Anxiety is one of the most common mental health concerns facing people of all ages. There are lots of reasons why someone may be struggling with anxiety or heightened stress, be it due to past experiences or current life situations. When it comes to managing your anxiety, it’s important to find a method that works for you. Often, people find a combination of strategies can be most helpful. One thing you might not have considered is the role your pet could have to play in supporting your mental health – especially when it comes to anxiety.

These furry, scaly, feathery or otherwise creatures can encourage us to form more healthy habits that help to boost our happiness and support mental wellbeing. In this post, we explore three ways in which your pet may have the power to help reduce feelings of anxiety. 

Routine

When life starts to feel a little out of control, a great way to manage stress and anxiety is to stick to a routine. Often without even realizing it, having a pet naturally encourages us to form healthy habits in our everyday routines. Whether they drag us out of bed to fill up their food bowl or encourage us to get our steps in with a daily walk, pets of all different descriptions have the ability to shape our schedules and help certain aspects of our lives to feel slightly less overwhelming. 

It’s common for people who are lonely or isolated also to experience feelings of anxiety, and another benefit of having a pet is they could expose you to more social situations you otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance to experience. Whether you try a new activity like doga or just join in with training classes, you might find that spending more time in social settings with your pet can boost your self-esteem and help to reduce any feelings of anxiety. 

Mindfulness 

Mindfulness techniques can be incredibly helpful for anyone struggling with anxiety, regardless of its severity. There’s a common misconception that the term ‘mindfulness’ refers exclusively to the act of meditation and controlled breathing. But we can practice this skill in a number of different ways – one of which is with the help of our pets

Doing anything ‘mindfully’ is all about concentrating on just one thing, to help manage any negative thoughts or feelings during that time.

There are lots of activities you can do with a pet that can help you to hone this skill and stay focused on the present moment. From walking the dog to stroking your cat, try to factor in some mindful activities when spending time with your furry friends, and you’ll soon be able to feel even greater benefits from being in their presence.

Emotional support 

We’re always told that speaking about how we’re feeling can help us to better manage and understand our emotions – but this is often easier said than done. When speaking to another human, there may be a fear of being judged, or you might simply find it difficult to articulate your thoughts and feelings. 

Though they won’t be able to give you any advice, you may find it helpful to tell your pet about the things you’re finding hard at the moment. Often, whether we write it down or speak it out loud, getting our thoughts out of our heads can help us to see them in a different way – it doesn’t necessarily matter who (if anyone) hears them. Once you speak your worries out loud, you might realize they’re less significant than you first thought when they were stuck inside.

Is a pet right for you?

Bringing a pet into your home could have long-lasting benefits for your mental health and general well-being. However, it’s important to remember that homing a pet is a big responsibility, and neither you nor your animal friend will benefit from one another if your living situation isn’t conducive to owning a pet. Make sure you carefully consider whether or not you’re able to look after an animal, and if you are, think about which type would suit your lifestyle best. Finding the perfect match for you will allow you to savor the endless joy a pet can provide. 

by Andrew S on Unsplash

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