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The Complicated Complexities of Distance

Are you tired of the pandemic? I sure am. It has been a long, difficult road from what was initially supposed to be a couple of weeks to what is now turning into years. Social isolation brings with it challenges that are insidiously and invisibly heavy. In theory, it's easy. Just stay home and binge-watch every show you had ever wanted. How many memes are out there extolling the simplicity of social distancing?

The truth? It's much more complicated that that. We are social animals. This means that our mental and physical wellbeing are linked to connection with others; emotionally and physically. We crave touch because it is good for us. It improves our immune system, increases our sense of belonging and security, builds trust and relationships, while decreasing stress and violence (Keltner, 2010). What greater pain can there be for a social animal than to be isolated from their kin for extended periods of time?

The pain you are feeling as we move into the second year of the pandemic is very real. The suffering is intense. If you are struggling, it's not because you are weak. It's because our wellbeing is literally in the hands of others.

As I reflect on the times we are living in, I am reminded of this exchange from Lord of the Rings:

Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened".

Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we

have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

No-one would wish to continue with fear, uncertainty, increasingly disparate viewpoints while our most powerful mechanism for stress reduction is denied. These are the times we were given. We must each decide how to move through the best we can, honouring our values, our families, and our communities. We will get through, not unscathed, but perhaps with the grace of knowing that we are investing in the future hugs, kisses, and of all those beloved to us.

Touch Hunger is Real

So what can you do to manage your touch hunger?

  1. Be easy on yourself. Acknowledge that there are going to be hard days. In those moments offer yourself what care you can including physical comforts such as clean sheets, the snuggles of pets, and a shower. It doesn't replace what you need, but can take the edge off enough to continue on.

  2. When appropriate and if possible engage in the touch you can such as massages.

  3. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of physical intimacy. Cry if you need to (crying also releases stress-reducing hormones).

  4. Be intimate in the ways that are safe. Again, it is not the same as touch, however talking to a friend, zooming with a friend, or texting with a colleague can alleviate the edges of the deep loneliness

  5. Remember that loneliness is part of the human condition. We all face times of solitude, as painful as those times can be.

Take care dear ones. These times will transition into something new. Change is inevitable. In the meantime be extra kind to yourself.

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