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The Importance of Physical Touch & Self-Soothing

I first started the draft of this post in January 2020, when we had no idea what was about to hit us. Following my first ever thai massage, I began thinking about the role of physical touch and just how important that is in our lives. As babies, touch is one of the very first self-soothing techniques that we inherently know and crave, and this physical need stays with us in our adult lives.

Fast forward ten months and we have experienced a fundamental shift in the ways we physically interact. We have been through a time where we can't hug our friends, even if we can see them across the street.

We can't travel to see our families and hold them like we used to. We call to our neighbours over fences and through windows, but can't come within two metres to talk.

As we re-enter another lockdown and many are feeling scared and alone, this article got me thinking about ways of self-soothing in a time of physical distancing:

- Hold or massage your own hands. Many of us twist or wring our hands in anxiety as a natural self-soothing technique, but we can also hold and touch our own hands when we are not in a point of crisis. Mindfully spend time connecting and massaging your own palms, wrists and fingers. There are guided meditations online that you can use to help with this.

- Find a tactile object that brings you comfort to play, fiddle, or just be in contact with. I find myself drawn to things like smooth pebbles and sea glass, as well as the warmth a hot water bottle or hot drink.

- I've recently bought a weighted blanket which has been a game changer in feeling physically held and supported across my whole body. There is extensive research about the neurology of this, but what I know is that I personally find it immensely comforting and relaxing.

- I can't not mention Ted the dog... one of the many reasons that therapy animals are so powerful is the opportunities they offer for soothing touch and wordless connection. This can't be accessible to everyone all the time, but if animals that are happy to be touched can be part of your life, never underestimate the importance of what they can offer.

Those are my main ideas for now, but I'd love to hear any other ideas and reflections of what works well for you. Perhaps you could journal about the sense of 'touch' and how it feels soothing for you?


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