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Therapy Dogs Are Giving Support Back To Hospital Workers Who Are Helping Us Through The Pandemic

Alyssa Klier

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Four college women with grey jackets on sit on the floor in a circle and spend time with the King Charles Spaniel therapy dog.
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Dogs are known as man’s best friend. The relationship of a human with a dog holds a special bond. They have a way of expressing unconditional love, loyalty, and support to humans without even having to say a word.

Dogs serve as source stability within their dog owner’s lives. They are constant companions that do not provide judgment. These loyal canines stick by their owner’s side and ask for nothing in return besides maybe an occasional belly rub or treats.

There has been a direct correlation found in the physical and mental health of people after having a human-dog interaction. Dogs have been shown to be able to perceive the emotions of a human accurately. For these reasons, dogs have been trained for many years as therapy dogs. 

Dogs are the perfect therapy animal. They have an innate ability to provide love and a sense of comfort and security in stressful situations.

 The main goal of therapy dogs is to brighten the day of people they interact with. The therapy dog can go anywhere with its owner to provide a sense of well-being and safety. 

Therapy dogs are trained in various therapy situations. The main traits that therapy dogs execute range based on the context of their work and what is needed of the animal. Despite this, therapy dogs are often confident in personality, tolerant of animals and people, and are well behaved in public places.

The main breeds of dogs that tend to be best suited as therapy dogs include: Labrador Retriever, Labradoodle, Corgi, Poodle, Pug, French Bulldog, King Charles spaniel, and Bichon Frise.  

A hopsital worker with a blue jacket, jeans, purple socks, and black work boots sits on the curb while petting a white  therapy dog.
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With these difficult and uncertain times during the pandemic, support is absolutely vital. Hospital workers are essential workers. They have been working copious amounts of hours on the frontlines against this virus.

They constantly are doing their jobs. They put their health and lives on the line in order to help others and the greater community. They are fighting the pandemic head-on.

While their work is extremely commendable, it can serve as cumbersome for the workers. Hospital workers have to work long shifts in their protective gear.

The protective gear has been shown to give bruises and hurt people’s ears. The work of hospital workers appears to be high stress due to the prolific amount of demand required.

Besides just physical labor involved in this role, hospital workers face an emotional burden and high levels of stress. Hospital workers need support in return during this time. For all that the hospital workers are giving, they need something in return.

Recently, therapy dogs have made their presence known during the pandemic. Therapy dogs have been directly helping hospital workers relieve their stress. This has been seen by therapy dogs either coming into hospitals, going on video chat, and using social media to help out.

 Therapy dogs have been extremely helpful in aiding the mental health of hospital workers in these three platforms. 

The first platform for therapy dog help is in person in hospitals. In the Denver medical centers, a yellow lab puppy named Wynn is available to see. Wynn waits in hospitals to be seen by hospital workers like clinicians, staff, and emergency responders. These hospital workers desperately need emotional support during this stressful pandemic which therapy dogs can provide.

Before going to see Wynn, hospital workers wash their hands thoroughly before seeing him. Hospital workers have reported receiving much joy from seeing the therapy dog. Further, there is a dog in Texas providing a similar source to a senior citizen center. Whether it is senior citizens or hospital workers, therapy dogs have been able to bring happiness in person in these stressful times for people.

The second platform for therapy dogs is an online video chat. A therapy dog company in Texas, called Divine Canines, has put its therapy dog service online. The online mode follows other various companies across the United States.

They have had to switch to an online method because of the uncertainty involved with the pandemic. This online measure is in place because hospitals and other healthcare facilities have restricted the number and types of visitors allowed.

Further, this online platform is also in place for a matter of convenience for people to access it due to the stay at home orders in place across the nation. People can set up appointments online to video chat with therapy dogs.

Additionally, there is also an option to receive a pre-recorded video of the therapy dogs. Many of these videos have been sent to hospital workers, patients, and immunocompromised people.

The videos, whether live or prerecorded, have contributed to shedding positivity within communities. In particular, it aims to use therapy dogs to provide hospital workers with some inspiration. 

The third platform for therapy dogs is social media. A famous therapy dog, named Loki, has taken social media by storm. Loki and his owner are based in Maryland and used to go to the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore three times a week.

Since the pandemic started, Loki and his owner have followed the stay at home orders, but their presence in the community is still prominent. Therapy dog Loki’s social media has been used to ask for donations in “hero healing kits”. The kits are for hospital workers. They consist of skin lotion, tea, baby powder, chapstick, chewing gum, and moisturizer. Loki’s owner has used Facebook and Instagram to promote the kits.

