Human Touch: Combating Skin Hunger through Physical Connection
Things we used to do: Shaking hands with a new acquaintance. Holding hands on a first date. Hugging your loved ones when you visit them. These are the kinds of physical interactions we didn’t realize how much we needed until we had to stop and social distance due to COVID-19. And that lack of every day touch that we were used to and we used to take for granted, can be a big problem!
Last year, the New York Times published an illustrated op-ed (it’s good, you should check it out!) about skin hunger, which is defined as the human need for physical connection with others. Research has shown that this kind of deprivation can lead to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and stress. The immune system can also suffer, making people more likely to get sick. And when people don’t get the stimulation that comes from physical contact, they aren’t as happy or healthy, and their personal relationships aren’t as fulfilling.
That’s because the human body is literally wired for touch. Scientists have discovered a network of nerves, called C-Tactile afferents, that specifically respond to even the gentlest stroke or caress and generate a pleasure response in the brain. We’re programmed to be receptive to the touch of another. It’s not surprising, then, that research has shown we rely on touch for non-verbal communication, bonding, intimacy, and stress relief, among other functions.
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons to maintain physical connectedness, which has been a problem for a lot of people during COVID. If you’ve experienced mood changes, higher-than-usual stress, insomnia, or symptoms of depression and anxiety, you may be experiencing skin hunger, which can be to the detriment of your well-being. It’s an especially important concern for older adults or people of any age who live alone, so be sure you’re checking in extra on your single friends or your older family members. They need you more than ever right now, and you need them too!
How to Curb Skin Hunger
If you’re fortunate enough to live with other people, don’t let the opportunity for physical touch pass you by. Hug your family! Hug your roommates! Daily hugs and kisses are great, and so is simply patting someone on the back, curling up together on the couch, or rubbing each other’s feet or hands.
For anyone who isn’t getting the physical attention they need for their health and well-being, we can help! Massage therapy is a wonderful tool. We feel it’s important to offer this necessary service to our clients as a way to simply feel better. Massage has many benefits in addition to providing much-needed physical contact—it also calms the mental, emotional, and physical effects from stress, anxiety, or other conditions. Even while personal care businesses have been temporarily closed due to the pandemic, we’ve been offering therapeutic massage for anyone who needs it on the advice of their medical professional. Our therapists are highly skilled in a variety of massage styles and can customize treatment for each client’s specific needs. You don’t have to deprive yourself of touch during this time of social distancing. Contact us today so we can help you feed your skin hunger and enjoy this vital source of human connection.