For over a year now, we have been deprived of a pleasure that goes to the heart of being human – touching and being physically close with others.

Now that we’re allowed to hug and sit close together, many are struggling to readjust. Given that humans are social animals, why are the changes causing anxiety for many?

For a start, most of us are firmly in the habit of keeping our distance. This habit, born of fear, has become our first reaction when we see someone coming.

Another reason for anxiety is continuing uncertainty. Here’s how to make it easier to enjoy closeness again.

Get to know your optimum interpersonal distance (IPD). We’re all different when it comes to comfort and personal space, and before the pandemic most of us knew what that was intuitively. Yet things may have changed for you. Observe how close a person needs to be before your anxiety shoots up. This will help you understand your feelings during social encounters. If it would help, start slightly outside your optimal IPD and decrease the distance gradually between you and others.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t push yourself to get closer than feels right. Start small, perhaps having encounters with one or two others and at a distance that feels right and safe. Never mind whether you actually touch or hug. You’re there together – that’s what counts.

Learn to manage anxiety. Try mindfulness exercises to avoid creating "what if" scenarios.

The Daily Telegraph

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