Friday, November 2, 2007

Pets as Anxiety Repellant

One woman I know had an elaborate ritual for leaving her house. Anxiety dictated the specific steps involved in this ritual in order for her to leave and return to her house safely. The woman owns a dog, with whom she takes daily walks. She and her dog enjoy their walks together immensely. But after some time of performing her house-leaving ritual, anxiety began prescribing more and more elaborate steps to the ritual--so much so, that it began cutting into time walking with her dog. She realized that anxiety was robbing her and her dog of their most enjoyable time of day together. With this knowledge, she has renewed her efforts to limit anxiety's influence on her life.

I relay this story because it illustrates how pets can help us become aware of how anxiety affects daily living and give us a "baseline" for measuring gains in eradicating anxiety's influence. Here are some questions to consider about the anxiety-repelling qualities of pets: Do you hear anxiety's "chatter" more when you are with or without your pet? How might anxiety be useful to a pet in the wild? How is it unhelpful to pets in a household? Do you know of any pets who had experienced great anxiety due to trauma and were able to overcome this anxiety? What environmental factors helped the pet overcome anxiety and trauma? Are these same environmental factors present or absent in your own life?

Pets can console, teach, energize, and calm us. They are valued companions in both difficult and uncomplicated times. In lives increasingly bothered by anxiety we would do well to take stock of how pets can buffer our lives from its unhelpful messages.

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