Further, the owner has an Amazon wish list where items can be found to buy for the kits for the hospital workers. The social media has been successful, as there have been over 1,400 kits donated with 200 more in the works. Currently, the kits have been donated to four hospitals in the Baltimore area This idea has even spread beyond Baltimore.

Places in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other areas of Maryland have started to make the kits as well. Besides the kits, Loki has been able to act as a therapy dog for hospital workers.

Loki uses FaceTime to connect with hospital workers to provide virtual stress relief. Therapy dog Loki’s contributions have helped hospital workers as well as inspire communities to help out and take action.

A white Labrador Retriever therapy dog wearing a "Happy Tails" scarf on its neck is sitting.
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As seen through the three mentioned examples, interacting with therapy dogs can be life-changing. They can help anyone significantly improve their mental health.

Benefits like comfort, a decrease of anxiety, lifting spirit are plentiful in therapy dog patients. Further, they provide physical benefits too. Research has shown a reduction in blood pressure, lowering of physical pain, better cardiac health has been found in therapy dog patients.

There have been findings of improving recovery time and longer motivation to work more in patients when therapy dogs were present.

They also have a strong presence in literacy, as there is a program called PAWS for Reading. This program has therapy dogs present to help students read. Findings including improved literacy skills, better focus, and an increase in self-confidence have been tied to this program. 

 These mental and physical benefits of therapy dogs have been the perfect reason to provide their services to hospital workers during this time. Oftentimes, people might take advantage of all of the work that hospital workers do. It is very easy during a pandemic where everything is so uncertain and stressful to lose sight of how impactful essential workers are.

Hospital workers need to feel comfort and help just like they are giving out to so many people. Therapy dogs have been a great and positive outlet for hospital workers’ mental health. Even for a short amount of time, therapy dogs have provided relief and comfort to hospital workers.

Dogs really are man’s best friend. Their presence is a calming force that cannot be described. For this reason, therapy dogs are absolutely essential to help hospital workers right now. 

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4 Tips on Making the Most Out of Remote Learning

Katherine Feinstein

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A man watching a video conference with a black man with glasses in the middle, followed by many squares of people surrounding him.
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As the current COVID-19 pandemic persists, schools continue to grapple with how to approach the future. Many universities have opted to make classes and curriculum completely online, leaving students worried about the quality of their education. However, though this is an unprecedented situation for many of us, there are ways to optimize remote learning.

For many college students, having a busy schedule and in-person classes keeps them on track with their academics. Many students rely heavily on actively listening to lectures in person instead of half-paying attention to pre-recorded classes, while access to libraries and study spaces is also essential for productivity.

On the contrary, it can be extremely difficult to focus while in a student apartment or dorm. Having roommates, being surrounded by distractions, and even having the option to stay in pajamas and doze off, hinder students from getting work done from home.

With the recent universal implementation of either completely online curriculum or hybrid–half in person and half online–classes, students are scrambling to find ways to make sure they get the most out of this Fall semester.

These are some strategies you can use to stay on top of your work and get the most out of remote learning this semester:

Animation of a computer and iPad, school supplies, glasses, headphones, a book, a magnifying glass, and a coffee mug.
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1. Create an ‘in-person’ study and class schedule for yourself.

More often than not, watching a lecture in bed or in the middle of a busy apartment full of distractions isn’t very productive. If you’re worried about keeping up with work and motivating yourself to attend remote classes, create an alternative ‘in-person’ schedule for yourself.

In other words, ‘schedule’ certain classes to be at certain places. If you know you won’t pay attention in your Monday 10 am lecture from home, ‘schedule’ that class to be ‘taken’ from a specific library or quiet coffee shop. Be consistent with this.

Treat this plan as if you were required to go to class at that place and time every week. If you’re uncomfortable/unable to go to a public space such as a library or cafe, pick a quiet, clean spot that is not your bed or couch in your apartment or home.

Associate this spot with that specific class, and make sure you stay off of your phone and avoid any other distractions when you sit down to do the classwork or attend the online lecture.

2. Don’t do your work or attend online classes while in bed or in pajamas.

There’s one thing most college students love the most, and that’s their bed. Many students have trouble sustaining a consistent sleep schedule, yet use their bed as a sanctuary and place of relaxation. Mixing this safe and comfortable space with work or class will not help increase productivity or focus.

