The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis that has impacted individuals on multiple levels. While the world is gradually making progress toward recovery, the aftermath of the pandemic has left many grappling with a new and unexpected challenge: post-pandemic anxiety. At Horse Therapy Centre of Canada we have found that no demographic has been left untouched by post-COVID anxiety. We have seen a significant increase in intakes since the pandemic and the majority are struggling with anxiety-related issues.
As we navigate the uncharted territory of helping those with post-COVID-19 pandemic anxiety, it’s important to explore holistic approaches to mental health and well-being, such as Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT). In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the concept of post-COVID-19 pandemic anxiety and explore how Equine Assisted Therapy can be a powerful and transformative tool for healing and recovery.
Understanding Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Managing anxiety is complex, but we add another laying of complexity when it comes to post-pandemic anxiety. This condition can manifest in various ways, impacting individuals differently:
Social Anxiety: After months of isolation and social distancing measures, some individuals may find it challenging to reintegrate into social activities and engage with others. This can result in heightened social anxiety, where the fear of judgment or rejection becomes overwhelming.
Health Fears: Despite the widespread availability of vaccines, lingering fears of contracting the virus persist for many. These fears can be especially pronounced in individuals with pre-existing health conditions or those who have experienced severe cases of COVID-19.
Uncertainty about the Future: The pandemic has disrupted life as we knew it, leading to uncertainty about employment, financial stability, and overall future prospects. This uncertainty can be a significant source of anxiety.
Grief and Loss: Many individuals have experienced personal loss during the pandemic, whether through the death of a loved one or the loss of a sense of normalcy and routine. Grief and mourning can contribute to post-pandemic anxiety.
Relationship Struggles: Many people found themselves forced to look at their most intimate relationships closely as they were locked up with, or without, their loved one(s). This put many relationships in jeopardy and further isolated many.
Generalized Anxiety: The constant stream of pandemic-related news, information, and changing guidelines has contributed to heightened generalized anxiety in some individuals. The feeling of being constantly on edge and overwhelmed is not uncommon.
Equine Assisted Therapy for Managing Anxiety
Equine Assisted Therapy, often referred to as “equine therapy” or “horse therapy,” is an experiential and holistic form of therapy that involves interacting with horses under the guidance of trained therapists. It’s essential to note that equine therapy is not about horseback riding; rather, it focuses on building emotional connections and partnerships with these majestic animals. The therapy can take various forms, including grooming, leading, ground exercises, and simply being in the presence of the horse.
How Equine Assisted Therapy Helps with Post-Pandemic Anxiety
Non-Judgmental Companionship: Horses are incredibly perceptive animals with a remarkable ability to sense and respond to human emotions and energy. What sets them apart is their unwavering acceptance and non-judgmental nature. This characteristic allows individuals to open up and express their feelings and fears without the fear of criticism or rejection, providing a safe and supportive environment for healing.
Mindfulness and Presence: Interacting with horses requires individuals to be fully present within the moment. This practice of mindfulness can help alleviate anxiety by redirecting focus away from intrusive thoughts about the past or future. As individuals groom, feed, or engage with the horse, they are encouraged to immerse themselves in the task at hand, fostering a sense of calm and presence.
Building Trust: Forming a bond with a horse involves trust-building, a process that mirrors the challenges individuals may face in their personal lives. This can be particularly therapeutic for those struggling with trust issues or experiencing heightened anxiety due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic.
Emotional Regulation: Horses respond to the emotions and energy of the people around them, making it evident when someone is anxious or emotionally charged. Through guided exercises, individuals can learn to recognize and regulate their emotions, finding ways to soothe themselves and manage anxiety in a controlled and supportive environment.
Social Reintegration: For individuals struggling with social anxiety after periods of isolation, equine therapy provides a gradual and structured pathway to reintegration. The presence of a therapist, coupled with the non-threatening nature of the horse, encourages individuals to interact with others in a controlled and supportive setting, fostering a sense of confidence and ease in social situations.
Coping Skills: Equine therapy sessions often incorporate the teaching of essential coping skills, including communication, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. These skills can be invaluable in helping individuals manage their post-pandemic anxiety and navigate the challenges that come with it.
Managing Anxiety in Everyday Life: Expanding the Reach of Equine Assisted Therapy
Beyond the therapeutic sessions themselves, Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT) has the potential to extend its positive impact far beyond the barn. With the help from the therapist, EAT can help clients integrate the lessons learned into their everyday lives:
Embracing Resilience: Interactions with horses often involve moments of frustration, setbacks, and successes. Through these experiences, clients can develop resilience, learning that setbacks are temporary and can be overcome with determination. Therapists work with clients to translate this resilience to real-world challenges, helping them face adversity with confidence.
Improved Communication: Effective communication is a fundamental skill in life and relationships. EAT encourages clients to develop clear and assertive communication with their equine partners, which can be directly applied to better communication with family, friends, and colleagues.
Emotional Regulation in Daily Life: One of the key benefits of EAT is emotional regulation. Clients learn to manage their emotions during sessions with horses, and therapists guide them in using these techniques when facing stressful situations or triggering events in their daily lives.
Enhanced Self-Awareness: Interacting with horses fosters self-awareness as clients become attuned to their own emotions, body language, and behaviors. This heightened self-awareness can help individuals recognize and address negative patterns or triggers in their lives.
Strengthening Relationships: The skills developed in EAT can lead to healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Clients often report improved interpersonal dynamics, as they apply the principles of trust, empathy, and effective communication that they’ve learned from working with horses to their interactions with others.
The post-COVID-19 pandemic world presents unique mental health challenges, with anxiety being a common and understandable concern for many. Equine Assisted Therapy offers a compelling avenue for healing and recovery, providing a safe and supportive environment for individuals to confront their anxieties, build resilience, and find solace in the company of these gentle and empathetic animals.
Incorporating these practical aspects of EAT into everyday life not only reinforces the therapeutic benefits but also empowers individuals to navigate the challenges posed by post-pandemic anxiety with greater confidence and resilience. The lessons learned in the barn become tools for personal growth and transformation, facilitating a smoother journey toward emotional healing and well-being in the post-pandemic world.
As we continue to navigate these uncertain times, it’s essential to explore a variety of therapeutic approaches that address the holistic well-being of individuals. Equine Assisted Therapy has shown promise in helping individuals overcome post-pandemic anxiety, fostering emotional healing, and promoting mental well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with post-pandemic anxiety, consider reaching out to a certified EAT therapist and take the first step toward healing with hooves. It’s a journey worth embarking upon, one that can lead to profound and transformative changes in your mental and emotional well-being.