Human contact has become a scarce resource
The world’s priorities have shifted back over the last few weeks to the basics: food, water, shelter. But as we’re starting to settle down in this new normal and have more or less (hopefully) figured out how to get what is needed, it’s starting to become clear that there are other necessities we’ve been craving—of which one is human contact.
“Physical human contact is an emotional and physical need based on our biology and psychology,” says Jesse Kahn, the director at The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in New York City. “Touch can release oxytocin, reduce stress and calm our nervous system.”
But because we can’t all get that human contact right now—significant others who live in different cities, parents who live away, whatever have you—how can we get that fundamental need to physically feel someone else?
Unfortunately, most of us have to settle with video calls with friends, families and significant others right now. It’s good practice to check in and do as many activities as we can with the help of technology—but it shouldn’t all be serious. Watch a film with them, openly discuss it, share a funny video you saw on social media. Whenever and if possible, keep conversations light as well.
One thing that we should avoid, however, is too much online activity. It’s a hard balance to strike, but Kahn says we should be careful of how much time we spend conversing through a screen as well. This is because the inability to actually reach out even for the slightest gesture then becomes an obvious impossibility. Wanting to get that level of human contact and not being able to could be counterproductive.
If you’re not alone in your home right now, it might be good to spend some real time with the people around you. And while you might not have slept in the same room as your parents or siblings since you were kids, a night or two might do you well. It’s the right time to try and get close to the people who you’re with again.
If you have pets at home, it’s time to take them off their leash and unlock those cages. And if you have no other choice, bring out those extra pillows and surround yourself with them when it’s time for bed.
When all else fails, Kahn suggests the practice of self comfort. It might seem a little strange and uncomfortable at first, but hugging yourself is a good alternative as well. Massage body parts that are within reach, consciously hold your own hand, take an extra-long shower in the evenings when the day is especially feeling heavy.
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These times are all about adapting ourselves accordingly—and this unfortunately means we might have to do without some of the things we’re accustomed to. For now, we can only make do with what we have and the connections that they make possible.