FPN eTip February 2021: Hugs in the Time of COVID-19

 
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February is the month of love and romance, and hugging is a great way to express your feelings to your loved ones.

 

Unfortunately, during a once-in-a-century pandemic, the act of hugging is not so simple, and the lack of human touch over the past year may have adversely impacted the mental health of you and your loved ones. According to The Guardian, “Lots of studies support the theory that touch gives the brain a signal that it can delegate its resources for coping because someone else is there to bear the brunt. This relaxes the body.” Additionally, Brain & Life notes that human touch can “increase mood-lifting brain chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin—the bonding hormone.”

 

Steps to Hug Safely During the Pandemic

  1. Form a social bubble. Your social bubble should be comprised with a few loved ones or close friends who are following the pandemic behavioral restrictions. (Note: People in your “bubble” should not be working with the public on a daily basis.)1
  2. Wear masks. Make sure you and anyone you hug within your social bubble are wearing masks and have been washing hands and following other health guidelines.1 
  3. Keep it short. A hug should last no more than 10 seconds.1
  4. Turn away. Point your faces in opposite directions to avoid breathing on each other. If you hug children, have them hug you around the waist, with their head turned away. You can even try hugging someone from behind.1
  5. Stay outside. Try to hug outdoors rather than indoors and only with people in your bubble.1
  6. Watch for symptoms. Don’t touch or hug anyone with cold- or flu-like symptoms.1
  7. Stay dry-eyed. Masks work only when they are dry. If you’re tearful, it’s better to save the hug for another time.1

If you are disinclined to hug during this time, here are some other coping tips:

  • Weighted blankets. They can simulate the sensations of others’ touch.2
  • Play with pets.2
  • Take time to Zoom. Do Zoom calls with your friends and loved ones.1
  • Social distance. Engage in masked, short, socially-distanced in-person get-togethers (preferably outdoors).1
  • Get creative. Finally, you may consider building a “hugging wall.” 3

Of course, if you are not comfortable hugging at this time, please refrain from doing so, especially if you are vulnerable. If you need to hug, then please follow the tips above to demonstrate your love this Valentine’s Day.

 

1 Brain&Life. How to Hug Safely in a Pandemic. August/September 2020.

2 The Guardian. Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health. January, 24, 2021.

3 AARP. Retirement Community’s ‘Hugging Wall’ Allows for Touch During Pandemic. November 30, 2020.

 

To learn more about healthy living with peripheral neuropathy, please click here.

 

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