How well are your psychological hungers presently being met?
We are currently in unprecedented times where the landscape of what our ‘normal’ looks like has changed overnight. Understandably we are feeling unsettled given the extent of uncertainty in so many layers of our lives. For some of us, our survival instincts have manifested as panic-buying food to ensure we do not go hungry. Equally, consideration of our psychological hungers and how we can meet these will serve us well.
Psychological hungers include the need for sensory stimulation; to be given recognition or praise; to have contact with others; to have structure, and to feel excitement. We all have a slightly different appetite for each of these hungers, but adequate satisfaction of our psychological hungers is as important as meeting our physical hunger through adequate dehydration and food intake. If our psychological hungers are adequately met, we feel grounded and able to self-soothe.
Undoubtedly, the current restrictions have caused some extent of disruption in the ways we usually satisfy our psychological hungers. Being unable to physically meet with family and friends or being furloughed in particular are added hurdles here, for example where we may have mainly got feedback or praise from our work. This makes this a time, more than ever, that we need to take control in getting the psychological nourishment we need – which requires creativity and not necessarily any financial cost.
Resourcing your sensory stimulation could include listening to your favourite playlist or looking through your much-loved vacation photographs allowing yourself to get immersed in the lyrics or scene for a few moments. Further ideas could include cooking your favourite meal or daring to try a new dish, using your favourite scented shower or bath products, putting together a vase of fresh flowers, or making a walk you take ‘mindful’ by absorbing all the different things you are stimulated by. You could even physically create a self-care basket or box which contains things you find personally meaningful or soothing, such as scented oils, hot chocolate with marshmallows, reminder cards, or a poem you find inspirational. An added bonus is that this is a great idea to use with children, where they can be encouraged to decorate their individual box.
We can get recognition for existing and being who we are, and for what we do. The former could range from simply exchanging a head-nod with others you pass whilst taking your daily exercise, to discussing and maybe modelling to members of your network the positives of what you give one another. For example, instead of thanking your partner for cooking, try sharing how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness. We can also give ourselves recognition. For example, recognising that you have been kind or generous if you offered someone support that day. The latter may initially be uncomfortable as it challenges ideas some of us may hold about ‘getting too big for our boots’ - my advice, however, is to experiment!
Satisfying our contact hunger is where the practice of gratitude is key, including gratitude for the technology we have available to us that enables us to talk and visually connect with members of our networks. Where possible, video-call others, including to do things together you would have done pre-lockdown such as eating, watching a movie, doing your nails, etc. Conversely we might take some lessons from previous generations and also write cards and letters to those we are unable to see. Remember we are presently having to physically distance, this does not equate to social distancing; this is a time more than ever that we need to stay socially connected.
Having structure is a key way we fill our time, giving us a sense of purpose. To-do lists and weekly planners could be helpful on the proviso that we do not get rigid, remembering that our productivity varied from day to day pre-COVID-19. It is helpful to start with simple things like making sure you change out of your nightwear every day. Do this, irrespective of whether you need to go out that day as a means of symbolising you are ‘ready’ for the day. Another idea could be scheduling when you will engage in work if this is relevant to you, and securing plans of when you will connect with friends and family. It is also important to maintain any pre-lockdown rituals that we are able to, such as a ‘take-away’ night or having a lie-in on the weekend only.
Belgium psychotherapist Esther Perel aptly reminded us a few weeks ago that our physical space is currently limited but our imaginative capacities are infinite. This invites us to create excitement for ourselves during these difficult times. This could be through play such as using board or online games, to dressing up and ‘going out’ with friends or your partner. Stretch yourself here – and try to get into the “role” by creating a “menu”, making toasts and of course, flirting!
The aim is for us to maintain our physical and psychological health during this time, by doing what we can with what we have. Let’s regularly practice tuning into how nourished we feel in given moments, including by asking ourselves ‘how am I doing right now, and what am I most hungry for?’. Don’t forget to open up this dialogue with those around you too, and then take action to feed your (and where possible, others) holistic hungers.