Judson Haims: Hugs and socializing remain on hold, and we need to be diligent this winter
Special to The Aspen Times
Last week, a strange thing happened. It was kind of instinctual. It happened so fast. While standing outside of a local coffee shop, I realized that the person standing a few feet in front of me, clad behind a mask, was an old friend I had not seen in a while. After a few minutes of catching up, she told me she just got word that her son got accepted and received financial aid to an Ivy League school.
Before each of us realized it, we had given each other a congratulatory hug. And there it was: standing in line with many other people socially distancing and donning masks, we participated in a taboo — we hugged. I say this without exaggeration, we both hung our heads and looked at each other — shamed.
Since the COVID pandemic began, personal touch and hugs have been absent within society. Sharing joyful and sorrowful moments have forced us all to lose connection with each other. Being deprived of touch and affection is definitely causing social, emotional and mental health concerns.
I’m a touchy person. I’m that guy who gives friends, acquaintances and the occasional employee and business contacts a hug. I get excited when I see people I care about. I’m a “bear” hugger — strong, with emotion and conviction. For me, a good hug not only communicates an uplifting greeting, but also conveys a deep support — the kind support that lets people know “I’m here for you.”
COVID has created an emotional void. The energy and physical connection to those we care about isn’t being conveyed too much now-a-days. Elbow bumps, clasped-palms and foot shakes … suck.
I manage though. I have my wife, children and friends: all of whom are welcoming to receiving and giving hugs. However, after many months of people being rightfully conscientious of the potential exposure to COVID that can come from a hug, I’m seeing family, friends and community members moving about their days a little differently. There’s a little less bounce in their step and, with a mask on, the lack of a friendly and reassuring smile is missing.
These past many months have been challenging in many respects. A silent acquiescence has taken over and is giving way to an unashamed heedlessness. We must not give in. We must not let our fatigue and growing impatience give way to carelessness. Winter is coming and with each passing day, we must prepare, be disciplined and remind ourselves this too shall pass.
Remaining vigilant in protecting ourselves and others around us by cleaning our hands often, avoiding touching our eyes, nose and mouth, in addition to limiting social gatherings and close contact with others, has by far proven to be the most successful means for mitigating the spread of COVID. Yes, this may be vexing, but it works.
Second to this, we must find ways to keep ourselves sane. Perhaps the No. 1 thing we can do here is to reduce stress. Here are some suggestions to do this:
• Limit your time watching the boob-tube
• Cut back or avoid social media
• Read a book(s)
• Try mindfulness or any type of meditation. (This is not too “kumbaya” for you!)
• Exercise and stay healthy
Throughout the county, COVID cases are on the rise. Data from Johns Hopkins shows there were more than 48,000 new cases of COVID reported Sunday in the country (and 388 deaths). Much of the surge is coming from country’s interior, especially in the Midwest, the Great Plains and the West.
Want some real and truthful perspective on how dire our situation is here in Colorado? On April 30, Colorado has a bit more than 500 new confirmed cases that day. On July 28, we had almost 700 in one day. Last Friday, Colorado surpassed 1,000 new confirmed case. With the holiday season upon us, do you want to willfully contribute to the upsurge?
We all must dig deep and tap into our emotional fortitude. This winter is going to test every one of us in ways our society has never encountered. Our obstinance could create a “perfect storm” and have extraordinary costs. As you consider attending holiday events with people outside of your immediate family, ask yourself if it’s really worth putting you and your loved ones at risk of being on a ventilator, or worse.
Be as healthy (physically and emotionally) as you can this winter. It may be your best chance of salvation. Keep your eye on the target: friendly hugs and social gatherings will return.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for our elderly and is available to answer questions. His contact information is visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.