The mask mandates are lifting. The social distancing restrictions are easing up. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to linger, but the everyday reminders of its ominous presence are decreasing steadily. Many Americans are thrilled, some are hesitant, and others still are cautious or skeptical. There are many unknowns yet to sort through. Still, one solid fact is that the world has suffered tremendous losses physically, mentally, and emotionally in the wake of this rampant virus. Understandably, there is a swirl of varying feelings as we all enter into post-pandemic life. As such, it felt necessary to illuminate 5 tips to cope with getting back to normal.
First, it’s best to address the elephant in the room. You know the one… the word “normal.” Many have tossed around the idea of getting back to normal (including me at the start of this post!). My first question would be, however, “what exactly does that mean?” According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it means “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine.” Normal possibly isn’t the best choice of wording simply because each life is different, unique, and diverse! Normal function to one person could very well be abnormal to another. For some right now, life is healthier than it has ever been. For others, life will never be the same. Acknowledging that all have experienced pandemic effects to some degree or another is important.
These years have marked significant changes on both sides of the pendulum. People lost businesses, yet others were able to begin new ones. Loved friends and family passed on, yet new babies continued to be born. Lives came to a screeching halt, yet the slower pace brought some much-needed rest. Perhaps one of my favorite notable changes was the increase in awareness for the healing powers of furry companionship. Almost everyone suffered the loss of physical human fellowships, yet many came to appreciate the tremendous value animals can bring to our daily lives. Regardless of where you find yourself today, we can agree that canines, felines, and all other types of species have been with us through it all.
Change can be very triggering. Let’s face it, there has been a LOT of change. Those with mental health struggles may find themselves at greater risk for the anxiety of post-pandemic adjustment. I recommend setting expectations at a reasonable level and remembering to allow yourself to breathe. It is perfectly fine to adjust slowly to any new social regulations. If you’re not quite ready to roam the aisles of the grocery store again, keep using that Instacart subscription!! It may be best to take smaller steps, such as quick visits to your local library or coffee shop. Regaining a sense of security as you enter back into once familiar spaces can get tricky. Give yourself grace, don’t let others pressure you, and remember that you can always find rest in the loving paws of your ESA when you get home!
Speaking of loving paws, did you know that you can train Psychiatric Service Dogs to help with post-traumatic scenarios such as this? Mental, emotional, and physical health can be stabilized and even improved with the help of a trained canine companion (also known as a Service Dog). While PTSD afflicts more than those recovering from a global health crisis, the trauma of 2020 has certainly shed new light on its existence. Some individuals have reported a sobering detachment from reality, difficulty sleeping, and a struggle to perform basic self-care tasks such as remembering to eat or take a shower. If this describes you, please know that you are not alone. The road to living your best life begins with positive self-care practices and taking one day at a time. This generation understands now, more than ever, that tomorrow is a gift.
The beginning of 2020 vastly disrupted the structure of our day-to-day routines. Suddenly, everyone was homebound. Work, school, shopping, and socializing became fully remote and digital. I’m not sure about you, but for me, this was a huge adaptation challenge! Regular and predictable schedules are proven to create a healthier lifestyle, but those became hard to accomplish in the wake of COVID (especially for parents). Most of us made it through the worst of the storm on makeshift rafts, but here we stand. First, we had to learn to do ALL of life at home. Now that restrictions are lifting, we are learning to do things differently yet again. There was the old way, then the new way, and currently a strange hybrid in between! So what can we do to keep the responsibilities together, the days straight, the panic under wraps, and our sanity in check?
Finding simple ways to regain consistency is a great place to start. Even if you aren’t currently pressed to get kids on a bus or yourself to an office, getting up at the same time every day is beneficial. Continuing a routine as you would have post-2020 can keep your faculties moving in a motivational direction. Also, talk to your family about the activities, habits, or practices that have shifted since the pandemic. Some might be worth starting up again, and some might no longer feel necessary. When the time comes for the world to fully re-open, I definitely want to be ready. If I can help it, I’d like to minimize any more excessive “surprise attacks” in this century. Whose with me? It’s ok if you’re not. I know my pup raised a paw! Dogs are remarkable creatures of habit, and their biological alarm clock rings steadily. Having a furry friend to feed, walk, and entertain has also helped keep me fed, exercised, and alert. I am thankful for his steady love and nudging.
So here’s the thing. You and your best animal bud(s) have been cozied up together for quite some time now. The consistent narrative is that pets (especially cats and dogs) have aided tremendously in keeping humans going during these long, trying months. 82% of Americans said that their dogs and cats helped them feel less lonely during the pandemic, and overall, animal adoption saw a significant increase over the past year. As kids go back to the classroom, adults go back to physical work locations, and leaving the house for entertainment regains traction; what does that mean for the woofers and the meowers of America?
Making changes gradually and as soon as possible will make any eventual separation easier for pets. Introducing short periods of alone time would be beneficial. Puppies and kittens who have only known a pandemic lifestyle will likely have a harder time acclimating to a new way of life. Begin slowly and try not to overwhelm them. If your dog has never been crate trained, you may want to consider whether that would be beneficial. Some pups resort to chewing or peeing (even if housebroken) when they become bored or hyper-aware of your sudden hiatus. Purchasing some items for Fluffy to relieve any anxious feline energies would also be a good idea. Special cat trees and scratching posts can bring a sense of comfort and a helpful distraction from your more frequent absence. Our pets are family, and as such, they deserve the same love and respect as any other member. Let’s be honest; we will miss our animal companions just as much as they will miss us! It is much easier to have empathy for a struggle when the door swings both ways.
Though medical and economic stats are stabilizing, experts are still clear that the pandemic is far from behind us. The virus continues to mutate and reinvent itself, just like many others before it. Those in charge will have to continue monitoring progress, adjusting protocols as needed, and being willing to take steps “backward” when necessary. We have yet to fully understand the physical, social, emotional, and financial repercussions of such a widespread crisis. Struggles are still real, and they will continue to be real long after this particular trial has settled into the dust of our history books. Even still, the world has good reason to continue to hope and believe in a healthier existence again.
As a whole, we’ve been given time to reflect on our humanity, mortality, values, goals, and ideals. I hope that through this reflection, all Americans will begin to develop a “new normal” that makes sense for their individual mental and physical well-being.
Mental disabilities have been around far longer than the pandemic, and help for those struggles is just as available as it has ever been. I encourage all avenues of assistance, including professional counsel, medication, and the support of friends and family (including furry ones!). I can’t express enough how amazing the care, companionship, and help of Emotional Support Animals and Psychiatric Service Dogs are to the disabled community at large. Make sure you prepare for whatever post-pandemic transitions will throw your way. If you have been displaced from your home due to COVID-19, don’t forget that you’ll need an ESA housing letter handy for any rental accommodations. American Service Pets can also assist with the necessary steps to register or train your Psychiatric Service Dog.
Due to the new Department of Transportation (DOT) policy, Emotional Support Animals are NO longer allowed to fly in airplane cabins for free. However, psychiatric service animals are eligible.
The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you on the path. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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