HEALTH FIRST: COVID-19 Has Changed Everything We Know, Including Human Interaction
By Health First // August 23, 2020
social distancing is a must-do to protect ourselves and others
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Human interaction has taken a major hit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since social distancing arrived as a must-do to protect ourselves and others, how we interact with others has shifted significantly.
We stay six feet or more away, whether we’re at the grocery store or the gym. Handshakes, high-fives and hugs are on indefinite hold. And because of this, many of us are feeling deprived.
The human touch is affirming and something we’re all used to.
As babies, we learned that these interactions and gestures of affection feel good, so we crave them. Engaging in the human touch can have an impact on our overall mental health – as can its absence.
“Growing up, we would hear ‘a kiss will make it feel better,’ or we were comforted being embraced by a warm, welcoming hug,” said De Ann Collins, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Manager at Health First’s Senior Behavioral Wellness Intensive Outpatient program.
“But these are just some elements of touch that aren’t happening right now during the public health crisis.”
A lack of some human interaction may help safeguard us against COVID-19, but it has a downside, too. Touch deprivation can impact our feel-good hormones.
Without them, our bodies can’t release oxytocin and endorphins, which play a role in social bonding and have a calming effect on the nervous system.
And we all know that when it comes to stress, we don’t need anymore. However, the lack of human interaction like this is known to increase feelings of stress, which can contribute to sentiments of isolation, depression and anxiety.
But don’t fret – all hope isn’t lost. There are ways to realize these basic human needs with some low-risk human interactions.
Keep in mind the length of time you take part in them, which can play a key role in helping everyone to stay safe and healthy.
“Some strategies include making it a point to hug those who you live with more, short hugs outside while both individuals are wearing a face mask, self-hugs, self-massage, practicing mindfulness when taking a hot shower, exercising and engaging in activities that create a physical sensation,” De Ann said.
If your loved one or friend isn’t close by, don’t forget that petting your furry friends can be a mood-booster, too. In the end, how to relate to others is your choice, based on your comfort levels.
But it’s important to make sure that if the human touch helps you feel better about life, it’s something that should be a part of your overall mental health.
If you’re struggling with the emotional aspects of COVID-19, there is help. Health First offers a community hotline at 321.434.3636.
This can help get you the information you need – from general info on the pandemic, access to Health First Medical Group, our four hospitals,
Health First Health Plans and our emotional support line. Don’t forget to check out our free online resource, HF.org/staywell
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