Animals & Your Anxiety
I would like to announce I am a happy dog parent to a special 10-year-old french bull dog named Cooper. His human mom passed away not too long ago, and the family was in desperate need of finding a new permanent home for him. French bull dogs has a life expectancy of anywhere between 9-12 years. My husband and I knew this going into the adoption, and ultimately, we felt like the adoption would be for giving Cooper a good life during his time left. He’s quite active, and honestly, you’d have no idea he was older than 8!
Okay, that was a little off track #DogParentProblems. In this blog I wanted to address anxiety and how pets can help alleviate certain anxious feelings. I can say from experience that having an animal around me when I’m anxious helps me to calm down much faster than not having an animal around at all.
According to an article from The National Center for Health Research, “findings suggest that the social support a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and decrease stress. Children’s exposure to companion animals may also ease anxiety. For example, one study measured blood pressure, heart rate, and behavioral distress in healthy children aged 3 to 6 at two different doctor visits for routine physicals. At one visit, a dog (unrelated to the child) was present in the room and at the other visit the dog was absent. When the dog was present, children had lower blood pressure measures, lower heart rates, and less behavioral distress.“
My anxiety tends to flare up most at night when my mind starts wandering, and I start worrying about 100 things at once. Being reminded that Cooper is downstairs protecting me and knowing that he would start barking if something is wrong, actually makes me relax. It puts me at ease to know he’s protecting our house, and my worries start to lessen. My mom always says, “give your troubles to God, he’s up all night anyway.” More or less, I kind of apply that to Cooper. Hopefully Cooper is not awake all night! But my point is that my worries (of robbers, and fires, and anything and everything that could happen in my house while I’m sleeping) would be addressed by loud barking from my best friend Cooper.
Before we had Cooper, I noticed my anxiety would subside at night if I was sleeping at my parents’ house. At first I thought maybe the nostalgia of being in my home eased my anxiety, and it probably did. But more than that, my parents have a cat. Although I don’t necessarily feel like a cat can protect me at night, I did spend time with the cat during the day, and noticed that my anxiety was a lot lower during the day, and that led to less anxiety at night.
More than just anxiety, studies have found that animals and pets can help a lot of people experiencing a bunch of different situations. “Positive findings of interacting with a therapy dog include reduced levels of pain and anxiety among hospitalized children and adults, as well as increased focus and interaction among children with autism and other developmental disorders. In nursing home settings, interaction with visiting dogs has led to more social behaviors, more interaction among residents, and less loneliness.”
In college, during finals week, a local organization would bring therapy dogs to hang out because of all the stress we experienced studying at the end of the semester. It’s small things like this that can really make a difference. So if you’re not feeling yourself, visit your neighbor with that giant, drooling St. Bernard. You won’t be disappointed!