Even if you’re planning on staying in your apartment or home to take classes and don’t have alternative study spots available, try to change your clothes in the morning and get ready for the day. Avoid taking your classes in bed or on the couch, and schedule your day away from your bedroom as if you had a ‘normal,’ pre-COVID school day planned.

3. Set designated times for social media.

Be strict with yourself about how often you use your phone and when you are on social media. Just like in a classroom setting, keep your phone away from your designated study area or leave it home if you choose to go to an alternative location.

Similarly, if you’re attending remote lectures, try to stay off social media, Netflix, or other non-school-related websites during class. Treat your phone and social media during class and study time as you would in person!

4. Set up online study groups and group chats.

Know that everyone is going through this together: every single American student will have at least one course that is remote this Fall semester. Lean on your classmates, share study resources, and schedule extra online discussion groups to make sure you’re absorbing the material as you would in person.

If possible, you could also consider meeting up with classmates in person–distanced and following COVID social guidelines–once a week to take a class or complete assignments together. In today’s world, know that this is an unprecedented situation for everyone, and it’s okay to reach out for help! 

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How to Come Together to Cope With Grief and Loss During the COVID-19 Crisis

Katherine Feinstein

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Mural of a little girl letting go of a red heart-shaped balloon.

Our current society is riddled with triggers of grief and sadness, and many of us are feeling overwhelmed by the constant negativity and pain posted across social media and news outlets.

However, for many young people, these feelings of grief and loss are unprecedented. Many have found that leaning on our community and finding common ground through grief may be the most effective way to cope.

This year has proven to be the most difficult year ever for many Americans. Many of us have lost loved ones to COVID-19, the Black community has been fighting the culmination of centuries of racism and loss including the murders of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd, and the continuation of the COVID pandemic has stripped many Americans of social freedoms and the ability to work.

Additionally, young people are dealing with feelings of grief and loss that they have never been confronted with before. In the face of these unprecedented emotions, maintaining good mental health and finding ways to cope can seem almost impossible. 

The world around us is mourning their losses and finding ways to cope with persisting negativity and unrest. In finding peace with our grief from losing loved ones, and coping with emotions towards the ongoing obstacles in our current lives, it is important to establish these support systems and coping strategies.

Organize a socially distanced memorial to commemorate losses with others.

When we lose someone or are feeling a sense of loss about something that has happened, we must find a way to come together with others who are going through the same thing.

A socially distanced memorial may seem like a small act, but in the present moment, it can be meaningful. Even if you have not lost someone but are feeling grief about something else, you can still memorialize whatever it is you have lost.

For example, many may find solace in protesting, organizing support groups for Black Lives Matter(BLM) to discuss these emotions of grief, as well as painting murals to commemorate the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd. It may be painful, but memorializing loss can ultimately be healing, as well as strengthen the bond between the participants. 

Find ways to honor the person you’ve lost.

In addition to memorializing someone, celebrating the person you’ve lost can be extremely healing as well. Grief stems from a feeling of emptiness left by the loss of someone or something you care deeply for.

In order to fill this void and find comfort, it can be therapeutic to integrate the legacy of this person or thing into your life.

This type of coping strategy isn’t meant to remind you of your sadness, but is rather meant to help you remember them and your memories with them for years to come.

Another way to honor someone and celebrate their life may be to start a fundraiser in their honor, which has actually been a huge building block of the current momentum of BLM efforts.

You could also plan an outdoor, socially distanced dinner with members of your community where you share the favorite foods of the person you have lost and go around the table telling stories about happy memories made with that person.

Honoring a loss is all about remembering someone and celebrating the positivity they brought to your life. 

Remind yourself of a “silver lining.”

Although dealing with grief and loss can be extremely devastating and detrimental to your mental health, it is especially important to try to find positive things that you can take away from the situation.

Remind yourself of how lucky you are to have loved the person you have lost, as well as of all of the things that they taught you that you can take with you for the rest of your life.

The bonds that you form with other people who are also grieving the loss of that person will become stronger than ever, and you can find meaning in forming this new support system. Further, feeling grief and loss often pushes us to reach out to and hold close the people we love.

Though the current world is in a state of unrest and aggression, many have seen how negativity in our lives can bring people together and bring clarity to the things we care about the most. As we focus on that “silver lining,” we can begin to heal together. 

Crisis Support Hotline

Call: (775) 784-809

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Why Am I Going Crazy During Quarantine?

Eunice Park

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Most of us have long ago entered that stage of quarantine where we feel like we’ve lost our minds. Now, nothing better can happen than everything going back to normal, especially social gatherings and activities. But why exactly do we all feel like we are going crazy?

