7 Ways to Offset the Social Distance Feels
artwork by: Mabel Vicentef
Anyone else currently mourning the loss of the HUG life these days? In the West, we have become socialized to develop immunity to the collective’s needs. Wherever you turn a commercial, a media post, or an article flagrantly shouting how desirable and necessary it is to maintain your “independence” and HUSTLE to pursue your own personal or dharmic path. This is a story that was built to protect us, to protect our egos from the repercussions of selfish behavior. This is the story that “protects” us from pain, from failure, and from rejection. If we go it alone and if only we depend upon ourselves then the path must surely be cleared as we are the ones solely curating said path, right? Yet, underneath this foundation are many cracks, many questions. Where did the initial idea or inspiration for your path come from? Where did YOU come from? It came from another, and you came from another. Interdependence is unavoidable, and it is necessary. Amidst the tragedy and uncertainty of C-19, the world is now forcibly embracing adjustments we never thought we would in this lifetime. Discomfort, anxiety, loneliness, confusion, and disarray swarm the media and our mind space too. Now, we cannot hide from the darkness as it meets the light. And part of this collective journey is to face this heightened isolation and heightened awareness of what we are experiencing and feeling. Amidst the speed bumps and detours to our individual, life goals we are being nudged at to realize how deeply rooted we truly are in interdependence and interconnection. After all, we are moving through this together, whether four walls keep us separated or not. Thus, the human who rarely experiences loneliness is left to indulge this sensation without a long task list of duties, errands, or goals to meet in order to sustain distraction from our innate desire to be connected to one another, to it all. Scientifically speaking, we are wired to connect, to curate intimacy, to embrace, to co-exist, and to co-create. In the day and age we are living in, we are seeing less and less of this with social media, dating apps, and technology creating an ever-expanding barrier between us. Not to mention the aforementioned task lists, daily goals, work woes, and familial responsibilities. We are blindly losing sight of what makes us human. We are physiologically driven to pursue one another because it is actually healthy to do so with the alternative being really not-so-healthy. Hugging, cuddling, laughing, holding hands, and connecting intimately with others actually lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, and increases the release of the feel-good hormone, oxytocin. When our cortisol levels become too high, this can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, spiked anxiety, and overall fatigue mentally and physically.
So right now, if you’re feeling an increase in any of these symptoms, it’s pretty darn normal. Social distancing is not easy when it is expected of you for extended periods of time, even for the more reclusive and introverted. Plugging into social media, zoom groups, and facetime chats might even be making you feel more sad or lonely. Maybe the slowing of productivity or workload is causing some negative thought cycles to flair around your self worth. Or maybe this increase in exposure to media apps is creating a feeling of longing or causing you to compare too much. Life feels uncertain right now without explanation of what is to come next or when this will all be over, and we’re here to say that uncertainty is okay. It’s okay to feel worthy without productivity being apart of the equation. They are very separate, and should not be linked to your overall happiness and connection to self. Whatever it is we’re right here with you, and we want to give you some tips on how you can strike a connection with those oxytocin and serotonin levels to hopefully help alleviate some of the overwhelm and uncertainty.
While developing a routine might not actually help to increase one’s oxytocin levels immediately, it can help alleviate some of the uncertainty in the day which will likely lower those cortisol levels in the body. Many psychologists say that creating a routine for yourself can actually lead to better mental health. According to Mariana Plata of Psychology Today, “The reason behind this is that when we organize ourselves and know what to expect, it’s easier to actively work towards counteracting the thoughts and symptoms of any . . . mental health conditions”. Having a solid routine instills good habits and breaks bad ones.
If you’ve been laid off recently or your routine has been flipped upside down, you might want to try to create a new, sacred routine for yourself that helps you feel like you have a little more control over your day. It’s easy to feel like your passions and motivations have been stripped from you during a time like this, and being that there is really no running from our current state the best way to remedy is to find your dance with uncertainty. Motivations might look differently right now. Waking up earlier and getting out of the bed might be an accomplishment, and that’s okay.
Start by choosing a specific time you want to awaken, maybe only Monday through Friday. When you get up, have yourself a little morning ritual. Make your favorite tea or pour yourself a healthy sized glass of water. Sit on your favorite chair or spot. Take ten deep inhales in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try spending even ten minutes on yourself in the morning. It’s a great way to start your day and something very certain to look forward to. The rest of your routine is up to you, whether it be an afternoon walk, 4pm house cleaning, 6pm journal session, or specific dinner time or exercise time. Whatever it might be, write it down. Hang it on your fridge or your wall as a reminder to honor yourself and your sacred routine.
Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel right now. Try not to over analyze or hyper process yourself into forgetting to acknowledge the actual feeling itself and the experience you need to have with it in order to move through it. If you’re sad, feel sad. Say to yourself, “It’s okay for me to feel sad. Today, I am going to spend one hour and just allow myself to be sad”. If you’re happy to have a break, don’t guilt yourself over it. If you’re overwhelmed, cry over it or exercise over it. Distractions are over-rated and mental health is IN. When we acknowledge our emotions and the root of what we are feeling we can slowly begin to do the real inner work of healing trauma. Try writing about what you discover about yourself during this time in a notebook or journal as well. You might find that it helps you work through some of the harder more complex emotions you experience.
