Dealing With Deprivation of Human Contact

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This Article is presented by: Susan Quilliam
(born 1950 in Liverpool) is a British relationship expert who specialises in love and sexuality. She works as an advice columnist, writer, broadcaster, consultant, trainer and coach.

I’ve been hearing a lot – from clients and from friends – about how the pandemic and the lockdown have been hugely stressful. And of course, they are. No question. If you are feeling anxiety, depression, panic… you are not alone. 

That’s one side of the story. But at a seminar a few weeks ago, I was fascinated to learn that this particular story has two sides. Problem is, both sides end up hurting us.

It’s not just that we are being bombarded with fear-inducing events. It’s that we are at the same time being denied the fear-reducing support that would allow us to cope. 

We, humans, are programmed to soothe ourselves in a variety of ways. Through human contact to build our energy. Through alone time to recharge our energy. Through nature. Through exercise. Through touch and physical connection. Through the mechanism of distraction so we can take a rest from worry. 

But the pandemic, a horrible crisis in itself, is also denying us many of these natural soothing mechanisms. Some of us who are in isolation are missing human contact. Some of us who are sharing space are missing alone time. Nature’s in short supply – especially in winter. Exercise too. As for touch and physical connection, social distancing has put paid to that apart from within our household – if we are part of a household. And while we may try to distract from the crisis, everywhere we turn  – in shops, on streets, via the media – we are reminded of it.

I’m not whinging. We are, many of us, alive and healthy. But I have heard from those of the generation above mine that in some ways, the unrelieved fear over the past weeks has been worse than their experiences in wartime. Because we’ve not only been through a lot…we’ve been through it deprived of many of our usual comforts. 

So let’s give ourselves credit for emotionally surviving. 

And whilst absolutely keeping ultra-safe let’s get as much soothing as we can get.  Human contact if that’s what we need. Solitude if that’s what we crave. Nature. Exercise. Touch. Distraction. 

We’ve been through a double whammy – no wonder we’re shaky. A global pandemic will do that to you.

More about the future

In every human crisis, we all need to see the light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t turn out to be a train.

So even right in the middle of the pandemic, we need to at least try to find some kind of positivity. And though it may be in short supply, we can do that – by looking at what we’ve learned over the past difficult months.

If what you’ve learned about yourself through the pandemic is that you are terminally drained by the daily demands of your life, then why not stop, at least for a while. If what you’ve learned about yourself is that you love cycling (or cooking, or painting, or watching boxsets) then even if you feel a bit guilty, why not start indulging yourselves with one of these activities. 

And then, when this is all, keep fulfilling those good intentions? It will be very easy for all of us to slip back into our old patterns. To resume our submission to the insane demands of our commitments.  To put aside the things that have given us joy over the past months. It would be so easy to forget, to override the memories. All the things that we loved during lockdown – it would be so easy to de-prioritise them again.

We don’t have to go back to the way it was before. We can say “no” to the heart-sink. We can say “yes” to the heart-lift. 

The pain of lockdown will pass… but it would be a shame if the memory of the lessons we learned during lockdown passed too.  Why not write down – now, the minute you finish reading this – three things that you want to retain even after lockdown eases. And then work out how to keep those things in your life. 

Above all, Keep Calm and Stay Kind. 

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