I’m sure many reading this are like me, fully isolated, or close to it, and living alone. It creates the perfect environment for touch deprivation to set in. Touch deprivation is a real issue because physical contact with others relieves stress, releases hormones that improve mood, creates bonding experiences, and so much more. Humans need touch, and going without it long enough can actually create an aversion not only to touch, but to interacting with others, trusting enough to form or maintain relationships, and even bring out aggressiveness. In a world where being touched has become loaded with risks, how do we meet this basic, instinctive need?There are, fortunately, ways to meet this need without having others at hand to hug, cuddle, or touch/be touched by.
A favorite of mine is using a pillow. Sleeping with a body pillow simulates having a cuddle partner. The body-brain connection isn’t quite smart enough to recognize that the thing you’re hugging isn’t a person, at least, not when you’re asleep. This can bring about more restful sleep. Even if we’re not consciously aware, those pillows soothe our sleeping selves.
I also use a throw pillow to hug when I’m feeling sad or anxious. The pressure against my chest and the ability to hold something work together to soothe those feelings.
Giving yourself a massage does the same thing. It may sound odd, and while a self-massage isn’t the same as a full-body massage, we can still work on our hands, forearms, legs, and feet. I’m always stunned at how much tension I hold in my feet. When I do a foot massage on myself, I either become so relaxed I want a nap (brought on by a deep sense of contentment) or I have a surge of energy.
You can also get a good bit of relief from a weighted blanket. Whether it’s a blanket you sleep under, or a smaller one you use when watching TV, these are amazing options that once again trick our minds into responding as if we’re being touched.
Of course, being sedentary isn’t healthy, and believe it or not, dancing, practicing yoga or tai-chi, taking a walk, brushing your hair, and even showering will unlock the “I’m being touched” responses. The exercise options activate pressure points which simulate touch to the brain.
If you live alone and are finding it difficult to meet with people who would normally be around to give you a hug, hold your hand, squeeze your arm as you laugh together… look into ways to give yourself the things you need and soothe your distressed mind and body. It’s okay to admit you’re not being touched enough, and it doesn’t mean you’re not deserving of touch. Nor does it mean you can’t ever be touched again. Self-soothing your touch deprivation will ensure that when we’re able to interact normally again, touch won’t be painful or overwhelming. Instead, it will be a more fulfilling moment to be able to squeeze your close friends tightly and have the full benefits of real touch in your life again.
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