As the patterns emerge it appears that one recurring factor is how bad I feel on the first Thursday of my cycle. Thursday's are a real dichotomy. One Thursday (the Thursday on the light side) I'm full of energy, I feel good, I want to spend time with friends, I eat well, I drink a bit, I've got big plans, I see a future, however short, nothing is too much effort. It's the day of my 5 mile walk. Conversely on the other Thursday (the Thursday on the Dark Side) I wake with sore skin, I'm chronically tired, I'm miserable, even without covid I'd be such poor company I would put myself into lockdown, I want to hide away, my mouth tastes horrible, I eat any old crap just to take away the taste, I have no plans, I don't want to look at the past or the future, everything is an effort. At least knowing, and acknowledging that I have this particular rotten day gives me an opportunity to prepare. It's still unpleasant though.
"In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda
What really gets me is my sore hands. If, like me you have spent a lot of your day, your career, your life using your hands the last thing you want is to wake up with something wrong with your hands. When you wake up very aware of your hands because they feel mildly sore and weak it's a stark reminder that "Something's rotten in the State of Denmark".
I'm very conscious of my hands at different times during my chemo cycle. Periodically my hands, feet, top of head and oddly the tips of my ears become sore. I still think it's a prelude to my hair falling out!
When I work I often wear gloves but if I'm doing fine electrical work my hands can quickly become quite painful.
If I get so much satisfaction from using my hands creatively, what else do I do with my hands that has an impact on my well-being?
What got me thinking about this was the time I sat for hours with my dad. Me waiting for my first bowel surgery, he waiting for his renal failure to finally cause his demise. A frightening time for us both. The most common thing we were both found to be doing was sleeping in front of the TV generally with me resting my hand on his. One morning I found my father had fallen out of bed. I called for help and sat with him holding him for a considerable time. The last times we had any real physical contact.
Clearly our hands are important communicators. If we extend this thinking then hand on hand contact, holding hands, must be a very powerful thing. It is a powerful thing. Holding hands is an ordinary thing that we see and do every day. Yet this tiny, commonplace behaviour triggers chemical reactions in our minds that make us feel loved, happy, cared for, and respected.
During all these covid restrictions, when holding hands is one of the fundamental ways we can positively impact our lives, we find it's much more difficult to do. Even shaking hands with our friends when we meet them is not in any way replaced by bumping elbows (but at least the painful hand squeezers have had their fun curtailed).
When we hold hands, the nerves in our skin communicate with our core nervous system, producing hormones that make us feel pleasant and warm.
So here's another of Neil's top 7 hand holding benefits;
1. Holding hands relieves stress
Holding hands decreases the level of a stress hormone called cortisol. The touch of a friend or a colleague can make us feel more content, connected, or better about ourselves. When we are stressed out, a light touch on our hand can help ease the strain, both physically and mentally. Our skin also gets more sensitive when cortisol is rushing through our bloodstream, so the touch of a helping hand will have a significantly larger impact. The largest concentration of nerve endings is actually contained inside the hands and fingertips. Now, after a tough day or in particular when you're having a stressful time, it's much more difficult, because of covid, to have any contact. I'm lucky, like many people I have, my significant other, I can hold Tricia's hand when I need to and with your consent I'll hold yours as well. I feel for those who are unable to have this luxury.
2. Holding hands produces the oxytocin, which makes us feel happier and more loved
Oxytocin strengthens empathy and communication between people, which is proven to be a contributing factor for long-lasting, happy relationships. Holding hands will create a bond that will impact the quality of your relationship significantly. Is that why we're shown nurses holding hands with the seriously poorly? Is that why I needed to rest my hand on my dad's?
Couples who have happy relationships often hold hands automatically, sometimes without even noticing, because of a habit developed by their nervous systems.
3. Holding Hands reduces heart disease
Besides relieving stress, holding hands lowers your blood pressure, which is one of the major contributors to heart disease. When we’re clasping fingers, we’re not just easing stress and improving our relationships, we are providing a comfortable sensation that helps our heart.
4. Holding hands relieves pain
While enduring pain, humans have the natural reflex to tighten their muscles. The reflex to grasp our partner’s hand comes as second nature: It’s always easier to endure pain while holding hands with someone .
5. Holding hands fights fear
The human brain responds to sudden stimulation using adrenaline; this stimulation gets our blood pumping and releases high levels of cortisol throughout our body. During these moments, our natural reaction is to hold hands with someone we trust.
6. Holding hands provides a sense of security
Simple hand holding is a source of safety and comfort for young children. I remember when my mum taught you to how to cross the street or held my hand on a crowded pavement im Plymouth. Insecurity disappears when we have a hand to hold and allows us to more easily conquer obstacles. The security that parents provide their children by holding hands shapes their children’s behaviour and their way of thinking.
Additionally, the sensation of safety goes both ways; parents also feel safer when their children are within their grasp.
7. Holding hands is just plain comfortable
Everybody loves comfort. The sensation of holding hands often provides a comfy feeling while taking a walk with a loved one. Even on cold days when we may be wearing gloves, we love to hold hands. It bonds us; it provides lovely sensations and gives us quality time with people we care about.
How often do you hold hands with someone?
In these strange times of Covid it's much harder to grasp someone's hands. When I had my last surgery, Mr Widdison, my surgeon, came to tell me the result of my operation. He was hopeful that it was all gone and the further chemo wasn't needed. Alas, as it transpired, my cancer was still on the move. But at the time I just wanted to shake his hand. We did shake hands. As he left my room, after washing his hands, he told me he was heading for a Covid meeting. Shaking hands was on the agenda. Perhaps he hasn't shaken a patient's hand since. Holding hands is a pain reliever, a source of security, and a cure for stress.
When we can, once again get close, I'm going to ask you to wash your hands whilst singing happy birthday then I'm going to hold your hands before giving you a great big HUG!!!!