It’s been a while. For a lot of things.
Over the past two months, our culture has gone from doing pretty much whatever we wanted at whatever time we wanted to isolating ourselves and our families from life as it once was.
It’s been a long while since we’ve lingered at dinner with friends, enjoyed a massage, or simply hugged an aging parent and now we are starting to feel the effects.
“Pandemic Fatigue” is a current concept being coined by researchers which refers to many things that we are getting tired of. One of those elements is the lack of eye contact and physical touch which can lead to a loss of empathy during a time when it may be needed most.
Sure, online meetings and Facetime calls are wonderful, but they don’t fulfill our need for actual in-person interaction – what many of us need in order to fully flourish and continue to be compassionate and sensitive to others.
We know that eye contact and touch are required for infants to thrive in areas such as brain development, social development, proprioception, and more, and without it they can fail to achieve appropriate growth and development.
This may be the same for those who are older – from children to the elderly and everyone in between. Looking someone in the eye face to face, giving and receiving a hug, and just being in the presence of other people can help better regulate our immune and nervous system, both of which are needed during a time like this. Without it, cortisol levels can increase, leaving such things as our cognitive function and immunity suppressed.
We are facing serious isolation right now and how we engage our senses can help us move through this time in life in a more healthy and loving way.
This is why I am delighted to share:
10 Ways to Stay Sensory Connected When Isolated
1. Hug everyone in the household. A lot. Adults and kids alike can experience comfort, safety, and love with a hug. Share them often with those you live with!
2. Conduct a staring contest. Remember those from when you were a kid? Now, do it at home with your own children OR if you live alone and have a pet, have one with them! Actual face to face eye contact during this time can be critical to staying connected.
3. Go back to or create new bedtime routines. Has life gotten in the way of enjoying relaxing and therapeutic bedtime routines? Now is the perfect time to get back to them or develop a new one. Massaging your kids’ arms and legs, rubbing their ear lobes, and even scratching their backs as they calm down for the night can provide an excellent sense of touch.
4. Let them wrestle. Do you have kids who love to wrestle, yet you would prefer them not to? Now is an okay time to let them have their way…within reason, of course! Gentle wrestling is a way for them to have physical contact with someone, fulfilling that primal need of touch.
5. One word…snuggle! Whether it be with a pet, your significant other, or your kids, snuggling is one of my favorite ways to feel comforted and safe.
6. Check in throughout the day with eye contact. When we are busy on our computers or doing chores, we can go most of the day without eye contact. Make it a priority to check-in throughout the day with those in your household by asking questions or have conversation in which you look them directly in the eye and recognize them.
7. Plan private time with your partner. Whether setting up a tent in the backyard, opening up the camper, or laying a blanket on the floor in the guest bedroom, plan some time to sit side by side, have dinner by yourselves and/or just enjoy quiet conversation without interruption if you can.
8. Invite sleepovers. No, not for other kids, but for your own! Let the kids bring sleeping bags into your room every once in a while with some of their stuffed animals. Read to them and their toys before letting them spend the night with you. Being close can ease fear and help them feel safe. Breakfast in bed the next morning is always a fun way to start the day, too!
If you live alone, consider letting your pet sleep with you – although you may want to nix breakfast in bed!
9. One day a week, take time to exercise together. Maybe it’s a run with your spouse; maybe it’s a mountain bike ride with your kids; or maybe it’s a family day of kayaking. Whatever you choose, go ahead and get physical movement in while being together – you’ll love the eye contact made later when retelling these stories!
10. Be intentional about your schedule. Plan hugs when kids get up, remember to kiss your spouse before bed, make eye contact throughout all meals. Really think about how you and your family can lessen sensory deprivation during this time.
Right now, we are all forced to be together – well, those in our households, anyway. And even though we are “together” we can easily fall into unhealthy coping patterns of isolation within our home.
By making the conscious choice to come back to our relationships after time alone is crucial – don’t be islands living in the same home, and for those living by themselves, lean on your pets.
What will you do today to encourage your senses to be stimulated and engaged? Be the light and share with your family as well!