One positive by-product of the coronavirus pandemic was the drastic rise in pet adoption and fostering. It was a surprising silver lining, and for once, there were shortages of pets at many shelters across the country. Fox News reported that dog fostering and adoption were up 700% during the coronavirus pandemic, which is unprecedented. The pandemic proved that man turns to his best friend in a time of loneliness.
Humans were designed for companionship. We have a natural desire to gather and be in relationships with others. Unfortunately, as society shifted to working from home, the pandemic forced many into isolation, remote education, and virtual everything. The loneliness and stress have taken a toll on many.
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 Dogs are eligible.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Mary Beth Bryan, with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says: “In the past year, we have faced an enormous amount of stress and anxiety in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. This pandemic has affected most, if not all, areas of people’s lives, and led to changes in how we work, socialize, and get our basic needs met. We have been in uncharted waters, not knowing what this virus was going to do, how best to protect ourselves and our loved ones, how others would respond, and how long this would last.”
The ongoing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic has created a prolonged state of uncertainty. This causes anxiety, stress, and fear which are natural reactions to a crisis. Moderate amounts of stress can be manageable and protective—small amounts of stress help to activate us to think and take action. Prolonged high stress, however, can negatively affect our functioning and overall health and well-being.
● Given rise to anxiety and depression.
● Caused self-harm and suicide rates to skyrocket.
● Lead many to cling to negative coping mechanisms such as substance use and addiction.
● Brought about disruptions to our daily life, routines, diet, and nutrition. (hello “Quarantine 19” weight gain)
● Virtual education and working from home have been responsible for a more sedentary lifestyle, leading to physical health decline and sleep issues.
● Caused people to spend more time in their homes than usual. While it might have been exciting to work from home at first, after a while it may feel boring, uninspiring, and lonely.
An unexpected, lingering side effect of the pandemic is brain fog, which is marked by trouble thinking, cognitive inefficiency, and mental slowing or fatigue. It impacts your attention span and makes simple daily tasks like problem-solving, and organization feel more challenging than normal. Brain fog can cause you to have a hard time focusing, making good choices, and taking action.
Dr. Bryan goes on to share, “When stress and worry are high, the emotional center of our brain becomes activated, which interferes with our ability to think clearly and logically, and function effectively. For the past year, we have had to change the way we do many things, which can lead to feeling unsettled, overwhelmed, and confused.”
Brain fog can cause challenges and feelings of overwhelm with the transition back to a version of your pre-pandemic lifestyle. There is still so much about what daily life looked like that is not the same. This can be anxiety inducing and brings up a range of mixed feelings including stress, anxiety, excitement, and being overwhelmed.
Pets require daily exercise and time outdoors which both support brain health and our overall well-being.
Some brain-fog reducing strategies:
● Incorporate activities each day that you enjoy can support brain health and mental well-being
● Exercise (walking your pet!)
● Spend time outdoors
● Safe socializing
● Maintaining a well-balanced diet
In addition to the spike in pet adoptions, pet fostering also saw significant increases. With so many people spending more time at home, it provided the space and time for individuals to foster a pet. Additionally, fostering can be a good idea for individuals who may not be fully ready to commit to adoption since it is a great way to find out if an animal is a good fit for you and your family.
While fostering a pet may be temporary, it still results in saved lives because it creates room for a shelter to rescue more pets. Having a furry friend around can reduce anxiety and help relieve stress. The love and bond that we share with a pet can brighten even the darkest days.
● Pets help us cope.
● Petting an animal is calming.
● Caring for a pet serves as a fun way to redirect your focus from other problems.
● Actively caring for something outside of yourself, gives a sense of meaning or purpose.
● Pets help maintain and improve morale.
● They provide valuable emotional support.
● Companionship of a pet is beneficial to people who live alone with less social
● When the coronavirus caused people to shelter in place, people with jobs that typically
involved travel suddenly found themselves with more time and space for a pet.
There are many reasons that people chose to foster and adopt during the pandemic. However, research shows that it works out well for pet owners too. People experience better physical and mental health when they own a pet. One study even shows that dog owners live longer. Dog owners have a 20% lower risk of dying and were less likely to die of cardiovascular disease.
Dogs in particular share a special connection with humans. Psychology Today says that the connection you feel with your dog isn’t just in your mind. Dogs are capable of differentiating between various types of emotional expressions on people’s faces and are particularly sensitive to human voices.
The WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute in the UK conducts scientific research surrounding pet care and nutrition. They studied the impact of the Human-Animal bond through coronavirus and shared the following:
“In this time of physical distancing, pets can play an important role in our network of support by helping to relieve loneliness, feelings of isolation, and provide companionship. Pets can also help us cope with stress and improve our physical health as we navigate these unprecedented times. Accumulating evidence from research shows that human-animal interaction (HAI) is linked to overall better health and stress management in people across all stages in life.”
“Brains tend to work better when stress and anxiety levels are not high,” Dr. Bryan says. “Reduce unnecessary stressors in your life that you have control over, and practice stress management strategies for those you do not.” Interacting with pets boosts our mood and lowers our stress levels. Participating in mood-elevating activities such as going for a walk and cuddling with a pet encourages a healthy outlet that immediately improves our mood. This makes a great case for having a pet to help cope with both the constant stress of a post-pandemic world and the lingering brain fog from all the uncertainty that we find ourselves trying to process on a daily basis.”
The pandemic created an unusual amount of stress for all of us. Due to the uncertainty surrounding seemingly every aspect of life there was a clear increase in financial worries, health concerns, trying to figure out the “new normal” and generally wondering when (and if) things would ever return to pre-pandemic life. Pets help to shield us from the negative impacts of life’s stressful experiences. Having a pet may help reduce the negative physical effects of stress on our bodies, which in turn can reduce our vulnerability to illnesses. In the end, pets are a consistent, reliable source of much needed companionship. and support in an ever-changing world.
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 find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!
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