by Barb Tauferner, Parish Nurse and Director of Visitation
I don't just miss your smiles. I miss your hugs. For me, social distancing is one of the hardest parts of COVID-19. As a family member, friend, and nurse, being able to comfort others by holding their hand or sharing a hug has been an important and appreciated way to show that I care.
I know I'm not the only one who is feeling this loss.
This longing for human touch is called "skin hunger" and has an actual impact on us. Without regular human touch, like hugs, we’re likely running low on oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that’s released when people snuggle or bond, and that promotes feelings of love and well-being. No wonder I'm feeling sad! My body is having a chemical response to my sudden and continued life experience that doesn’t allow for my usual quota of hugs.
So here's the conundrum: how do we safely increase our oxytocin levels in the middle of a pandemic when hand holding and hugging isn’t an option? I recently heard an expert recommend that watching hug videos (especially of children) or hugging yourself could help. I know this isn’t the same as getting a hug from a family member or friend, but even these "out of the box" hugs can increase our oxytocin level.
What else could we do? Share virtual hugs and kisses. When you’re wearing a mask and can't share a smile, focus on using the eyes to connect. Maybe wear a funny mask or add a paper or fabric smile to the outside of your mask. I bet you’ve already come up with other safe ways to connect. Won't you join me by doing what we can to have a positive impact on oxytocin levels? The world needs our help.
September is Suicide Prevention Month
Oxytocin levels aren't the only challenge during this time of COVID-19. The reality is that during this pandemic there’s been a significant increase in the symptoms of anxiety and depression, and in suicide levels. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, contact your doctor. Or contact the following organizations for advice and resources: