Fight off stress with pets

Ondrea Machin, Columnist

There are many benefits to owning a pet. People who own pets are less likely to suffer from depression, playing with a dog or cat can boost serotonin and dopamine levels and even lower blood pressure, according to HelpGuide. And with everything going on in the world, how can one not be stressed, anxious, or depressed? I have been overwhelmed with school, work and moving but I have found myself finding comfort and relief from my pets.

I have a 3-year-old Alaskan Malamute named Meeko, who is quite the talker, and my sister’s cat Moo gives the best cuddles. Both pets provide me with different ways to reduce my stress. 

Meeko reminds me to take breaks from homework by signaling that he wants outside or wants to play, and taking those breaks allows me to refresh my mind and take a second look at my homework that is causing me to stress out.

Moo helps reduce my stress when I pet him or when he sits next to me while I am in class or doing homework. I find that petting Moo, or any animal for that matter, boosts my serotonin and gives me comfort. Also, my pets can sense when I am not feeling 100% and they try to lift my spirits.

A 2020 article published by HelpGuide said studies have shown that pets pick up on human behavior and emotions. For example, dogs understand many of the words we use, as well as our tone of voice, body language and gestures. By doing this, they can gauge what we are feeling and provide us with coziness. However, cats and dogs are not the only companions that benefit our health, even watching fish swim around can help reduce muscle tension.

As I mentioned before, stroking an animal lowers my stress and anxiety levels and this is because I feel the most love through physical touch. Pets also reduce feelings of loneliness, which can cause depression, and caring for an animal makes me feel wanted and causes me to focus on other things instead of dwelling on my problems.

Now, I know I get anxious from time to time and it can be challenging to overcome those thoughts, but our pets don’t have a care in the world of what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. They live their lives in the present moment and that helps me do the same because they offer comfort when anxious people decide they want to interact with the world.

HelpGuide also said that pets are great at keeping us on a daily routine and having a routine not only keeps our pets balanced and relaxed, but also provides owners with a routine that will keep them calm and balanced as well.

I have talked a lot about dogs and cats, but I know for some people owning a dog or cat isn’t really an option, due to either being allergic or not enough space. Thankfully, there are many other pets that provide many of the same health benefits that dogs and cats do.

A more exotic pet could be snakes and lizards, these reptiles may not be like other pets, but they are good for people with allergies to furry friends. Rabbits are also good for people who are allergic to dogs and cats. Rabbits are low maintenance and don’t require a lot of space, and they help reduce stress like dogs and cats according to HelpGuide.

So whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit, reptile, or fish, any and all types of pets support mental health. And I know times are hard right now but having a pet can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as support physical health which in-turn supports mental health.