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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Micallef

Viral Empathy

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

This morning I got up early, having not done my shopping this week, and went to the grocery store. We were there by 7:15 AM, figuring we could beat the rush of people pulling all the bottled water and toilet paper off the shelf due to the recent COVID-19 viral outbreak. We had arrived before the masses, but things were ramping up after only a few steps down the third aisle.

It was a completely different shopping experience from any I had had before. It definitely had a post-apocalyptic feel to it. Everyone we passed looked us up and down to see if we looked sick. And we eyeballed them back thinking the same. God forbid anyone clear their throat or cough -- the crowd could go into a frenzy. At least that's how it felt. Like a large group of people on the edge of panic, just waiting for one thing to happen that pushes them over that edge.

My husband came with me to get some essentials and to stock up on non-perishables, and a couple times I turned to him and asked him if he was feeling what I was. I am an empath, so it's common for me to feel what those around me are feeling, but it's not something I have found comes naturally to him. So, I knew when he said he could feel it too, I realized it was much more intense than I was hoping it would be.

I had been fine. I had worked a 10 hour day with the public on Thursday. Responsibly, mind you. Hand washing and all the precautions. I took my grandfather to get a haircut on Friday. Again, taking all the precautions. No excessive worrying. No panic. This feeling was different. This trip was planned to avoid a crowd. I set an alarm and got up early for this. Others had done the same. It felt like thinly veiled, covert panic. And it started creeping into my soul.

I had to keep telling myself that what is called for is a level head and responsible action. I kept reminding myself to use the wipes I had brought to open the cooler cases, or when touching any public knobs or door handles. I kept a "safe distance" from all other humans. I checked the aisles for the smart things to buy -- things that would last, and still be healthy. And as I put 4 cans of green beans in my cart, my heart began to beat a little faster. An anxious little voice inside my head said something silly like, "You should buy as many as you can carry!" It was hard not to listen to it.

I am generally not one to panic, but I could also see how, if left in this situation, or without information for too long, it could happen.

Relief flooded over me the moment I got into my car. Even more, once we had all our supplies in the house and we shut the front door. It was a bit ridiculous, when I think about it. Having said that, as I settled into putting the groceries away, I kept thinking about my fellow empaths. I wanted to reach out to remind you that you are in tune for a reason. You are in tune to help keep you and your loved ones well, cared for and safe. Also, as you well know, it is easy to pick up on the feelings of others around you -- so it is critically important to shield yourself and be very clear what is yours and what is not -- keeping yourself as calm and collected as possible.

I also want to encourage you to do more self care. Here are a few suggestions I got from @holisticallygrace on Instagram:


  • Limit excessive, continuous exposure to media

  • Inform without overwhelm

  • Set boundaries around time and use trusted resources


  • Reach out for emotional support by phone, text, or online

  • Contact your loved ones -- don't isolate yourself completely


  • Take deep breaths from your core for grounding

  • Meditate and visualize wellness and peace

  • Pray, send intention and good energy

  • Listen to calming sounds of music, laughter and singing


  • Focus on things we can control

  • Wash hands

  • Hydrate

  • Nourish

  • Adjust finances

  • Conserve resources


  • Acknowledge fear and anxiety

  • Find active ways to divert your attention -- reading, puzzles, crafting, etc.

Most of all, you know best what helps you feel safe, calm and protected from the energies of others. Do THAT. Don't let anyone say you're overreacting...or under-reacting for that matter!

We have guidelines we can follow, and we also have our intuition. So listen to both and take care. We will make it through this, better, stronger and more in tune.

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