The holiday season is about giving. It is a time when selfless acts and generous gifts are exchanged among family and friends. This time of the year is truly a magical season to show appreciation for others. But what about the empaths out there whose altruistic ways are a year round quest…….or burden? What about those that spend so much of their time either actively giving or worrying about others? Is this done at the expense of their own well-being? The constant concern for everyone else sounds stressful, but how does it really affect health?
For true empaths, the effects of their concern for others can be positive or negative. Empathy, simply put, is the ability to share in another’s feelings. By that definition joy, sadness, excitement, disappointment and other emotions of others can all be experienced by the empath. For those of us who have less of this ability, this sounds extremely stressful and it can be. Increased stress is an obvious negative. The flip side to this are those that find joy in giving of themselves in this way. That’s the altruistic aspect of empathy. There are those that find satisfaction in giving of themselves versus considering it another stressful task, even if that task is simply worrying. Worrying generally has a negative connotation, but not necessarily for the altruistic empath. Maybe the satisfaction is a distraction from one’s own stressors. Maybe it increases appreciation for one’s own life situation. No matter the source of satisfaction, people that focus more on others’ well-being can actually improve their own well-being by doing so.
So, if you don’t consider yourself an altruistic empath, does that make you selfish? Selfishness, no doubt, takes on a negative meaning for most. The idea of putting yourself before others can cause gasps of disbelief along with looks of disgust. If we step back and analyze selfishness as it pertains to health, maybe it’s not all that bad. The term, self-care, is sometimes tossed about. This means that you put yourself first in terms of healthy eating, exercising, and stress relief. After all, if you aren’t healthy and in a positive state of mind, how can you help others effectively? There are, of course, plenty of examples of selfishness that should cause gasps of disbelief and looks of disgust. When it comes to making your own health a priority, however, selfishness can be a positive characteristic.
When you take time to consider your level of empathy and altruism, keep in mind that you still have a responsibility to self-care. Remember that there are circumstances, particularly health related, in which it is okay that you come first. This is the season of giving, but the entire year should be the season of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t put yourself on the shelf, leave that for the elf.