There is a pretty high chance that the cause of this so-called “craziness” of ours has more to do with deeper psychological reasons rather than boredom alone.

If you’ve ever thought, “Geez, why do I feel like I’m going crazy during quarantine?” You can be assured that there’s definitely some real science going on behind this sense of estranged madness.

Isolation goes against human nature.

First, a key lesson that any social psychology expert would most likely impart to you is that humans are social animals. That’s right—we literally feed off of social interaction to survive. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense.

We are inclined to pay attention to what other people are doing and feeling, which can have a direct effect on our own thoughts and actions. Oftentimes in what is known as the “Bystander Effect,” the very presence of other people can affect what we do because we are an interrelational species.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we are part of a daily cycle of codependency and interdependency. For that to suddenly be stripped away would leave the average person a bit disoriented. People affect people; social psychology proves that we do not, and cannot, live in isolation. This is especially evident in the well-known “bystander effect” theory.

Studies have shown that when somebody is alone, they tend to trust their instincts and react immediately, but as soon as there is another person, there is an obvious delay in their decision-making.

For example, if a man cries for help and you are the only one in sight, you would be more than likely to assist him. However, if there are two others with you, there would be notable hesitation. You and they depend on each other, and you are essentially trusting others’ instincts more than your own.

This just proves that being in isolation during quarantine and practicing social distancing are literally going against our human nature. Yes, boredom strikes, and loneliness strikes, but the next time you seriously begin to wonder, “Why am I going crazy?” just remember that by being alone, we are defying our genetic coding, and ultimately can’t help but feel subjugated.

Cutting out social interaction can also trigger a loss of reality, decreased sense of empathy, shorter life span, increased risk of dementia, and more, all just from being deprived of company.

Old habits have fallen apart.

Second, your routine has most likely been upended since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This triggers the human brain in more ways than we know. 

Another amazing function of the human body that we often forget about is our “fight or flight” response. When you regulate your daily actions, you deactivate your “fight or flight” instincts because you’re no longer confronting the unknown.

Simply put, this means that the human body puts its guard down once it feels safe to do so. Its fear instincts are temporarily shut off so that the person can fully enjoy what they are doing. This is where the beauty of routine kicks in.

Interestingly enough, because routine is seen as a safety belt, we allow fear and impulse to make decisions when it is taken away, versus our own conscience. If this is kept up for long enough, stress and uneasiness are irrefutably bound to follow.

Habits are powerful tools. As people used to say, old habits are hard to change. However, good habits are also just as hard to change. Habits, routines, and the ways in which we programmed ourselves to go about our daily chores are what likely kept you afloat until COVID-19. But now, you’ve been forced to uproot your own system and create a new and less desirable one.

The power of repetition and routine on both physiological and psychological responses is consequential. So, the next time you think that you’re going crazy during quarantine, take a step back, grab some paper and a pencil, and try rebranding yourself.

Health issues may arise with less physical activity.

Lastly, drastically reducing or eliminating physical activity can lead to muscle atrophy. This is essentially when muscles waste away from lack of use or activity, which in turn can greatly impact mental health, too.

Many of us are already tired and lazy, to begin with, but when we had obligations such as school, work, the gym, or going out with friends, it gave us more motivation to stay on our feet.

Quarantine has not only prevented all of these activities from taking place, but it has also locked us up in our rooms, and, well, it takes a lot of motivation to leave the safe confinements of a bedroom to go on a run outside. Why not snack on a bag of chips, right? 

Keep in mind that cardiac dysfunction would greatly affect your mental health. Patients afflicted with muscular dystrophy tend to display signs of cognitive impairment, severe depression, sadness, and anxiety.

However, it has been scientifically proven that anxiety or acute daily psychological stress can result in muscle atrophy. Now we’ve really put ourselves into a vicious and unhealthy cycle: the results of anxiety are also the causes of it.

Keeping your muscles intact during quarantine by working out or simply going on a morning stroll would be doing your future self a massive service. Next time somebody asks you during quarantine, “Why am I going crazy?” you might want to check up on their physical activity levels. Staying active is about more than just physical health or losing weight; it’s about preserving mental health as well.

Of course, how severe the effects of quarantine are, depends on one’s situation, personality, and history. Arguably, an extrovert may feel more suffocated from this social loss than an introvert who can thrive while curled up on the sofa with a book. Nonetheless, we are all human, and we are all social animals.

As lockdowns ease up, let’s continue to do ourselves favors, be mindful, and not Google “Why am I going crazy during quarantine?” anymore.

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