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How Pets Can Help Us During COVID-19

May 10th, 2020

Although restrictions imposed by the “stay-at-home order” are beginning to be lifted, the entire country was faced with the need of minimizing human contact, in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, and mitigate its effects. The great majority of us begun social distancing and work from home. Schools closed, businesses, gym, saloons, bars and restaurants with restricted operations. In this scenario, how pets can help us?

According to the National Institute of Health, several federally funded studies confirm that animals can reduce feelings of loneliness, helping their owners have better overall moods and feel more socially supported. These findings are particularly important for people who already have a mental health condition, such as anxiety and depression. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention corroborates that coping with the reality of the novel coronavirus will be stressful for everybody – both children and adults and a few are prepared for being cooped up in their homes for weeks. Some with underlying mental health conditions are at risk.

The University at Buffalo conducted one study with 240 people that found that pet owners were uniquely prepared to deal with stressful events. Pet owners showed lower baseline heart rates and blood pressure during a stressor than adults without pets. Right now, all of us need some help dealing with the stressor of the pandemia.

Here are some ways how pets can positively impact our mental health in times of social isolation:

  • The power of touch – a lack of touch can alter our mental state. Touch can communicate emotions such as joy, love, gratitude and sympathy. When we touch our dog, it helps with our emotional self-regulation;
  • A sense of purpose – this is particularly true for those living alone, who consider their pet as a “family member”, benefiting from the love and connection that they bring; The routine of taking care of a pet imposes a rhythm, helping to organize our day and to have a sense of purpose;
  • Exercise for the body and the spirit – although it’s recommended to stay at home during the pandemia, dogs are allowed to be walked daily. Dog owners can get physically fit and mentally healthy by walking their dogs and still comply with the social distancing rules.

During our “new normal”, where social isolation is a reality, pets provide nonjudgmental emotional support and reduce stress and anxiety. Consider spending extra time with your furry friend. It could provide a much-needed boost!