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If you feel like the average American right now, you are hoping that your life becomes the next million-dollar reality show. The saga of lockdown would easily lend itself to some creative title, but despite how humorous it sounds, this new reality is quite stressful for many people. While introverts are loving the excuse-free opportunity to remain at home, there are thousands of people that have lost their jobs, education opportunities, and social life due because of the coronavirus. The entire situation reeks of unease, anxiety, and tension.
Though you may have only been on lockdown for a few days, the reality of the situation may have you this way for several weeks. The emotional and physical stress of the situation may cause health concerns, with things like ulcers, hair loss, insomnia, high blood pressure, and mental health issues. If you don’t take measures to alleviate or reduce the stress, your life may never go back to the “normal” you had before the virus spread around the world. Meditation, journaling, and yoga are some stress-relieving techniques that can be done from home, but did you know that a family pet is also a great source of stress relief? Whether you have a cat, a dog or you really don’t like animals, pets are an excellent source of social support and stress relief. Here’s what owning a pet can do for you.
Those who love animals have a hard time staying in a bad mood whenever a cat curls up in their lap or puppy eyes peek over the arm of the chair. Research supports the mood-boosting power of a pet, as one study found that men suffering from AIDS were less likely to experience depression when they owned a pet.
Walking the dog is generally more than just for the benefit of the dog. Dog owners often spend more time walking than those who don’t own a pet, but many times this is because individuals enjoy walking when a companion is present. While the dog does need the exercise, so do you, and it is easier to get motivated about getting off the couch since you have the companionship to look forward too. Dog owners often report a sense of community with others they meet in the neighborhood or at the dog park, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Exercise, with or without the dog, is always a good stress management activity.
Many people who struggle with high blood pressure are put on medication, but these can be ineffective when there is an increase in the tension or stress of an individual. While walking your dog or engaging in activity can help improve the physical aspects of cardiovascular problems, the social interaction of petting, playing, or snuggling with your pet has psychological benefits that reduce stress and tension. When attacking blood pressure from both fronts, you are more likely to see positive changes in your numbers. Touch, or the act of petting an animal, is what appears to be the most significant component of what experts have termed the pet effect.
When you are on lockdown, it is a lonely and isolating experience. If you are used to being a social butterfly, this may be a real struggle. Having a pet provides a sense of companionship and affection. Many people talk to their pets like they would talk to their children, and this can help you not feel so alone when sitting on the couch watching reruns or binge-watching Netflix original releases. Pets have an ability to be there when people can’t, whether through mandatory restrictions, lack of opportunity, or interpersonal conflict. One study found that residents of a nursing home report less loneliness when they are visited by a dog over spending time with dogs and other people at the same time.
Having a good friend to talk to and laugh is a treasure, but research seems to indicate that spending time with a pet can be even more beneficial and productive than spending time with a good friend. One study found that people reported less stress when conducting a difficult and stressful task when their pet was present over the company of a supportive friend or spouse. In these coming weeks of lockdown, this study is great news for all the pet owners. The crisis across the country is stressful and disruptive. Even though you may not be able to have people company, you are in good company with your pet.
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