For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought up a period of pain, isolation, anxiety, and various challenges. One major effect has been the physical distancing, limiting us from our natural drive to connect with others. No meeting with friends and extended family, no visits to the restaurant or small talk at the office, no handshakes, hugs, or physical contact that is vital to our wellbeing.
Before this pandemic took over our lives, research already pointed to the concept of touch deprivation as our society was already accustomed to less touch. Studies have indicated that touch deprivation might harm body image, could contribute to adolescent violence, and might impact infant weight gain and growth. Moreover, the benefits of touch for emotional and physical health are bountiful. The shelter in place orders that have been implemented in much of the world has increased the consequences of touch deprivation and isolation. Rifts in relationships, created by physical distance, will require bridging. No matter how we look at it we all need connection.
Only time will tell how we can reconnect and heal after this global pandemic, as there are many avenues that will need rebuilding. Coming out of shelter-in-place orders may bring up fear and excitement. There are so many feelings and concerns to be addressed, and the watershed moment is coming.
Reclaiming touch following the return to the new normal might be the exact path to help us heal from the trauma of lockdowns, the constant anxiety about the virus, and any pain that may have come up during the months. For now, this is a while away.
Here are some ideas on how we can reignite connection, love, and unity during this bizarre situation.
- Random acts of kindness
By showing kindness to yourself, to those you’ve been sheltering-in-place with and those in your broader sphere spreads happiness and goodness. It elicits positive feelings both in the giver of kindness and the receiver, and it has a snowball effect, meaning it encourages more kindness. This is the type of goodness and positivity our world needs right now, and it starts from just one small act. Some ideas include: making your partner their favorite snack, volunteering to do some errands for an elderly neighbor, delivering goodies to hospital workers, and more.
2. Learn how to communicate needs.
Each individual person has unique needs, preferences, and comforts. We are starting anew in our relationships and in our communication. For example, some people might prefer to keep physical distancing and mask-wearing even as we move toward more laxity and that’s okay. Those people might be in situations where they need to voice their wishes, and others need to be open to receiving those preferences. This goes for consent at all times. Asking, “May I hug you,” to a loved one upon reuniting is a powerful way to convey this. Let’s take a fresh start and a new look at communication and consent.
Lending a smile to a complete stranger eases the tension and suspicion we all feel. A smile is worth so much, as it encourages friendliness, positivity, and connection. You can have smiling eyes when you’re wearing your mask! We can acknowledge one another with a simple head-nod, a wave, or even that quirky foot-kick greeting. The goal is to strengthen our connection to one another.
I encourage everyone to try self-massage, even if you’ve been quarantining with a partner. Taking time after your shower or bath to rub in lotion to your skin can be very nourishing. I have been enjoying sitting down in the evening and giving our cat, Oscar, chin rubs as he lies next to me. Massaging your feet before going to bed can help your nervous system relax as well as making your feet happy. Showing yourself some extra love during a sensitive time goes a long way to helping calm and renew your sense of self. Doing this makes you more open and available to show love to those you interact with.
5. Getting out in nature.
Touch the ground, pick up some leaves, stones, or flowers. Explore that sense of touch. How does the breeze feel on your face? Walking as a meditation, as the freedom to connect with the fresh air and move. My husband and I get up early and we take our walk whilst it is quiet and our teenagers are still fast asleep! Being outside has been vital to my health and wellbeing; my garden has never looked so good! Once your stay-at-home orders have ended, make a date to hike or explore the local park with those you’ve missed most. It’ll give you something to connect with beyond the virus and daily life. So refreshing!
6. Finding new support.
Support is crucial at all times, even without a pandemic or any unusual life events. But during the lockdown, we were isolated from many of our regular ways of supporting ourselves at a time we needed it most. Surely, we’ve all developed some new go-to habits. Be open to sticking to those habits that served you well and clue into anything new that might work with your post-pandemic self.
7. Get help if you need it.
There are tons of virtual and phone resources available these days. Many professionals have taken their counseling work online, and there are endless support groups, inspirational talks and courses, and other avenues to get help and support even in the most abnormal of times.
What new lifelines have you found during this time? I’d love to hear what kind of support you’ve found!