How To Stay Connected During Social Distancing and Self-Isolation
It’s a fact that we are being instructed to isolate ourselves for an undetermined amount of time during this pandemic. While this is viewed as an act of social solidarity, the fact remains that isolating ourselves physically has mental and emotional implications. It’s also a fact that even prior to Covid-19, 79 percent of Gen Zers, 71 percent of millennials and 50 percent of baby boomers felt lonely. The UK has recognized their loneliness problem and the impact it has on mental and emotional health (and we all know emotional well being directly impacts physical well-being! - see our blog on safe touch to learn more) and has developed a Ministry of Loneliness to combat the issue. It’s amazing that a country has decided to publicly acknowledge this issue so it can be addressed. Now is our opportunity in the U.S. to acknowledge our problem of loneliness. This isolation and social distancing is a forced experiment that gives us the opportunity to reflect on the impact of social and physical connectedness on our mood and overall well being.
So, what are we to do in a time where we are literally banned from many methods that make us feel connected to each other? Why is it important that we acknowledge how this is impacting many people’s mental and emotional health? How should we be ready to respond to this need, especially after this event that is likely to change our social behaviors long term?
Touch Deprivation and Mental Health
Why is it important to acknowledge the impact of touch deprivation on mental health?
We know that safe, pleasant touch positively impacts immunity, depression, and anxiety. Prior to the pandemic, our society was already struggling with high levels of depression and anxiety as well as low levels of touch compared to other cultures. The situation we find ourselves in currently compounds what we were already dealing with. For those already suffering from anxiety or depression, this stressful time calls for more potent interventions, but instead we are able to offer the opposite. What’s even more troubling is that those who are in high risk groups- medically fragile and the elderly are most likely already experiencing these emotions, but are not allowed visitors.
Depression and anxiety have very real consequences and can ultimately create more physical health issues. While our restriction around touch is very real, sometimes just acknowledging the fact that this increased lack of touch is significant and does impact our mental and physical health can be helpful. With acknowledgment comes mindful attention to how we can address the issue.
What are we to do in our current reality?
• If you live alone or don’t have someone near you to practice mindful touch with, try self- soothing through touch. Self massage and compassion are going to be critical to allowing the mind and body to feel cared for. Try out these supportive touch techniques recommended by Dr. Kristin Neff
• Take 2-3 deep, satisfying breaths.
• Gently place your hand over your heart, feeling the gentle pressure and warmth of your hand. If you wish, place both hands on your chest, noticing the difference between one and two hands.
• Feel the touch of you hand on your chest. If you wish, you could make small circles with your hand on your chest.
• Feel the natural rising and falling of your chest as you breathe in and as you breathe out.
• Linger with the feeling for as long as you like.
Other Self-Soothing Techniques
• One hand on your cheek
• Cradling your face in your hands
• Gently stroking your arms
• Crossing your arms and giving a gentle squeeze
• Gently rubbing your chest, or using circular movements
• Hand on your abdomen
• One hand on your abdomen and one over heart
• Cupping one hand in the other in your lap
Self-massage with massage balls is another way to release feel-good hormones. It helps release tension and calm the nervous system, especially when done in conjunction with breath work and focusing on the sensations you’re feeling in your body. You can find virtual classes to guide you through self-massage with Yomassage balls here.
Mindful Touch Throughout The Day
If you live with a friend or family that you feel comfortable touching, make sure you are being intentional about incorporating safe, mindful touch throughout the day. Try to incorporate at least 10-15 minutes of touch with each person you live with. This doesn’t need to be all in one sitting, but can be throughout the day. If you are both on devices, sit next to each other with your shoulders touching. If you are cooking together, take a moment to rub their back. As you fall asleep at night, rub your child’s or spouses back.
While you do get benefits from giving touch, it’s also important to receive it! Be sure to communicate your need or desire for the same kind of mindful, safe touch. You might even share this article with those you are living with to help start the conversation!
How can we move forward?
While we are in the throes of this situation, the use of video conferencing, self-massage, phone calls, intentional connection with those you live with will all go a long way.
As we look forward, and picture our society post-pandemic, there is the potential that how we interact and how businesses run will be altered. There is a likelihood that as many businesses find ways to move online to survive during this time of isolation and social distancing, that the businesses and the clients may get used to this method and continue to use it even after the mandatory distancing is over.
Reintroducing Touch And Connection
As soon as we are safely able, we need to reintroduce methods of developing and maintaining connectedness. It’s imperative to create opportunities for physical connectedness. Perhaps at the end of all of this, we will have a deeper appreciation for the impact that human touch and human connection have on us and look for ways to incorporate it into our daily lives and those of the people we care about.
For more information about Yomassage and our mission to make mindful touch accessible, learn about us here.
If you are interested in learning more about Yomassage, and taking this time of rest and reflection to become certified in Yomassage, we offer a VIRTUAL 25-hour Yomassage Certification that starts on the first Monday of every month, and runs for 3 weeks. For more details, check out this page.
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