Let’s be honest, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how we go about our everyday lives. It has influenced everyone in different ways and poses one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century: how to be social from afar. For anyone who knows me or has met me, they know that I am a ball of social energy and thrive on human contact to maintain that outgoing personality. I’m not gonna lie, I have struggled with finding creative ways to connect with others during this pandemic. I’ve tried everything from texting to social media to face-timing and zoom calls — they were all great ways to socialize safely, but still left me feeling empty and longing for physical contact. That’s when I realized how important my physical connection with animals was going to be for my mental health and wellbeing.
This fall semester, I was working in the UConn dairy heifer barn to help with Little I training, and just being down at the barn physically working with calves elevated my mood and restored that social energy I would usually receive from human contact. I’ve always considered the barn to be my home away from home, and that has never proven more true than it has in 2020. Even on my worst days, when physically isolated from others, the calves I worked with made my entire day go from dreary and hopeless to exciting and cheerful. I always knew that being around animals made me feel better, so this was all I needed to maintain a positive and hopeful attitude towards life.
Once I came home from school for winter break, I would go out to my barn and just sit in the hay with one of my calf’s heads in my lap. It made every worry I had go away. Similarly, snuggling up by the fire with a warm blanket and a fluffy cat to pet made me feel at peace. There are so many people who have suffered so much during this pandemic, and although I am grateful that I have not lost any close friends or family to Covid, I know many friends who have lost loved ones or have suffered in other ways. Whether you lost your job, are struggling to make financial ends meet, feel overwhelmed with virtual classes, and/or miss seeing your friends and family dearly, everyone is looking for an outlet for the stress, grief, and hopelessness associated with this global health crisis. As more and more businesses, gyms, schools, libraries, and more close, the world is becoming crippled mentally and socially. It is vital for each and every one of us to find what works best for us to help us combat these dark times.
I am grateful that I have various pets to spend quality time with. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have cows in their backyard or even have a pet cat or dog, but for those who don’t, I’d implore them to buy some plants. Yes, you heard me, plants. Even if they’re small succulents from the store, being surrounded by any source of life, even plants, can make the greatest difference in mental health and can significantly improve your mood. This pandemic has been one of the biggest tests of willpower and resilience for humankind in a while (or at least in my lifetime so far) and is going to continuously knock us down when we least expect it. It is up to each and every one of us to muster the strength to keep getting back up and fighting back harder. Whether it’s spending time with your pets, going on a hike, or even watering that little cactus on your bedside table, give yourself a reason to persevere through this monumental obstacle. Do not let Covid win. We are all in this together, even when physically apart. So go buy that succulent, pet your dog, or go on a walk around the neighborhood. Nothing can stop you from practicing the self-care that you deserve… not even a global pandemic.