By Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Speech & Language Pathologist and Touch Expert -TouchTime International

Don’t shake hands! Wash your hands like you’re a surgeon! Keep 6 feet apart! Don’t touch your face! Wear your mask! These days the only touch you probably receive is from yourself, and it may be more of a functional touch than a nurturing touch. Washing your hands and singing “Happy Birthday” for 20 seconds doesn’t necessarily “fill the bill” of a loving touch. 

From the time humans are born we need to be touched. Touch is the first sense developed in utero. Our skin is the largest organ in our body.  Being nurtured with touch is like taking your vitamins, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face and like breathing. “Touch is a necessity and not a frill,”

Here are 3 Simple Stay-at-Home Massages anyone can use during these unprecedented times so that our touch sense is not completely lost:

1. Shoulder & Back Massage: A simple shoulder rub and back massage will go a long way to reduce stress and anxiety.

Wear your face masks. Extend your arms out in front of you. while inviting your significant other and/or child to sit in front of you. You can easily avoid face to face contact this way. If you’re staying sheltered-in-home with your family who have not left the house, who continually wash their hands, with no signs of fever or cough, and who have not been exposed to anyone with Covid-19, then giving a shoulder and back massage to your loved one will be a much appreciated gift.

Follow the simple ABC’s of TouchTime® Massage and Attune with your significant other and/or child, acknowledging them by telling them how much they mean to you. Use a Belly Breath by taking a gentle and deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, filling your belly, chest and lungs up with air. Hold your breath for four seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds, breathing out through your chest, your lungs, and belly. Feel your belly filling up with air as you inhale, and feel it shrinking as you exhale. Your belly is like a balloon. Filling up with air as you inhale and deflating as you exhale. Breathe like this 2-3 times and feel youself relaxing more and more with each breath.

If you are tense you will put tension right into your loved one, and that would miss the whole point of massage. Once you feel your own sense of relaxation, Communicate with your significant other and/or child. Ask “Is it OK if I massage your shoulders and your back?” You always want to get permission before you start a massage.

When you receive a “yes” (it can be verbal or a head nod) use your intentional nurturing touch, and simultaneously place your hands on their shoulders – right hand on their right shoulder, left hand on their left shoulder. In synchrony, knead their shoulders with a firm and gentle touch like you are kneading dough, for 3-5 squeezes.

Move gently and firmly from their shoulders down their back, alternating one hand and then the next, as if you are “raking” leaves, alternating one hand and then the next. Then take your hands and place them on the center of your significant other’s back and move each hand outwards as if flattening out a blanket, three time. Start at the top of the back, then the middle of the back, and then the lower back. Then take your right hand at their waist and stroke diagonally upwards towards their left shoulder and give a little squeeze. Repeat this movement on the left side gliding upward diagonally to the right shoulder and give a little squeeze.

Repeat two times on each side. 

End the back massage by stroking downwards firmly and gently down their back. Hold your hands, one hand on top of the other, on the middle of their back for a few seconds, Then with intentionality lift your hands up off their back.

Your significnt other, or chld, will feel the presence of your touch even when your hands are removed and experience the love and care that your own touch signature can bring.

We are nurtured by feeling contact from another person, especially a person we love. (Fogel Schneider, 2006)

2. Pet Massage: For singles who don’t have any significant other to massage, (or for anyone who is a pet owner), massaging your pet will give you the same “feel good” experience as massaging a human.  

The skin to skin contact will benefit both you and your pet. Your “feel good” hormones and your pet’s “feel good” hormones are released. Your cortisol or “stress” hormones are reduced in both you and your pet. Massage can calm both you and your pet and reduce anxiety which many of us have during this international pandemic.

Follow the simple ABC’s of TouchTime Pet Massage, Attune with your pet, making contact, calling your pet’s name. Take Belly Breaths to relax (see head and shoulder massage), and as you watch your pet’s willingness for a massage, you can Communicate and say, “Are you ready for your massage?” Linger with your pet with the “feel good” strokes. Come to closure after you have massaged his scalp and his belly, by placing your hands gently and firmly on the top of your pet’s head or on his belly. Slowly and intentionally. Then lift your hand(s)off from his skin. Feel the connection. Your pet will thank you with bright eyes or a wagging tail, or a little yelp or purr. I’m sure you’ll feel good too, releasing the serotonin and oxytocin “feel good” hormones and reducing the cortisol (stree hormones.).

3. Self-Massage: A self-massage can do wonders to reduce tension in your own body. If you plan to massage your own skin make sure you place some natural oil or cream on your palms and rub gently into your hands. If your hands are like mine right now, they are probably dry from all of the washing you’ve been doing and the amount of hand sanitizer you’ve been using each day. Gently rub in the oil or cream into your shoulders, neck, arms, hands, legs, or feet. With every nurturing stroke, “feel good” hormones are released and the cortisol (stress hormones) are reduced.

During this international health crisis, It is important to stay safe. It is also important to find ways to stay healthy, connect with our family members, our pets, and ourselves to reduce anxiety and tension during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Touch is a necessity for our health and well-being. A nurturing touch can bring a sense of calm., help structure a developing brain, bring partners together in their ability to solve problems. Our touch sense feeds our hearts, our minds and our souls. Let’s use these precious moments to nurture ourselves and the ones we love.