Lack of Physical Contact: COVID and Recovery

Mar 28, 2022

The COVID pandemic hit slowly and then suddenly. As the pandemic grew in seriousness, lockdowns and social distancing grew as well. There was a significant decline in human contact, except through phones and the internet. Meetings and dates were held via online conferencing. 

Even as the lockdowns became more relaxed, maintaining distance and avoiding large gatherings is still prevalent. This greatly impacted the mental health of persons all around the world. While social distancing was enforced to slow the spread of disease, the mental health of many was affected.

Touch Deprivation

According to an article provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

“Social touch has positive effects on social affiliation and stress alleviation.”

The study found that human touch was craved during this stressful world event and the lack of physical contact greatly contributed to deteriorating mental health. Touch alleviates stress and promotes social inclusion. As the pandemic continues, you may find that a lack of human physical contact can impede recovery from substance use disorder.


In recovery, you may already feel alone as you pursue healing. Already, you may feel shame and frustration about the recovery process. The importance of human contact cannot be overstated. 12-Step meetings and treatment build relationships of accountability and friendship. Human touch deprivation and social distancing at these gatherings may impede the feelings of community. 

Loneliness has increased significantly throughout the pandemic, which can make recovery difficult as you crave comfort. Human contact, even as small as a pat on the back or shaking hands, can decrease loneliness and increase the probability of success in recovery. Abstinence is not the only aspect of recovery; building community is an essential part of the recovery process, as well. 

Four Ways of Improving Mental Health During This Pandemic

There are several ways you can help manage your mental health and recovery during this pandemic. Remember, your mental health is critical to your recovery. Your daily life was disrupted but it is returning to normal. As you await the official return to “normal,” there are some things you can do to help yourself cope and improve your mental health.

#1. Take Breaks

According to an article by the National Institute of Mental Health, you may need to take breaks from caring for others. You may be caring for others, either the elderly or other family members. As you take care of others, sometimes you may forget about your own healthcare needs. Managing the health and well-being of others can be trying and tiring. Due to the stress of caring for others, you must take a break to take care of yourself. 

While asking for help at this time may prove difficult, your health and recovery are important to ensure you can continue to care for others. Your recovery is important and sometimes you need to put yourself first if you expect to help others maintain their well-being. You cannot help others if you are not well yourself. You never put an oxygen mask on another in an airplane until you have first put on yours. 

#2. Practice Gratitude

An article entitled, The Impact of Writing About Gratitude on the Intention to Engage in Prosocial Behaviors During the COVID-19 Outbreak explains how gratitude increased your willingness to interact with others during the pandemic, especially increasing empathy and mood improvement. During this pandemic, tempers have been short, and interaction with others has been limited. This study has shown how writing about gratitude, especially for your friends and family, has improved the well-being of many people.

#3. Exercise 

Many gyms have been closed, but you can always exercise at home or go for a walk while still maintaining distance from others. The previous article explained how levels of anxiety and depression “grew nearly two to three times higher among the general population after the COVID-19 outbreak.” Considering the increased rate of anxiety and depression, exercising is an excellent way to improve mental well-being. Exercise promotes the production of endorphins, which improve mood and decrease anxiety. This is an easy way to promote feelings of well-being.

#4. Keep Contact With Family and Friends

Finally, maintain contact with family, friends, your treatment providers, and your sponsor. Try to attend local meetings, or if they are online, try to register to hold yourself accountable and maintain your recovery if you are following the 12-Steps. 

As life is returning to normal, attempt to reach out and spend time with others. You will find the simple act of conversation and seeing others, whether it be online or in-person while social distancing, can help improve your well-being.

Improving your well-being during this pandemic requires effort and a different approach to recovery. As you experience the lack of human touch and contact, you may find recovery more difficult, but recovery is not impossible. Remember to reach out and ask for help when necessary. 

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone; however, for those in recovery from the use of alcohol and/or other substances, life has proven especially difficult as you manage your mental health, accountability, and making sure you get the help you need for an effective recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to alcohol and/or other substances, you are not alone and help is available. At Renaissance Ranch, we know the struggle you have faced during this pandemic and we are still open and providing services for every step of the recovery process. We offer services and referrals for detox, in addition to residential, outpatient, and a sober living home to help you adjust to life outside of the structure of daily treatment. We also provide a supportive network for aftercare called the Band of Brothers. Contact Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898 and learn how we can help.