The fact that humans are social beings is not unbeknownst to most. According to experts, relationships and social connections influence our long-term health just as much as habits like not smoking cigarettes, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. That’s right — cuddling with your boo or having a Facetime date with your bestie can powerfully impact your health as much as putting down the JUUL. While scientists say that there are various types of love aside from romantic love, recently, our brains evolved to crave and need romantic love. After all, the oldest parts of our brains are involved in attachment, in bonding. It makes sense that our evolution took us past the sole need to reproduce.
But COVID-19 planted a barricade between biological processes for those who were not already engaged in some sort of romance. While not overlooking the fact that millions of people have abstained from romance in the last nine months, an entirely new arc of this pandemic’s wave has started to crash down. States across the country are implementing new stay-at-home orders that pose different challenges than their predecessors. Colder temperatures, less daylight, and increasing death rates and hospitalizations are keeping folks in their homes with slim opportunities to meet new people. Traveling is a bleak option for many as more holidays approach. Aside from change, more isolation is something that people have come to be familiar with.
Figuring out how to navigate the absence of romance in the midst of the pandemic and holidays — two paradoxes that are tightly intertwined — is beyond rough. Below are a few ideas, and each of these ideas is rooted in self-love. In other words, each guides you towards a path that ultimately brings you back to your well-being, and how well you treat yourself is the root of your external relationships.
Knowing how to be alone is a necessary skill — take advantage of it.
People don’t just talk about how your first relationship is with yourself for no reason! Being alone doesn’t have to be dreadful (remember there’s a difference between loneliness and being alone) — it’s actually one of the best ways to develop who you are. Though we are social creatures, we still need time to be with the only person we entered this world with. Through being alone, we go through processes like decompression, re-evaluating facets of our lives, and learning what we really enjoy doing in our spare time. When you think about it, spending time alone can be a detoxifying and liberating experience; aside from the added benefits, it’s simply necessary. Surprisingly, many adults struggle with being alone and/or struggle to engage in healthy behaviors and habits when alone. Research tells us that many people feel uncomfortable by the lack of stimuli when alone, feel inhibited from enjoying activities alone, and just feel intimidated by all of their thoughts. Once you come to understand that spending time alone is a win and not a loss, as well as understand how to become more mindful of your thoughts, you may be more inclined to let go and reap all that your solitude has to offer.
Self-love = self-pleasure.
Let’s get straight to it: sex is a huge part (no pun intended) on what’s keeping people sane right now. Let’s also be clear: sex has always been a huge part of what keeps people sane, but now more than ever for obvious reasons. As many of you have figured out some time in your teens or adult years, sex doesn’t only take two. It can be argued that a form of self-love is self pleasure, and if you know what you like then you’re set for life girl. Some studies show that when a woman is close to orgasm, the amygdala — the part of the brain involved in fear and anxiety — significantly deactivates. This means that to orgasm, a woman has to relax and truly let go of fear and anxiety. And don’t you deserve that as you keep on keepin’ on in this hell called 2020? Not to mention that orgasming has irreplaceable health benefits like increased collagen production for that glow we all love and restful sleep.
Nurture existing relationships.
If you’re single and looking for a romantic relationship, sometimes it can be difficult to practice gratitude towards existing relationships. In the field of social work, we are trained to think about people as more than just who they are in front of us, but who they are in relation to their entire environment. As with all lenses and theories, this can be interpreted from a subjective lens. From my subjective lens, who people are and how they view themselves can be reflected in the people they spend most of their time with. If this time alone is to become an improved version of yourself, who you surround yourself with is some of that basic groundwork. Working towards personal goals with friends, watching interesting documentaries or films together, listening to new music, or confiding in friends are just a few ways to nurture your relationships that already exist. After all, you’ll need friends around if/when you start dating again.
Thank u, next.
Whether your last relationship ended mutually or not, there is usually a lesson to be learned when one door closes. Have you come to understand that lesson yet? If so, Ariana Grande would be proud. And if you haven’t, she may not be. After every experience or encounter in life, we have the choice to either learn a lesson or let those pieces of ourselves fall in vain. How incredible would it be if you can move into your next romance armed with empathy, healthy boundaries, strong communication skills, and a heart full of self-love and love for others? This is not unattainable. Though specific people do not define our personhood, they can bring out parts of ourselves that we didn’t know existed. People enter our lives and push us in certain ways, causing certain pain or certain comfort. Those experiences have made you into who you are, and don’t you know that there’s only one of you on this earth?
Make space for safety and creativity this holiday season.
Like everything else this year, the holidays will probably feel a little bit funky. Maybe you can’t stick with your normal tradition because it isn’t safe, maybe certain loved ones didn’t survive to see this holiday season, or maybe you simply don’t feel holly jolly with a new crisis emerging every day. Whatever “it” is, feeling melancholy about the holidays is real and valid. Thankfully, the pandemic has a way of yanking the creativity so far out of people they can’t believe it was there to begin with. The holidays approaching can be a great way to explore your own creativity, whether it’s taking a crack at a family recipe or making your annual dinner a virtual one. According to the CDC, winter holiday travel should be absolutely minimal, but it can be done safely. This link will give you a guide on winter holiday travel this year, as well as the CDC’s own creative ideas on how you can keep up the festivities from home.
So yes, we humans are social beings and need connections to truly live (not just to survive). And just as we have evolved to romantically love, we have evolved to create those connections in other fantastic ways. And if that isn’t self-love, then I don’t know what is.