“When I’m Stressed Or Anxious My Dog Helps Me Calm Down”

Sometimes all you need is a warm, furry cuddle.

This post is sponsored by Hills |

When I was nine years old I had a massive row with my parents. I don’t remember what it was about. What I do remember is sitting on the floor of the passage, crying and feeling very alone. Our family dog, a staffy, found me in the passage. She lay down on the floor, put her head on my knee and pressed her warm, furry body up against me. I wasn’t alone anymore. And everything was going to be okay.

My dog thinks we’re on holiday

Thirty years later, my husband and I are proud dog parents to two boisterous rescues of our own. Their simple outlook on life has helped me stay calm and even upbeat during 35 days of isolation. And thank goodness for that! A recent poll in the U.S. revealed that 45% of adults in that country felt the current health crisis has affected their mental health, and 19% said it has had a ‘major impact.’ John Hopkins University in the U.S. also published a detailed article about protecting mental health during this time. “While we don’t have specific SA statistics, we’d imagine that the picture is not much different here,” says Carla Bath, Hill’s Pet Nutrition marketing manager.

But while humans teeter on the edge of full-on freaking out, my dogs have never been happier. Instead of sadly watching me leave for work every morning, they curl up by feet under my desk. The hour I would usually spend in traffic getting home has become the hour that we chase a ball around the yard or play tug with a rope. And evening dinners at restaurants with friends are now evenings on the couch between two content, furry children. When I see how happy my dogs are, it’s much easier to stay positive.

6 Lessons you can learn from your furry BFFs during lockdown

The unconditional love, enthusiasm and plain gratitude that your pet expresses daily are lessons for all of us, especially during this time. Bath recommends that when you feel overwhelmed, often the best thing you can do is step away from the situation for a little bit, so that you can see things more clearly. She also recommends focusing on simple pleasures, like your dog or cat would, to remind you of what’s really important.

1/ Cuddling makes everything better

When your pet feels sad or vulnerable, it will come to you for cuddles. And they’d love nothing more than for you to do the same. Take a blanket and curl up in your favourite spot with your dog, cat, or whichever creature you share your home with. Put your phone down, tune out all the news and noise and get lost in a book, listening to music and enjoying the love and cuddles from your fur baby.

2/ There’s nothing more important than being together

It’s easy to make your pet happy: what it wants more than anything else, is to be with you. Gather your family, including your pets, around the kitchen table. Serve some hot chocolate for the humans (you can find some nice pet treat recipes here) and let everyone contribute as you make a list of the things you have to be grateful for at this time. While we may not be able to go out and socialise, what are some of the positive things? Spending time together should certainly top the list.

3/ Live in the moment

Your pet doesn’t dwell on the past or agonise about the future. And while some forward-thinking is healthy, it can be extremely therapeutic to practise mindfulness. Journalling is a great outlet for our emotions and can provide a memory log of how you and your loved ones got through this time. You are living through history, record it!

4/ You’re never too old to play

Even an old animal enjoys playing and so should you. Take this time to tackle some of those fun tasks that you’ve been putting off because there was “more important” stuff to do: like gardening, hanging family photographs or painting. These seemingly mundane tasks will help you switch off and think creatively instead of dwelling on negative thoughts.

5/ Stick with your pack

Like dogs, humans are social animals. Remember you can still see your family and friends, virtually. UNICEF recommends finding new ways to connect with friends via social media. Get creative: for pre-teens and teenagers join in a Tik-Tok challenge like #safehands. For adults, why not host your monthly book club over Zoom?

6/ Find a new routine

Having a routine can be a source of comfort at a time when so much is outside of your control. Just like my dog paws me every morning at breakfast time and runs to her bowl every evening at supper time, you can also establish new routines in your home. You may not be able to leave your house and exercise, but why not set aside the first half an hour of your day, before you get behind your computer, to meditate, do yoga or stretch in the sunshine? Zoomies optional!

Be gentle on yourself and care for your pet! Now, you can make sure your pet’s nutritional needs are taken care of from the comfort of your own home. Have their Hill’s Science Plan food delivered straight to your door.

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