NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

How to Cope With Touch Deprivation During the COVID-19 Crisis

Physical touch is so important to our emotional well-being that babies instinctively reach for their mothers when they're distressed.  In response, an attuned mother holds her baby, giving the baby a hug or lightly squeezing her baby's hand to give reassurance, and the baby responds by calming down.  

The Power of Touch

The Power of Touch
Touching and being touched is so essential--and yet we're being advised by the CDC and other medical experts to socially distance ourselves during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid being exposed to the virus.  

Although social distancing, which includes staying 6 feet or more away from others, is necessary for our health right now, it has also led to many people feeling sad, isolated, lonely and depressed due to touch deprivation, especially for people who live alone (see my article: Coping With Loneliness and Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Crisis)

What makes matters even worse is that the necessity of social distancing has gone on for months, and we don't know how much longer it will be before we can safely give hugs and touch again.

Before I discuss how to cope with touch deprivation, let's take a look at why touch is so important and essential to our sense of well-being.  

Coping with Touch Deprivation

Touching in all its varieties, including hugs, handshakes, a pat on the arm or back, a kiss, a sensual touch, can:
  • Calm your nervous system
  • Boost your immune system
  • Reduce cortisol, which is a stress hormone
  • Reduce physical pain
  • Activate oxytocin, which is often called the "cuddle hormone." It's essential for mother-child bonding, intimate relationships and to increase your sense of well-being and calm
  • Improve your mood 
  • Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
  • Improve your sleep 
  • Reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation
Given the power of touch and that it's essential to our well-being, is it any wonder that so many people are feeling sad and depressed because they're touch deprived?

Coping With Touch Deprivation
Following CDC guidelines about social distancing is crucial during this global pandemic.  

At the same time, while it's normal to struggle with the loss of touch, you can find other ways to build connection and reduce social isolation (see my article: Undoing Feelings of Aloneness During the COVID-19 Pandemic).
  • Video Chats: If you're isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, one way to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation is to reach out to loved ones through online video chats.  Mirror neurons, which are neurons in the brain that are activated to create an empathic response when we look at others, helps us to feel socially connected. So, being able to connect through video chat can help to mitigate feelings of sadness and loneliness.  
  • Phone Calls and Looking at Photos of Loved Ones: Even if you can't connect via video chat, you can also experience the same empathic response if you look at a loved one's picture while talking to him or her on the phone.  
  • Imagination: If neither video chats or phone calls are possible, using your imagination to envision yourself hugging or being hugged by a loved one can also be comforting.
Getting Help in Therapy
Many people have been reaching out for help during this stressful time.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, know that you're not alone.  

A licensed psychotherapist can help you to navigate through this difficult time. So rather than struggling on your own, reach out for help and emotional support.  

Getting emotional support in therapy can make all the difference in helping you to improve your mood and general sense of well-being.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.