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Ways to Show Affection During the Pandemic

The holidays are fast approaching, but how can you feel comfort and joy during a pandemic?

Health officials warn that any in-person gathering is risky, as coronavirus cases surge throughout Washington state. Yet, going without hugs or face-to-face contact can hurt our mental health, says Ann Padilla, board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner with Overlake's Outpatient Psychiatry clinic.

“We’re very touched deprived right now,” Padilla explains. “People have to think outside the box in order to comfort their hearts.”

It helps to connect with others if you can express yourself, which is harder when half your face is covered with a mask. Nodding or raising your eyebrows so you can convey a greeting, or bowing and putting your hands together in a “Namaste” salutation, can help, Padilla says.

“There are different ways to show affection,” she explains. “You can wave or say ‘I love you’ in sign language to get your message across.”

Pampering yourself with good food and small doses of luxury are other keys to surviving the season, Padilla adds.

Partner Up

In most cases, it is safe to be close to the people in your household as long as everyone is following masking and social-distancing guidelines (at least 6-feet apart) while away from home. If that person is a close loved one, you can amp up the displays of affection this time of year.

“Offer foot rubs or back rubs, sit close together while watching TV, or hold hands,” offers Padilla.

Cuddle Up

Don’t have a partner? A furry or feathered friend can also boost your mood, Padilla says. You can also opt to squeeze a giant stuffed animal, or invest in a heated plush pet, which is microwavable. The warm stuffed animals can help soothe tension.

Wrap Up

Envelope yourself in a warm, cozy throw, or consider a weighted blanket; the safe weight range is 8–15 pounds, depending on a person’s weight, with the recommended amount about 10% of a person’s body weight. They are not to be used by children or pets. Weighted blankets are known to relieve stress and calm anxieties in some people.

Link Up

Since gathering face-to-face is risky, Padilla suggests connecting with others the old-fashioned way—with notes, letters or small gifts. “Here at the office, we are giving each other short notes or little bookmarks,” she explains. Padilla and her grandchildren have also started mailing each other letters and drawings.

Sync Up

You can take Zoom or other online meeting apps to another level and virtually share a meal, play a game or read together. “Some people are making the same meals and then saying, ‘pass the potatoes’ during their Zoom session,” Padilla laughs. “They are getting very creative!”