Today I have been home for two weeks. Except for a weekly grocery run, I don’t go out. Okay, last week I went for a walk in the woods with Monique, keeping a neat 1.5 meter distance between us. And I’m feeding a friend’s cats around twice a day this week. But that’s it. I have enough social contacts with friends via Whatsapp and telephone. The virtual Friday afternoon drinks was a lot of fun. But this virtual contact doesn’t come close to the real deal. I miss being able to give and receive a nice big hug when I meet with loved ones. I’m experiencing cuddle loss…
Photo by Rianca Houthuijsen Fotografie
If this is all that I have to suffer then of course I have no right to complain. I often think of the many people in healthcare who now must work so hard – in the transport sector, food supply, cleaning services, etc. But especially the hospital staff who work so hard despite the heightened risk of catching the corona virus themselves. How scared and worried they must be: afraid to become infected with the COVID-19 virus or infect others; concerned about the flow of patients to come; wondering how many there will be and if there is enough capacity. Staying home alone is a small task in comparison, isn’t it?
Still, I think we shouldn’t underestimate the impact that the loss of physical contact has on people who are in social isolation alone. I have read that babies are delayed in growth and development if they are not touched often. Even if they are given ample food and drink, they gain less weight, for example. Touch, human physical contact, is a basic necessity of life. We seem to become calmer and more compassionate a pat or hug from someone else. And people who live alone will miss that now. What can we do about that?
Now, I have my cat Hella that I can cuddle. I don’t know if that works quite the same, but better something than nothing, right? She does not cuddle back, of course, but undergoes it with visible pleasure. And that is also nice. You can also give yourself a hug. I read about the effects of this practice in a book on self-compassion. I can heartily recommend Tara Brach’s books if you want to know more about this subject. It appears that quite a bit of research has been carried out on the practice of self-compassion, and also into the effects of touching yourself lovingly and comfortingly. It can even relieve pain!
It has a reassuring and stress-reducing function as well. That’s because a loving touch releases a substance in your body called oxytocin. That also appears to happen when you give yourself a hug. So, if you live alone and are currently feeling cuddle loss because of the social distancing measures, give yourself what you cannot get from someone else right now. Of course, you do not have to live in a Tiny House for that ;) It may take some getting used to, but no one can see you in the privacy of your home, so trying can’t hurt. Hopefully we can really embrace each other in the not too distant future! Hella and I are sending you a big warm virtual hug for now! <3