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Feeling Out of Touch?

To come in to, to be in contact with. To touch is to know, to exist. For so long, over so many centuries, the touch has been a constant in poetry, in prose, in feeling. John Keats, says, touch has a memory. It is true. It has soul. At the very basic, touch is ingrained in our conscience when we are born. It is so important, that it permeates into language – “I am touched by your words”, “A tactless remark”, or a “touching story.” It manifests as both need and want – the embrace of a lover, the hug from a friend, a reassuring hand on your shoulder. The power of the touch is profoundly understated. It acts as a social glue in all our interactions, strengthening bonds of trust and cooperation – our skin aches for reassurance through the means of human contact.  Being touch starved — also known as skin hunger or touch deprivation — occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things. As the period of social distancing reaches its seventh month, with all human contact coming to be based on technology, we find ourselves experiencing little to no touch from other human beings. And for a lot of us, this Touch Starvation is becoming a distressingly tangible condition. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual intimacy either – subtle, commonplace gestures like handshakes, friendly hugs or pats on the back have morphed into luxuries in the past few months. Personally, brushing past a stranger’s shoulder these days serves as a jarring reminder that I am, in fact, real. Touch Starvation? Sounds made up. Nope. Pretty real. Backed by science. Deprivation from human physical contact has been seen as a reason for loneliness, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and attachment issues. We are so used to being touched, that the very loss of it is felt even more deeply.  Especially in a culture like ours, where touch is such a taboo. Take for example French and American teens. There has been a huge difference in their aptitudes, with American skin hungry teens feeling more aggressive and angry. In India, especially, where inter sex physical contact, or even friendly PDA is so vilified, it is no surprise that we find ourselves sinking lower and lower on the happiness index. The question arises, how do we know if this is happening to us? Although symptoms tend to manifest themselves differently in people, You might be touch starved if-
  1. You feel lonely
  2. You feel achy
  3. You fidget
  4. You are irritable
  5. You feel disconnected
  6. You feel depressive symptoms
  7. You feel a lack of motivation
  8. You find yourself cuddling up to your pillow, comforter or pets
  9. You feel hopeless
  10. You have body image issues
  11. You have a fear of attachment
There is no shame in craving consensual human contact. It is understandable, and it is hugely common. It is deeply difficult to accept and conceptualise, but it is true. It exists. But what to do about it? Touch debt With the pandemic, you might’ve accumulated what scientists refer to as a touch debt. 
  • Though it may feel silly, hugging yourself can be a way to mimic touch
  • Tracing the details of a coin or similarly detailed object can help stimulate the skin
  • Investing in a weighted blanket may work for some people
  • Masturbate. Seriously.
  • Give yourself a massage using lotions or massage oils
  • Long, hot showers always help
 
  1. The Blanket Statement
Drape the long edge of a blanket over your shoulders. Gather a good handful in each hand until you feel it tightening around your shoulders, and cross your arms to pull it tighter around yourself. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and breathe.
  1. Las Vagus
The Vagus nerve is the largest in the body, touching almost every major organ. You can stimulate it by starting behind the earlobe and moving your fingers down to your collarbone. Foot massages can stimulate the nerve as well.
  1. Imagine.
Playing back vivid memories of amazing, life-affirming hugs can allow you to feel, loved and cared for by another person.
  1. Self-havening
It involves crossing your arms and rubbing your hands up and down your upper arms while saying words related to experiences you’ve had that bother you.
  1. General oxytocin inductors
Playing with an animal, busting out some sweet dance moves, observing mindfulness and several other oxytocin-inducing activities can come close to feeling like a big bear hug. These are difficult times. More and more people are seeking help for mental illness, depression, or anxiety. We have to be resilient, though. A majority of us are perhaps facing the brunt of social isolation and touch starvation for the very first time, and it definitely feels awful. But we must hang on. Just a little longer.
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