April 21

What’s a Chief Hugger to do without hugs?

It’s been almost a decade since I launched my photography business and when I began my brand looked and sounded like every other photographer, until I learned the power of authenticity and telling my story. 

A year into my career I uncovered my why, my reason I was drawn to photography and the kind of clients I loved photographing. For me it was about authenticity, allowing my clients to be themselves and expressing who they are just as they are. That desire has always been a part of my own life’s work, and that was when my web site sandralovesyou.com was born. 

I took that url and ran with it in every direction including what I called myself. Instead of an owner, president, CEO or visionary, I wanted something to describe my natural tendency to want to connect. I wanted an icebreaker, a prompt to begin our relationship and that’s when I came up with Chief Hugger.

It was perfect. It sounded strong but had heart. It immediately gave people a sense of who I was and what was important to me. It either spoke to you or it didn’t, making the process of falling in love with my clients super easy. It was my way of saying, I love you just as you are — let’s hug to that!

But what happens if you find yourself in a culture that no longer hugs or makes physical contact? 

In what has felt like a switch going off literally overnight, the world isn’t allowed to hug let alone be within six feet of each other. No parties, no lunches, no family gatherings, no potluck dinners, no playdates, no meetings, no picnics, no concerts, no sporting events and in my world, no photo shoots. All have been prohibited to try and stop the spread of Covid 19, a deadly pandemic.

So what does a hugger do when hugging isn’t possible? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. I’m just at the beginning of this realization and it makes me so sad. I often dream of the day when we’re beyond this scary mess and all I can imagine is a big couch with all my friends having a massive cuddle.  

Studies show when we hug someone we release oxytocin, otherwise known as the cuddle hormone, which can help us relax and lower our anxiety. If we hug for 20 seconds or more it can effectively lower blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone norepinephrine. Stress and anxiety are slippery little buggers and sometimes a good hug can settle your world.

These days I am finding new ways to connect. I am going Live and teaching my Facebook friends how to make a calzone or hula hooping to get moving. I am having regular Zoom calls with friends and my family. And in January I finally got my email list together so now I can send out a monthly newsletter or a spontaneous letter to check in on folks. It doesn’t replace a good bear hug but I am hearing back from folks I haven’t heard from in years and they are sharing their struggles, their fears, their hopes, their triumphs, and their desire to be connected. 

It has been fulfilling and heartwarming. It has taught me if I reach out others will reach back. We all want to know we are loved especially during this weird and challenging time.

And while we’re not able to reach out physically, I hope you’ll take a minute to visualize hugging those you love. Find a comfy seat, close your eyes and think about a person or animal you love. Imagine holding them close and telling them you love them. Hold onto that sensation for a moment and breathe into it.

Until the day we get to embrace one another, be kind to yourself and to others. Not everyone is in the same boat so be especially patient with folks who are struggling with very difficult life circumstances. Know this Chief Hugger is sending you virtual hugs every day, all day, and I look forward to our reunion soon.

Hugs, Sandra

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