All of us face stress at some point in our lives. Whether this stems from juggling family life whilst working, keeping track of our finances or even digital burnout from the constant stream of notifications and emails we receive—it can all take its toll.
Chronic stress can cause a range of physical and mental health symptoms if it's not dealt with properly, as Mayo Clinic explains: "Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behaviour." They added: "Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes."
Whilst reducing stress might include things such as eating the right foods, going to the gym or taking a break every once in a while, owning a pet can also be hugely beneficial in reducing stress. Here are just some of the ways in which pets can reduce stress.
Pets can help lower your blood pressure
Spending time with animals can have a very calming influence on humans. For starters, they make you drop your problems to focus on them. This is especially the case with dogs who will place a ball at your feet to play fetch, or point you in the direction of their lead to go for a walk, getting you out into the fresh air.
Blood pressure rises with stress, and stroking dogs in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, and can even boost heart health. In a study called "Cardiovascular effects of human-pet dog interactions" conducted by The University of South Carolina, it was found that "talking to and petting a dog are accompanied by lower blood pressure (BP) in the person than human conversation." In addition, it was concluded that "subjects BP levels were lowest during dog petting", compared with just speaking to the dog or another human.
Pets help with your social life
Humans need positive social interactions to ward off anxiety and depression. When we spend time with others, it helps boost our endorphins, and this is exactly what pets can encourage too.
For example, if you walk your dog in a public area, this will open up conversations with passers-by who admire your dog, as well as other dog owners. There are countless stories of lifelong friendships and even relationships which have blossomed because of a chance meeting whilst walking their dog.
Even if you own another animal such as a cat or even something more exotic—pets can be excellent ice breakers and conversation starters. They can really help owners come out of their shell and socialise more with other people too.
Plus, pet owners also get the chance to socialise at local meet-ups in the park, as well as competitions and events such as Crufts.
Pets help you remember to take a break
Stress can build up quickly if we are run off our feet. Before you know it, you've been rushing around all day and haven't stopped for a break. Over time, this pattern of behaviour can leave us not only stressed out but exhausted too.
Pets help you slow down and relax, therefore helping to eliminate stress. Some pets—particularly cats and dogs—can even sense stress in their owners and will sit with them until it passes. Whether you spend time looking after or playing with your pet, they are very in tune with their owners.
Taking care of your pet will shift the focus onto something else, and if you are able to interact with your pet in an outdoor setting, this will immediately help bring about a sense of calm. After all, who wouldn't feel relaxed after a long walk through nature with a furry friend just wanting to play?
Making sure pet ownership isn't stressful
Pets bring about the complete opposite of our stressful, hectic everyday lives. Therefore, owning a pet is a great way to beat stress and help us remember to take it easy every now and then. However, owning a pet can be costly so be sure you can afford one before you dive in.
Also, make sure that you invest in a good pet insurance policy to help with vet bills in the event your pet falls ill or is injured, or else owning a pet can actually be a significant source of financial stress. Expect an accident and illness pet insurance policy to cost from around £300 per year depending on the type of policy, and the age and breed of your pet.