Professional hugs provide VIRTUAL services during the pandemic

Many people crave a little more human contact these days, singles and those who live far from their families in particular experience prolonged periods of no physical closeness to others.

In the past, these people may have turned to professional hugging services for a dose of physical affection, frequenting businesses like the Cuddle Sanctuary in Los Angeles or Cuddle Up To Me in Portland for platonic touches and the well-being of oxytocin. he can provide.

But with social distancing keeping people at arm’s length – or, more literally, six feet long – The Guardian reports that professional hugs had to get creative to help clients during the pandemic.

Snuggle up! Trained hugs offer fully clothed, non-sexual physical contact, including hugs and petting – but sessions have been canceled during the pandemic (stock image)

Professional hugs became popular in the early 2000s for people looking for the comfort that non-sexual physical touch can offer.

Cuddling releases the hormone oxytocin, called the “cuddle chemical,” and can relieve stress and anxiety, promote calm and psychological stability, and even reduce cravings.

It has also been shown to ward off feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety disorders. It can be particularly useful for people with PTSD or adults with autism

Pretend: Jean Franzblau, the founder of LA hug sanctuary, is one of many professional hugs to offer virtual sessions

Pretend: Jean Franzblau, the founder of LA hug sanctuary, is one of many professional hugs to offer virtual sessions

Unfortunately, at a time when more and more people are depriving themselves of these benefits due to the pandemic, it has become impossible for professional hugs to function as they once did.

Jean Franzblau, the founder of LA’s Cuddle Sanctuary, told the Guardian she tried to stay open for business almost as usual as the pandemic began to spread rapidly in the United States in March.

Initially, she implemented new rules, such as asking customers to wash their hands and stay home if they were sick. But almost immediately it became clear that these measures were not enough.

“We implemented this for two events, a Wednesday and a Saturday. And then we were closed, ”said Franzblau. “It was so quick: here is our new protocol and then our protocol is that we are closed. It was very intense and very dramatic.

It took him a while to figure out the idea of ​​“virtual hugs”. At first, she didn’t want to bother, convinced that the sessions would be pointless without the all-important element of skin-to-skin contact.

“I was very reluctant to offer something that I thought was worthless or looked like snake oil,” she said.

But with the pandemic likely to spread for a long time, she has found a way to make it work.

It’s definitely different from a traditional private cuddle session, which costs $ 80 to $ 100 an hour. During these, a hug and a client will meet in a private room and discuss stressors and needs before the hugs begin.

This hug – which is non-sexual and fully clothed – can include hugs, hugs, and hugs.

In a virtual session, the hug and the client are both at home, connected by video chat from their home. They will still discuss stressors and needs, but then clients will learn how to cuddle effectively.

A client can be told to remember a time when they were cuddled and then position themselves in a way that stimulates the same feelings while visualizing that the touch belongs to someone else.

A client who participated in a virtual hugging session, Randy Wade Kelley, 37, of New York City, said the experience had paid off.

He described the feeling after the fact as if he had mediated for a week, and he said he continued to return to the soothing hugging position he tried in the session every time he felt lonely. I am alone

“There is no substitute for human touch, but it certainly helps bridge the gap. I’m so grateful that I can hug myself, ”he said.

Madelon Guinazzo, who co-founded the Cuddlist hug network, also admitted that it’s not really the same as getting the real deal – but it will be fine in a pinch.

“It’s like when you used to eat your favorite food, let’s say lasagna, and then someone says here is a substitute for lasagna. It’s good as long as you expect it doesn’t taste like lasagna, ”he said.

Perry A. Thomasson