First, know that it's not selfish to want to protect your energy. Next, learn how to guard it to avoid feeling depleted.
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As spring approaches, you might be emerging from somewhat of a social hibernation. No matter if you are energized by other people or prefer friendly gatherings in small doses, you might be wondering how to protect your energy when filling up your calendar with lunch meetings, coffee dates, and nights out on the town. "Being around other people can take a lot of your energy," explains Natalie Bernstein Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and reiki practitioner. "If you start to notice yourself feeling drained, empty, or [like you have] a pit in the stomach, that is a sign that your energy needs to be restored."

Understanding Your Energy

Every time you come into contact with others — be it your friends, co-workers, family members, or strangers at the grocery store — you experience an exchange of energy. Everything on Earth has an energetic frequency, humans included. Sometimes these exchanges are subtle and can even go unnoticed, and other times, they can feel overwhelming. For example, if a family member is having a bad day and telling you about it, you might leave the conversation feeling overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or just exhausted — even if all they did was tell you about their day without taking anything out on you. Or, perhaps, a friend feels stressed about an upcoming project at work and projects their stress onto you with the disguise of venting. That projection can leave you feeling just as stressed as they are in that moment.

"While there is no visible spark when energy is exchanged between others, a noticeable physical reaction may take place," explains Dr. Bernstein, noting that people who consider themselves empaths or highly sensitive people might experience this physical reaction more deeply, leaving them feeling "anxious, drained, or even happy, depending on the emotion being transferred." An exchange of energy takes place on an unconscious level, which can be confusing if you have a hard time separating yourself from others' energies, according to Dr. Bernstein. While everyone experiences a subconscious energy exchange on some level, research has particularly focused on those who consider themselves empaths or feel extremely sensitive to others' energies, says Dr. Bernstein.

Why You May Want to Guard Your Energy

Energy protection is not just about avoiding "bad" energy at all costs and seeking out only "good" energy. It's about shielding yourself from energetic depletion. It helps to think of your energy as a bank account: You need funds in order to spend funds. Energy works the same way — you need the mental, physical, and spiritual energy to spend or share your energy, otherwise, you're sure to overdraft your energy account, leading to burnout.

Whether you consider yourself an empath or not, learning how to protect your energy can help you create a barrier between you and burnout, allowing you to experience these ongoing energetic exchanges without running the risk of feeling totally fried. And, the best part is, most of the best ways to guard your energy moonlight as self-care practices. Up ahead, find energy healers' top tips and practices for protecting your energy from others.

How to Protect Your Energy

Use others' energy as a guide.

Sometimes, energy protection isn't just about retaining your own energy, but also noticing how others' energies might trigger something in you. If you find yourself feeling ignited by someone else's vibe in a negative way — be it anger, frustration, or stress — use whatever is coming up for you as a "humble, loving guide" and ask yourself where that matching energy lives within yourself, suggests Reiki master Jamie Wozny. "Because life is a mirror, you can use the clue of how others affect you as to where you need to meet yourself more fully with love and non-judgment," explains Wozny. When you do this, you allow space for that energy to move and heal within yourself so that you no longer experience similar energy. (Wozny calls this an "energetic match"). "The mirror of your life can be a gift if you choose to see it that way," she says.

This is a great tool for anyone who might feel afraid of coming into contact with others' energies. Not every experience will feel uncomfortable — or phase you at all, for that matter — but, when an interaction does impact you, it helps to take a beat and bring awareness to your experience and what it is trying to tell you.

Set boundaries — and maintain them.

"One of the best ways to protect your energy from another is by making certain your boundaries are clear to yourself, as well as clear to other people," says Dipal Shah, a certified Reiki practitioner and alternative medicine practitioner. Shah recommends becoming more in tune with your own limits in every aspect of your life with particular awareness about "how far you can go before you begin to feel overwhelmed and triggered," to gain a stronger understanding of your boundaries. "By having and expressing your boundaries, you can help to prevent uncomfortable situations," she adds. This practice can look different for everyone, depending on what boundaries they need. It could look like not spending as much (or any) time with people you don't feel good around, or limiting certain social activities that leave you feeling depleted. It could also look like engaging with someone only when necessary (such as at work), or putting someone's texts on silent and answering them when you feel more grounded.

