After delivering my son, I spent roughly 80% of my time holding, nursing, sleeping with, or touching him in some form or fashion. I woke up to my baby needing to nurse and spent my day nursing every two hours round the clock. Emmeric wouldn’t nap without being held, so I rested with him in the rocking chair for hours. At night, I calmed him to sleep with nursing and lying in bed curled against me.
Then when Daniel wanted to cuddle with me, I froze.
One night I distinctly remember lying in bed with Emmeric on one side of me nursing and Daniel against my back. Dobby lay in between us, his fuzzy body snuggled up against me. I felt so trapped in that moment. I wanted nothing to do with the husband, baby, and dog touching me and felt my anxiety mount the longer they rested against me.
Can you relate to that? I discovered later that feeling is called being “touched out.” Being touched out isn’t really a new phenomenon among new moms, but it’s a common problem new moms experience after delivery. Even Urban Dictionary gives a (rather crude) definition for touched out.
So what is being touched out? It happens when you’ve been in physical contact with other people (or animals) for too long. You might want space from all touch because of this. You might want to protect yourself from any other touch. Or you might feel incapable of giving any additional emotional response to your family or friends.
I know I experienced this mostly with my husband. I was touched out from being in contact with Emmeric practically 24/7, but it resulted in distance between me and Daniel. I resented his wanting to hold or hug me, and I actively struggled to escape or avoid his touch.
For Daniel, I’m sure this seemed normal. We play around with one another, and many times that includes my trying to escape him when he wants to grab me. We do normal couple teasing and playing hard to get as ways of increasing our intimacy, and prior to having Emmeric, this never bothered me.
Once I had my son and was connected to him nearly 24/7 through nursing, cuddling, calming him, swaying him, and sleeping with him, things shifted dramatically. I felt drained all the time, unable to care enough to give more of myself to anyone. To me, being touched out resulted in an apathy and inability to give anything to anyone. At one point, I realized I was going through the motions of caring for Emmeric while deep emotion simmered under the surface.
It occurred to me that I needed to find a way to manage this feeling of being touched out or else I was bound to erupt into fury on Daniel or my son at some point. To be clear, I never responded violently to the anger that grew the longer I was touched, but I grew cranky, grumpy, and snappish. So today I want to share five things you can do when you’re feeling touched out to relieve stress.
5 Things You Can Do To Relieve Stress When You’re Touched Out
Ask for some untouchable time.
As moms it can be hard to ask for what we need, but when you’re feeling touched out, it’s essential you communicate that to your loved ones! The best policy is to simply ask for some time to yourself where you don’t have to touch anyone. To take it a step further, you might ask for just “you time” where you can escape a little while from the people who are causing you to feel touched out.
The idea of untouchable time might be hard for small children to understand. I suggest designating a space that is off limits to anyone but you. You could have a chair in your bedroom, a specific room of the house, or even a time of the day when you’re left alone to just detox from the touching. But make the rules very clear. When you leave your space or when time is up, touch can resume.
Take a hot bath or shower.
Most moms know that showers are in short supply with little ones. We squeeze them into our days as we can, and sometimes that means not getting one at all. The good thing about showers is they’re normally a private event. If you take your little one into the bath or shower with you, designate one day a week where you get to shower uninterrupted for a period of time. Your spouse or someone else can watch the kids and make sure they leave the bathroom door shut.
Your husband might take some convincing on this one. Inevitably there’s going to be emergencies where you have to give assistance from the tub, but you need to prioritize this time as yours. Get your spouse on board and make sure he knows that the bathroom door stays shut for as long as you’ve designated so you can relax. Sometimes just the act of washing yourself can calm you down and remind you that your body still belongs to you.
Figure out when you’re most touched out and ask for space during that time.
Maybe you get touched out after a long night of holding a baby or cuddling against your husband. You need your mornings to be touch free so you can reenergize to face the day. Or if you’re like me, your frustration grows to a fever pitch by the end of the day and your nights need to be sacred. Take note of your time and figure out when you need space the most so that you can make that time special and off limits.
Get some sunshine.
Being in a small space all day magnifies the feeling of being touched out. We feel the walls close in on us even as the grabby hands seem to come from every direction. Try to get outside at least once a day, especially during the spring and summer months. We all know sunshine contains vitamin D, which is essential to our bodies. In studies, vitamin D helped to decrease depression and anxiety, which I believe are linked to being touched out.
Most experts recommend getting in 15-20 minutes of good exposure to sunshine daily. You can turn this into untouchable time, too. Take the kids outside and go for a walk in the park. While you walk the park paths, the kids can run around and get some energy out, and you can simply take time to feel the sunshine on your skin. It boosts moods and helps you to ground yourself, which is something we all need when we’re feeling touched out.
Find a friend who understands.
Many people don’t understand what it’s like to be touched out. Between the anxiety and rising negative emotions, it can be very hard to explain yourself to your loved ones when you get to that place. I encourage you to find someone who relates to you so that you can share when you’re touched out. This doesn’t mean that you should put down your family members for being too touchy, but it does mean you can share your experiences and get some sympathy. I spent a lot of late nights texting friends who understand being touched out, so I know this can really help.
If you don’t understand being touched out…
I know it’s hard to figure out why your wife or loved one wants some time alone. Maybe I can share a little about what being touched out was like for me so you’ll have a different perspective.
Shortly after Emmeric was born, he spent roughly 80% of his time in my arms. I nursed him around the clock, usually getting little to no sleep myself. With the combination of exhaustion and hormones running through me, I found myself feeling like my body didn’t belong to me anymore.
That truly is what it’s like to feel touched out. So many people are trying to touch you and have a piece of you that you lose that sense of bodily autonomy. I remember thinking that my body didn’t belong to me anymore and I resented those who were making claims on it. I wanted to have time for my body to be just mine for a while, but it felt impossible to find that time.
And the moments when I could take for myself? They frequently were interrupted by the dog wanting to be petted or Daniel wanting to cuddle up with me. I explained my needs and how I just wanted to be alone, but I know it probably wasn’t easy for anyone to understand.
So if you live with someone who’s telling you she’s touched out, just give her space. Make sure you let her know that you support her and her need to have some space to herself. And then just let her do what she needs to get back to herself. You don’t have to understand it yourself. Just supporting us and encouraging us to take time for our needs is enough.
Have you ever felt touched out? Or do you know someone who could relate to this? Take a moment to let me know in the comments, and feel free to share this with anyone who might need it!