If you’re quarantining with healthy family members or a friend, roommate, or partner: hug them. If you are social distancing alone, never fear you just need to hug yourself. We are SO serious. Try it right now. Sit down on the floor to ground yourself. Sit up nice and tall to elongate the spine. Take a deep inhale in through the mouth, and as you exhale wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a big HUG. Smile when you’re doing it. Deep breathing coupled with smiling activates the release of those feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins relaxing your body and lowering your heart rate. Hugging those we care about, including hugging ourselves, releases oxytocin as well. So prepare yourself for a FEEL-GOOD frenzy in your brain, and while you’re at it why not say something kind to yourself like, “Hey, I love you. Thank you. I’m proud of you”. Take a load off. You deserve it. Seriously.
3. Silence/ Prayer/ Meditation
So while you’re at it initiating your morning routine, seated on the floor nice and tall, breathing deeply… why not stay there for a little while. Five minutes of blissful silence; just you, your heartbeat, and your breath. If you feel like praying, now is a wonderful time to pray.
If prayer isn’t your thing, meditation is always an option. Adopt a mantra. Some of our favorites are Sat Nam (meaning “ I am truth”). Inhale Sat, exhale Nam. Also, So Hum (meaning “I am") is a great option, as well as OM. You may also make up your own. Repeating a mantra helps whilst meditating because it helps you stay focused. When your mind starts to run away with thoughts, you can return to your mantra to keep you focused on your breath and staying grounded.
Silence is also an option. Sometimes waking up before everyone else in your household or simply sitting outside in silence and tuning into the birds chirping and squirrels rustling up the trees is grounding in and of itself.
Meditating for five to ten minutes a day is proven to improve your overall mental health. Intentional and focused breath patterns help to redistribute oxygen throughout the body and brain reminding it that we are in fact safe and stable and grounded. This allows for a stronger foundation of wellbeing and happiness.
We all know a great way to initiate the release of the feel-good hormones, orgasm. Orgasms relieve stress and help to alleviate pain with the release of oxytocin. Not to mention, they get your blood flowing. This means that more blood is flowing to your brain, which means more nutrients and more oxygen is also flowing to your brain. This means better mental health and heightened relaxation. Many studies have shown that regular orgasms help to put you to sleep as well, and a healthy sleep schedule is a much healthier mind. We understand that reaching orgasm is not accessible for all, but finding ways to pleasure yourself is, and this is just as much a viable option for releasing feel-good hormones.
5. Giving/ Accepting Compliments
When we are kind to others and others are kind in return, we release YOU KNOW- those feel-good hormones. Send out sweet compliments via text throughout the day. Have a chat with someone to remind them that you love and care for them. We’ve got free, cute, and funny postcards on our website that you can send to your friends too if you need some ideas. If you don’t have a printer, you can save the image from our Inclusive We facebook page, and text it right over. Allow yourself to accept a compliment in return. It feels good to be kind, and the world needs kindness right now. If you’d like to do more or offer a donation, we have t-shirts and stickers available under our SHOP tab. All proceeds go to the Global Giving Corona Virus Relief Fund. You can also donate directly at www.globalgiving.org.
6. Light Exercise
We all know exercise is good for us. It increases blood flow, mobility, and strength. Try going for a walk if you can, or sit on your porch and stretch. Sit in the sunshine, and soak in the rays. Stretch and breathe. Do some push-ups or crunches. It can be simple. It can be complex ; whatever your body is asking that day. It is okay if it varies. Try chair yoga. Try vinyasa yoga! There are loads of FREE Youtube videos packed with work out routines and yoga routines. You are bound to find at least one you enjoy. But most importantly, if you don’t work out or do the wildest, hardest exercise routine of your life right now, do NOT beat yourself up over it. If you need to rest, please rest.
7. Honor Yourself
If you need to take a break from screens, social media, and the news: do it. Establishing healthy boundaries for what kind of information you want to consume is adamant for your health at this time. Staying overly plugged in is unfortunately just another distraction from staying connected with ourselves and our true needs. Staying informed is also important for understanding the needs of our communities and collective, but if we are not filling our own cups right now we won’t have much left to give when the world needs it most. So we have to find the balance between staying informed and tuning out when it is time for a mental break.
The only way we will fully recover is by taking the time to understand what we genuinely need to be the healthiest, happiest versions of ourselves that we are capable of being; not the version we are told we should be by society or social media. When we realize that on a deep, introspective level, it makes evaluating our world on a collective level a lot more simple. We are in this TOGETHER.
Love to all,
Plata, Mariana. “The Power of Routines in Your Mental Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 4 Oct. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-gen-y-psy/201810/the-power-routines-in-your-mental-health.