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Coronavirus: The Need for Emotional Support Animals is Real

April 26, 2022

Covid-19 brings a slew of stresses that can trigger any number of emotional responses. It seems everything is threatened, from our health to our livelihoods, to our natural sociability. Now, it is perhaps more evident than ever how much comfort an emotional support animal can offer through companionship and touch. An emotional support dog, cat or other pet can provide deep therapeutic wellbeing in these troubling times by providing friendship, purpose, and presence.

According to the CDC, some responses to the COVID-19 outbreak can include severe fear and anxiety. This may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in diet and eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exacerbation of chronic health conditions
  • Exacerbation of mental health conditions
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

The CDC recommends a few ways to cope with stress and anxiety about the virus, including regular exercise, meditation, deep breathing, reducing your amount of news intake, avoiding alcohol and other substances and staying connected to loved ones through whatever means available. An emotional support animal can also be a great support.

The Stresses of the Corona Virus and How Emotional Support Animals Can Help

Below are a few of the emotional fears that corona virus can trigger. They are by no means insignificant and an emotional support animal is just one way to help mitigate fears and assuage overwhelm.

Isolation

In times of social distancing and mandatory stay at home orders, itis no surprise that a sense of isolation or loneliness can be developed or magnified, resulting in anxiety, depression or even PTSD. An emotional support animal can help soothe these emotional burdens by providing companionship, connection and touch. Letis look at each of these in turn:

Companionship provides the simple, but profound comfort found in sharing a space, or a life, with another living, breathing creature, such as an emotional support dog. Of course, an emotional support animal becomes more than an anonymous creature—they become an integral member of your family and an irreplaceable part of your tribe—even if together you are a family or tribe of two.

This companionship can of course develop into a deep bond of intimacy and love that is the definition of friendship. A friendship with your emotional support dog or other emotional support animal, as with any friendship, can provide feelings of joy and connection. You enjoy each other’s company and develop a rapport of sorts.

Your emotional support dog can also help in times of isolation by providing touch. Touch is something so often underacknowledged, and yet so crucial to the emotional well-being of human beings. An emotional support animal can of course provide plenty of nourishing touch. They are there to nuzzle, scratch, pet and cuddle.

Unemployment and Loss of Financial Security

Our ability to provide for ourselves and our families is critical our sense of overall security. When we lose a job or are in financial stress, especially with no idea when our situation will change, it’s normal to feel our stability deeply rocked. An emotional support animal can help alleviate some of the burden by providing a sense of purpose.

How do they give us a sense of purpose? Well, just as they provide nurturing and comfort, they also require a certain amount of attention and nurturing. An emotional support dog, for example, will get you out of the house to go on walks. (Incidentally, getting out of the house, even just for short walks and with a mask covering half of your face, can also help with feelings of isolation.) An emotional support cat needs you to change the kitty litter and of course, all emotional support animals need to be fed and watered every day.

It may seem small, but even these small responsibilities provide purpose. And it is a comfort to tend to the needs of a loved one, even if you aren’t able to work for a paycheck for the time being.

The Unknown Future

A fear of the future is a general, murky fear of the unknown. What does the future have in store? The truth is, we never know what the future has in store for us, but the sensation is truly magnetized in times of crisis.

One way to soften the anxiety around the unknown, is to ground into the present. Emotional support animals can be wonderful at helping us do just that. Your emotional support dog will snap you out of your ruminations on the end of the world when they need to go outside to pee. And when your emotional support cat curls up with softly squinting eyes in the evening, their purr resounding through the room, you’ll reminded that all is well in this moment.

Emotional support animals also have the ability to make us feel safe and at home—they help us relax, give us a feeling of snugness and warmth. In a world of unknowns, these sweet beings can make us feel deep gratification and contentment, grounding us in the present moment.

Illness, Death and Grief

On the extreme end of this virus crisis is both the fear of illness and death, and actual illness, death and grief from losing loved ones—made all the more awful since social distancing prevents large funerals and group grieving.

When dealing with these fears, an emotional support animal can help in all the ways mentioned above: they may help you to be more present, give you a sense of purpose and provide a nourishing relationship full of affection and touch.

When faced with the loss of a loved one, there may be no great consolation but time. However, sometimes just having a familiar presence by your side is a subtle, but appreciated comfort. An emotional support animal can be that friend.

Your Emotional Support Animal

In these troubling times, being able to find comfort in an animal friend can make a world of difference to your emotional well being.

If you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, or you feel overwhelming stress when traveling alone, you may want to get a registered emotional support dog or other animal. An emotional support dog by your side could help assuage anxiety while maintaining social distancing in public, for example.

Alternatively, if you already have a special animal, you could get them registered as an emotional support animal.

Whatever your registration needs, the National Service Animal Registry can help. An emotional support dog or other animal can help relieve the emotional uneasiness during this pandemic.

If circumstances related to Covid-19 are causing severe anxiety and stress, be sure to seek help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can also call the disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Get your own ESA letter and make your pet an emotional support animal here.

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