Many people know how comforting animals can be, but many of those same people often find themselves too busy to stop and take advantage of the stress relief animals can so generously and freely provide. This is especially important in the wake of tragedies such as the terrorist attacks in Belgium today. This type of news is devastating to most and can greatly add to the stress and depression many already experience in day to day life.
Pets have been clinically proven to help reduce stress and combat depression, and letting them work their magic can go a long way in staying healthy. The following are a few ideas for helping you (and your pet) enjoy each other as a way to better health.
- Stop and connect with your pet regularly. If you have a cat, for example, let her sit on your lap and purr. If you have a dog, sit in the backyard and play fetch. Take the time to ride your horse. Even if you simply have fish, relax and watch them. You get the idea. Just be with your pet and unwind.
- Care for your pet consistently. Clean on a schedule; feed on a schedule. Take pride in your care and/or enlist a child to (but make certain it is done because ultimately it is up to you). A pet that is not properly cared for can add stress.
- Train your pet (if needed). If your pet is stressing you more than relaxing you, you need to make a change.
- Share your joy. Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends, family, and other pet owners. (Animal selfies can be very rewarding.)
- Join a group. Facebook groups are a fun way to find others with similar interests and learn about/help others with similar pets.
- Go outside (if possible)! Many pets enjoy safe outdoor time. Walking your dog can not only relieve stress, but give you much needed exercise after a long day at work. Other animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs may enjoy lawn time in a pen. Chickens generally appreciate free range time and will usually dash back into their coop at clapping or sundown. Some “inside” cat owners build outside enclosures.
- Talk to your pet. Sometimes just saying things out loud can help you sort through your feelings. Don’t worry; your secrets are safe!
- Do something special for your pet. Buy a treat, make a toy, set a date. Caring for others is a way to get outside of yourself and forget your worries and focus on your pet instead.
- Set up a playdate or activity (if appropriate). This works especially well for dogs, but can also apply to rabbits, goats, and even guinea pigs. Some animals enjoy the company of other animals, and it is a way for you to socialize too!
- And lastly, remember to pick pets wisely. Keep in mind that pets should be enjoyable, not just more work. Consider carefully before giving into kids’ requests. Make sure your pet is compatible with your lifestyle and budget. Overextending yourself and feeling guilty doesn’t reduce stress.
No matter your choice of pet, don’t forget she is depending on you, and it is okay for you to depend on her too.