Pets: Pandemic Stress Reducing Superheroes

We are living in unprecedented times. A worldwide pandemic, civil unrest, and job layoffs threaten even the most centered person’s sanity. With all of this chaos and unpredictability going on, we need time to devote to our physical and mental health more than ever.

It may seem like taking the dog for a walk or cleaning out Fluffy’s litter box one more time is more of hassle than anything else, but we need our pets for stress release. Our beloved companions add love and value to our lives, as well as providing us the opportunity to de-stress and be in the moment. Here are some ways that our pets, no matter what shape and size they are, add to our lives:

1. Pets help to reduce our blood pressure
One physical measure of stress is high blood pressure; recent studies point to a pet’s power to help lower those systolic and diastolic markers. One pioneer in this research is Dr. Beck, who studied the effect of petting a cat or dog on health and well being. In fact, one doesn’t even need to touch animals—simply by looking at them, they have a remarkable ability to improve heart health by lowering our blood pressure.

2. Pets help decrease our reactions to stress
The effect of stressful events on heart rate and blood pressure are significantly reduced when performed in front of pets. Doing a complicated arithmetic problem in front of your spouse might incite an increase on both of these biomarkers, while performing the same mathematical function in the presence of your fish, dog, or cat can take some performance pressure off of you.

3. Pet owners get more exercise
Exercise is a known stress-reducer! Taking Fido for a walk is not only good for him, it’s healthy for you too! Fresh air in your lungs, improved circulation, and a chance to work out some of that muscle tension is good for everyone in the family. Why not engage in a happy game of laser tag with your cat, or go for a family walk with your dog? It does a body—and a mind—good.

4. Pets increase present moment awareness
When you are enjoying your pets and living in the moment, you aren’t giving thought to regrets of the past or worries about the future that can add stress to your life. Pets teach us to love unconditionally, as well as to enjoy the moments, the present moments, that we have with them.

5. Pets fulfill our need for touch
Most of us find touch comforting and soothing, and our pets feel the same way. When we spend time touching, stroking, and talking to our pets, it fulfills that need to be loved and touched in comforting, pleasing ways. Think about how good it makes you feel when your cat winds around your ankles, purring in appreciation of you. Build a solid, trueing relationship with her in turn by learning to pet and receive loving touches from your furry friends.

6. Pets make us feel more resilient in times of stress
There is something about being placed in the role of caregiver that makes us rise to the occasion. When we feel we are responsible for caring for other people and animals, we find ways to dig down deep and find a resilience that we may not have known before. We surprise ourselves with strength, adaptability, and the ability to care for those more helpless than ourselves, and for this new realization we thank them.

7. Pets make us laugh!
Pets are so funny! They are cute and cuddly and spontaneous, and we thrive on watching their thought processes as they tackle the craziness of life right alongside us. You have only to turn on Youtube to see how entertaining these companions can be as they jump on trampolines, run headlong into pools, and chase their tails. What will they do next as they travel on the road of life with us, making us giggle and chortle along the way?

8. Pets give us hope that life can be enjoyable
A pet’s innocence and beauty reminds us that there is good in life, and that we can look forward to times of happiness and enjoyment, regardless of what is going on in the big, wide world.

If you don’t own a pet, it might just be the perfect time to add this loving and caring addition to your family. You have a little more time on your hands, everyone is having to rally around one another in support, and you have more help in being able to care for them and make adjustments to your home and house to incorporate the new member. Start small, open your heart, and be ready to experience less stress as a result of adding a pet to your family.