Nurses spend the majority of their working days around people.
And there’s always So. Much. Talking.
But while some may benefit from total alone time as a way to recharge, others might want a little companionship of a different variety.
Thankfully we have furry friends who can fit the bill. Research has shown that spending time with animals can help decrease pain, alleviate anxiety and help with depressive symptoms.
This article reviewed the literature behind what exactly about animals relaxes us. They found that time spent with therapy dogs resulted in lower levels of stress hormones, both for the duration of the actual visit and for a period of time afterward.
And if you’re a stressed healthcare worker, as little as five minutes with a therapy dog can yield similar results to that of 20 minutes of rest.
But dogs aren’t the only way to get some quality furball time. Cats can provide wonderful benefits as well. And horses have long been used as a therapeutic tool for people with emotional and physical difficulties. The Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Equine Assisted Learning Association (EAGALA) has even offered a free program to the families of Newton, Conn., who are suffering from PTSD related to the tragic school shooting that occurred last December.
So make spending time with an animal a little springtime resolution for yourself.
Ways to Get Your Dose of Animal-Induced Stress Relief
- Get a pet: There are so many dogs (and kitties!) out there that need good homes. If you’re able to commit to caring for one, why not adopt? You can get your daily dose of animal time whenever you need it.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter: Maybe walking a dog or cleaning a litter box isn’t your thing. Most animal shelters rely on the help of do-gooders to keep things running. Or do what one of my girlfriends used to do in college — go to a shelter and just spend some time with the animals there. She practically lived in the “kitty room.” You get the benefit of reduced stress, and they get some love and affection.
- Find a horseback riding school: It’s never too late to learn a new skill. Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a horse but never tried it. Horseback riding can be a fantastic extracurricular activity (albeit a little pricy) that could become the highlight of your week.
- Live near a local farm? Inquire about how you can help: Many local farms could use an extra hand. Not only will you get a great workout, but you can spend quality time with fluffy sheep or baby calves and enjoy some fresh air, all at the same time!