We’re in the midst of a global health crisis. Not only has the coronavirus pandemic cost tens of thousands of lives (with the UK now facing the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe), we’re also anticipating a tremendous knock-on effect on our health caused by the effects of our mass quarantine. As more and more of us start to feel the strain of our isolation, we’re poised for what may be the greatest mental health crisis in living memory. What’s more, the lockdown may also have far-reaching effects on our physical health. The lockdown can affect everything from the amount of sunlight and exercise that we take every day to our use of cigarettes, tobacco and other substances.
While we owe it to our amazing frontline workers to observe the lockdown and maintain social distancing, we also owe it to ourselves to be mindful of the long-term effects that they may have on our health. Nonetheless, help is close at hand. Indeed, some of the most potent help you’ll be getting will come from a source very close to home… your pets! Yes, your furred, feathered or scaly friends will be beneficial to you in a number of ways when it comes to keeping your mental health and physical wellbeing intact.
They help to ease stress
It goes without saying that these are incredibly stressful times. Many of us have experienced s surge is stress, worry and anxiety in recent weeks. We’re losing sleep. And when we do nod off, many of us have begun to experience bizarre dreams. We’re finding ourselves losing our tempers with spouses and kids. We’re in a near constant state of agitation, and floods of tears have a habit of sneaking up on us at any moment.
While there are many reasons why you may be feeling this anxiety- from money and job worries to empathy for those who have lost loved ones to the virus- your pets’ presence can be a real tonic in your life. The power of pet therapy is well documented. Touching, stroking, cuddling and simply sharing a room with our pets can help us to feel more loved and less alone, even if you’re living in a full house. When we’re on the sofa snuggling with the cat or in the garden feeding our chickens with treats from Little Peckers, our stresses and strains just melt away.
They give you someone to talk to
If you’re living alone while under lockdown, this can be an especially lonely and upsetting time. Even if you’re of a solitary disposition, you may still feel extremely lonely from time to time. As important as it is to schedule regular phone calls or voice chat sessions with your friends, it always helps to have somebody under your roof to talk to.
Whatever pets you own, whether a dig, a cat, a caged bird or a rodent like a rat, hamster or guinea pig, talking to your pets can be extremely therapeutic. It’s like having a flat mate… but one that you know won’t hog the bathroom, clog the kitchen sink, use your towels or drink all the milk so you have to go to the corner shop whenever you want a cup of tea.
They give you an excuse to leave the home
In our zeal to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we can find ourselves becoming over cautious, and spending every waking moment in the home. While we may feel as though we’re doing the right thing for the public’s health, we may also risk doing ourselves more harm than good. A daily dose of fresh air, sunlight and exercise is important in maintaining our physical and mental health. Furthermore, we are recommended under government guidelines to take an hour of outdoor exercise every day.
Still, if you’re struggling to stay motivated to leave the home, your pets give you a good excuse to take your daily dose of exercise. Whether you’re walking the dog or spending time with your hens in the garden, they coax you outdoors and lift your spirits, even when all you want to do is collapse into the sofa.
They give you a sense of purpose
Many of us have lost our jobs or been placed on furlough. We’re isolated from friends and family. In such a context, we may be yearning for purpose. A way to spend our days in the service of something greater than ourselves. While there are lots of ways in which you can volunteer your free time under lockdown, the lack of immediacy may mean that it’s hard to take that crucial first step. Your pets, however, give you instant purpose. As you strive to give them the best life possible, you are able to focus your effort, love and attention in ways that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
They show you love and affection
We all need a little love in our lives. Indeed, many of us need it now, more than ever. If you’re living alone without a partner or kids to help you feel loved, your pets can fill the space in your heart. All animals show love or affection in their own ways. From the hearty lick of a dog to the slow blinks (known as “cat kisses”) exhibited by felines, or the nuzzling of birds, the little statements of love can be a real tonic in keeping you in good spirits under lockdown.
They give you a reason to clean and tidy
Finally, a clean and tidy home that’s free of clutter is a much more pleasant space in which to spend your quarantine. However, there are many of us who may struggle to muster the energy and motivation to keep their homes clean and tidy if their mental health is impacted by the lockdown. Pets give us little reasons (like tumbleweeds of fur, or crumbs of cat litter on the floor) to stay motivated and keep the home clean and tidy.
This is just one of the many ways in which your pets help you to help yourself during this difficult time.