'Touch starvation' could be affecting your mental health during the pandemic. Here are some tips to overcome it.
A pillar of public health practices during the pandemic was social distancing, in which people maintain a physical distance from anyone outside their households to prevent the spread of viruses. According to Dr. Jen Hartstein, Yahoo Life mental health employee, doing our social circles for health and safety was critical. However, losing physical contact with others can have a significant impact on our mental health.
“Touch plays a very important role in our life. It helps us feel less isolated and more connected to the people around us, ”Hartstein told Yahoo Life. “If we are out of physical contact for an extended period of time - like many of us during the pandemic - we may be labeled 'non-contact'. In this case, we may notice an increase in depression, anxiety, and anxiety. Isolation, withdrawal, increased stress for us. "
Hartstein explains that the loss of physical contact is so serious, also because our brains function naturally with positive chemical reactions to physical contact with others.
"The first [chemical] we talk about a lot is that [touch] stimulates something called oxytocin, the cuddle hormone," Hartstein explains. “It's what binds us together. We all have it, and touch intensifies it.” Oxytocin is released into the blood when certain cells are aroused by physical touch such as hugging or cuddling. Studies show that it has a positive effect on social life Behavior can affect.
"Touch can also stimulate the production of serotonin, which helps us treat our depression," says Hartstein. Serotonin is often referred to as the "happiness hormone" because it can stabilize our mood and increase our wellbeing. It is also known to have physical benefits, promoting the healthy functioning of things like appetite and metabolism.
"After all, [touch] stimulates the production of dopamine, which is similar to our feel-good hormones," explains Hartstein. Dopamine is thought to be strongly related to how we feel, and it even helps our ability to think and concentrate.
“We feel connected, we feel connected to others, and ultimately it can help with physical illnesses. It can actually help us be healthier overall, ”she says.
Hartstein points out that evidence of touch can be seen as something natural and comforting to us in many of the "substitute greetings" that we have become accustomed to over the past few months. “All involve touch. An elbow bulge, a foot bulge, that sort of thing. We're still trying to find ways to make a physical connection that matters to all of us, ”she says.
"Replacement greetings" that we have become used to in the last few months, such as an elbow or foot bulge, all involve touching. (Photo: Getty Images)
Hartstein explains that the effects of the hunger for touch could be amplified at this point because stress, anxiety, and fear are already in an elevated state. "The world around us is stressed and anxious and is now taking away something that is very calming, like touch, and it amplifies the negative emotions we may experience."
As we adjust to a world free of handshakes and hugs, Hartstein said it is important to find ways you can improve the touch in your life.
Increasing touch when living alone
Even if you live alone and feel particularly isolated, you can touch a focus in your life.
"Maybe it's with a pet, maybe it does your own calming and touching yourself, but find a way to connect with your body so you can feel grounded at a time when we are all swirling in a sea of intense emotions. Says Hartstein.
Touch in the household
"Many of us live with people, so we deal with touch," says Hartstein. "We don't always think about how even the slightest touch can be very calming and supportive."
Hartstein says that even something as small as touching a family member's shoulder as you walk by can create a sense of connectedness and commitment that we may lack. An additional focus on touch in our households at this point can be extremely helpful in easing feelings of anxiety.
What about kids
“This is a time of worry and concern for all of us. Now imagine that you are a young child who comes into the world trying to figure out how to be appropriately involved when asked not to touch the people you love, "says Hartstein. "So you shouldn't hug your boyfriend, you shouldn't hug Grandma. All we encouraged you to do, we are now telling you not to."
Although this period can become increasingly difficult for children at crucial moments of development, Hartstein said it is important that children still receive some level of touch at home.
"The real concern is when there is absolutely no physical contact and most children get it in their homes from their parents or siblings," she says. “We hope this doesn't affect their bond or emotional development. Therefore, we want to keep giving kids a healthy and appropriate grade because they need it, and we don't want them to be afraid of it in the future. ”
While this period can become increasingly difficult for children at crucial moments of development, Hartstein said it is important that children still receive some level of touch at home. (Photo: Getty Images)
For moments when we may not be able to physically touch our friends, Hartstein advises that we return to some of the ways we encouraged togetherness early in the pandemic, such as: B. Conference calls and socially distant walks.
“Togetherness is really important, and while we may not be able to touch, connecting can in every possible way counteract some of the negative side effects of not being touched,” she says.
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, please visit https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those with compromised immune systems remain at the greatest risk. If you have any questions, please see the CDC and WHO resource guides.
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