You might not always be aware of who or what is subconsciously draining your energy banks, which is why checking in with yourself regularly is a must, says Liz Andolong, Reiki master with Before Noon, a holistic self-care brand, and intuitive coach. "One of the biggest tips I can share is simply noticing how you feel and mapping your energy," says Andolong. "It's as simple as pausing to check in with yourself and scan your body," she adds, noting how taking a moment for yourself gives you the opportunity to "get clear on what gives you energy [and] what depletes it." Once you are aware of this, you can work toward setting boundaries to protect against situations and people who might drain you and create more space for the things that fill you up.

For some, setting boundaries can be a challenge — especially if you find you are one of those people strangers are drawn to (and typically vent to, despite not knowing you). The key here is having an awareness of this common occurrence and practicing ways to politely excuse yourself when this happens. It might feel strange at first, but the more you test it out, the more you'll find tactics that work and still feel authentic to you.

Keep a tourmaline crystal close.

Those who buy into crystal healing believe that crystals serve a multitude of purposes and some can specifically be used to ward off bad vibes. The theory is that thanks to their high vibrations, crystals can attract and protect against certain energies, making them a great tool for energy protection. Shah recommends keeping a tourmaline crystal in your pocket as it is known for protecting against negative energies. In general, black crystals are more popular for energy protection, but tourmaline is specifically useful because it is associated with the root chakra, which is all about keeping you grounded. In addition to protecting against others' energies, tourmaline can even help you protect yourself from your own negative energy, especially "if you are suffering from a negative thought pattern or emotion in your life," according to Shah. (Related: These Three Little Words Are Making You a Negative Person—and You Probably Say Them All the Time)

In addition to placing a tourmaline stone in your pocket, you can ward off negative energy with this deep-hued stone in areas of your home — such as your front door, where you come in contact with others' energies the most — for further protection.

Allow yourself space to recharge.

Give yourself time and space to recharge, in whatever way is most appealing to you, advises Andolong. "Some folks [typically, extroverts] recharge in the presence of other people, others [typically, introverts] do so alone," she explains. More often than not, many run themselves down energy-wise without even knowing it. But if you spend some time recharging, you can experience a shift. "When you're recharged, you're back home with yourself and less likely to make choices that deplete you," says Andolong.

Try visualization techniques.

Visualization is a powerful technique often used in meditation as a way to unwind and relax. But, it can also be used as a tool for resetting after coming into contact with others' energies. Think of this tip as a good practice for everyday maintenance of your own energy. "While taking a shower, visualize the water washing away all the energy that you have collected throughout the day, sending it down the drain to be recycled," says Bernstein. "Then, visualize the water flowing over you, filling in your energy, making you whole and protected again."

Calm your nervous system.

Thanks to today's hustle culture, many people spend most of their days with their nervous system in a sympathetic state, aka fight or flight mode. This state can really take a toll on you, impacting your energy and how you are affected by others' energies. With that in mind, stabilizing the nervous system by inviting in more balance — and more time spent in the parasympathetic state of rest and digest — is another fantastic way to keep negative energy at bay. The best way to do this is to "be as grounded and as centered as possible in one's self," says Reiki master Maureen Black. Grounding practices such as walking barefoot in the grass, spending time in the sun, meditating, breathwork, and even taking care of your garden or houseplants all help invite more stabilization to the nervous system and allow for a deeper connection to yourself. "The more grounded and sure of who you are, the less likely you are to be affected by others' negative energy, no matter how toxic it is," says Black.

Practice gratitude.

When you come in contact with someone who has an aura of uncomfortable energy, practicing gratitude can help diffuse the situation. "It may feel counterintuitive to share gratitude with someone who has negative or uncomfortable energy," says Serena Poon, a celebrity chef, certified nutritionist, and Reiki master. "However, gratitude is a powerful, loving energy that can help their energy shift, protecting your energy in the process," she adds, noting how everyone has the power to shift the energy in any room "through displays of kindness, love, and appreciation."

When it comes down to it, everyone is impacted by each other's energies in some way, shape, or form. Whether it's an energy that makes you feel really good — such as the energy of a loving and supportive friend — or energy that stings or depletes you, it's impossible to avoid each other's vibrations. "We are all energy and our energy can be affected by others," says Bernstein. "You are in charge of your energy and it is up to you to protect it," she adds. With that in mind, you have a choice between absorbing the more uncomfortable energies or using energy protection practices to set boundaries between yourself and others.