there’s one other person or even a crowd. I may not necessarily be able to put words to it, or know what the details are behind it, but I can FEEL it.
I want my patients to feel better. And while I share my utmost compassion for what they are going through, it’s equally important that I stay feeling good and not take on any downward emotions. I need to feel my best to help others feel their best.
Recently, someone had asked me, “How do you do it? How do you handle being around heavy emotions every day and not let it get you down?”
Well, let me share my secrets with you because you can incorporate these same tips into your life too. Especially if you feel like you often take on other people’s stuff or work in a profession that opens you up to others’ emotions, worries, and fears.
I learned WMIM, WYIY from a mentor while I was still in grad school and starting my acupuncture internship. It’s an acronym that stands for:
WMIM: What’s mine is mine.
WYIY: What’s yours is yours.
And it’s a lovely lesson in setting boundaries in both directions.
What’s mine is mine: I have “stuff” happen in my life too – I’m not immune to the normal ups and downs of daily living in our world these days. But it’s super important that I take care of me and keep my stuff out of the treatment room. You are coming here to receive help, not to give me help.
So when I’m having a rough day, I remind myself WMIM before I walk into the treatment room so that I am fully present with you.
Then on the flip side, at the end of the appointment, I remind myself WYIY – what’s yours is yours. Your sadness is not my sadness, your loss is not my loss, etc. That helps me to stay compassionate, but not bring these heavy emotions home with me.
For the first three years of the clinic, I kept a sticky note visible on my desk with WMIM, WYIY so that I saw it as a reminder every time I walked out of the treatment room. Now years later, it is an ingrained habit that I no longer need a visual reminder but I still keep it front and center in my mind.
Another trick I learned, that I recommend especially to anyone who is in a helping profession, is a handwashing ritual.
For health & safety with acupuncture, I wash my hands all the time as it is. But this one is done with more intention.
Whenever you need to shake off heavy emotions, go wash your hands in warm water and wash all the way up to your elbows, then rinse the soap off with sweeping motions down to your fingertips. Then give your hands a really good shake when drying them.
There are two messages to this:
1. I will not take in the emotions any farther than my elbows.
2. I am rinsing off the emotions and releasing them.
You can do this anytime you feel like you need to shake something off in any kind of situation. It could be after listening to someone share their worries. It could be after you had a fight with a family member. It could be after you had a particularly challenging or uncomfortable meeting at work.
Rosemary & Marjoram
I learned this blend from a fellow acupuncturist and essential oil expert, Desiree Mangandog.
Make a 10mL roller with Rosemary and Marjoram essential oils. I do not remember the original number of drops because I had to modify it for me – I personally only tolerate a few drops of Rosemary so my combination is much less than the original. I usually put a max of 20 drops of essential oil in a 10mL roller, so I do 5 Rosemary and 15 Marjoram, then fill to the top with fractionated coconut oil.
Roll this over your heart space (center of the sternum) and inner wrist creases at the end of the work day to “dust off the day.” It has a sharp aroma that is very head clearing.
According to one of my favorite books, “Essential Emotions: Your Guide to Process, Release, and Live Free”, Marjoram essential oil is the oil of Connection. This oil helps you to stay emotionally open, connected, and softhearted. Great if you are feeling like you have built an unhealthy wall around yourself.
Rosemary is the oil of Knowledge & Transition. Very useful in maintaining clarity, and bringing a feeling of confidence, as well as a trust in something greater.
You can see then how these two oils work together to provide both clearing and connectedness.
If you need either of these oils, you can get them at my shop site.
Here are three more ideas for you…
1. Take a brisk walk.
Best is out in nature, but even just around your living room is okay. Or do five jumping jacks. Or snap your fingers and clap your hands.
Move your body to move your emotions. Especially if you are prone to going into a funk. More often than not, depression is not the lack of energy, but what I call “stuck” energy. It needs to be moved.
2. Stretch your chest.
Have you ever noticed how heavy emotions make us hunch forward and down. This tightens the chest muscles and weakens the upper back. It also creates shallow breathing and lowers our mood.
On particularly intense days, I come home and lay my spine lengthwise on a foam roller which stretches my shoulders back and down. Make sure the length of the roller is long enough that both the neck and the sacrum can rest on it. And obviously, don’t do this if it causes any pain.
A standing alternative is to rest your forearms on an open doorframe and lean slightly forward to feel the chest stretch.
3. And my favorite emotional remedy: cuddle your pet. Cuddling my dog makes me feel better faster than anything else.
How do you know if you took on other people’s stuff?
The following can happen for other reasons too, but in general, these are some things to watch out for, particularly when they happen during or right after meeting up with someone…
You feel drained afterwards.
You feel unusually tired.
Your mood dramatically changed from before the meetup.
You feel emotions that logically seem out of proportion to the situation.
You have an outward emotional response that isn’t typically you.
You’re awake at 3am still thinking about it.
When that happens, remember these tips:
Handwash up to your elbows
Rosemary & Marjoram essential oil roller
Take brisk walk
Stretch your chest
Cuddle a pet
Got other tips? Go to where this is posted on my Facebook page and please share with us. We can all help each other!
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