Post 3 Navigating Safely Through COVID-19
First Contact -
Most of us have never experienced this level of isolation before. It’s our instinct to be around people and to have good physical contact. To be human is to have desire, want and need. It’s normal, we need it and we all understand it.
The pain of not being able to hug, place a hand gently into that of another, or nudge is profound. It reaches inside to a level that is hard to put words onto. When we hug, we don’t need words, we communicate on a level that is before and beyond words. A handshake tells us so much about the other person - we all know what we understand about how someone responds to us. We trust these communications more than words.
Our first contact with the world comes from being physically held: our engagement with the people who raise us begins with physical holding and touch. We need it to survive.
The Painful Response
It’s generally understood that the worst option for a child to survive is the lack of touch or engagement. Children will seek physical contact, a hug perhaps, where this is dismissed or not available the child may act out their frustration, hurt or disappointment in a way that may evoke harsh words or a negative physical response.
When the child is experiencing dire circumstances, the painful response is chosen over no response. It’s at these times that we need to check ourselves and in the moment question “do I need to act now?”. We also need to be aware of the impulse in us as adults to be angry and become aggressive without being stirred or triggered by others.
During these times of distress these memories are getting activated in us, and it’s very difficult to know what to do when we have no words or familiar ways to comfort.
It is from this deep inner private place that we need to find other ways to soothe. We need to find our own words and we need to find the courage and place to share them with others. The increasing use of online face time apps has been a significant way to facilitate this. We are adapting so well and we need to find ways to bring everyone along who can’t. Some people are ahead of the curve on this and others are just at the beginning.
As senses become unavailable to us, others will compensate; hearing, seeing, speaking, tone of voice, body language amongst others will help us attune to feelings in new ways. As we are fluctuating from feeling overwhelmed, panicked, powerless, calm (maybe for a second or two!), and then back again, using our words will not always be considered or thoughtful. We will make a lot of mistakes ….
The Best Helping Strategies
Here are some ideas and strategies I have found worked well in my work and life experience:
- Deep breathing- we forget to breathe when experiencing trauma, check this often. Hold your belly with the flat of your hand when doing the exercise.
- Help others- acts of kindness express love in a way that we don’t have to put words onto.
- Open windows and doors talk to neighbours. Sing if you can-, Play music if you can!
- Body brush- this is a really good technique for getting back into the body, it triggers the sense of a hug. To Body brush-when in the shower you take a facecloth or soft washing brush and gently brush the body starting from feet up.
- We are all using hand cream from the extra handwashing, as you do this extend the movement along your forearm and be mindful of how you feel in the moment. Don’t worry if the feeling is sadness, this is an appropriate feeling now.
- Use your words - tell loved ones how you feel, say the words I love you and I wish I could hug you. Give yourself a hug when greeting and saying goodbye on a video or telephone call. It works!