Modern life can be a whirlwind of responsibilities and changes, resulting in stress that, although sometimes helpful, can often tip the scale towards overwhelming. Knowing how to manage stress is critical because, along with the mental health issues it can trigger, it can also escalate into physical symptoms, including headaches, sleep issues, and gastrointestinal problems.

Chronic stress can feel like we’re stuck in an unending cycle of worry, affecting our well-being and our capacity to handle life’s ups and downs.

Believe it or not, animals can be our allies in combating this stress. The concept of animal-assisted therapy has been gaining ground for a good reason. Whether it’s a pet, a farm animal, or wildlife, engaging with animals can induce a deep sense of peace and contentment, providing us with the tranquility we need to keep our stress and anxiety at bay. It’s a simple yet potent idea that reminds us that sometimes, the best therapy has four legs and a heartbeat.

Understanding the effects of stress

Stress is a natural reaction to life’s demanding situations, a physiological response that keeps us alert and ready to face challenges. However, persistent stress can be harmful, affecting our bodies and minds, often manifesting as irritability, nervousness, or feeling overwhelmed. Many life scenarios can trigger stress, be it significant events like a job loss or the minor everyday hurdles we meet. Individual factors like health, nutritional status, and emotional management skills also affect how we handle stress.

Managing stress is paramount for our well-being, and healthy coping strategies are essential. Regular physical activity, practicing mindfulness, maintaining social connections, and pursuing hobbies are all beneficial. Spending time with animals is a simple yet powerful stress-relief tool.

Warning signs of stress

It’s important to know the signs of stress and pay attention to triggers to identify when to take a step back and relax. Some of the common red flags include:

  • Feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Having trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Lacking energy and constantly feeling tired
  • Experiencing changes in sleeping patterns, either insomnia or oversleeping
  • Experiencing changes in appetite, either overeating or not eating at all
  • Feeling restless and unable to calm down
  • Having physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach issues, or chest pain
  • Experiencing a heightened frequency of colds or infections due to a weakened immune system
  • Indulging in negative coping mechanisms such as excessive drinking or smoking.

If any of these sound familiar or you have been experiencing any of these signs for long periods, it may be time to seek help from a mental or behavioral health specialist. Consulting with a therapist can provide insight into the underlying causes of stress and offer solutions to better manage your emotions and reactions to stressful events.

How Animals Can Help Manage Stress

Turning to animals as a form of therapy is nothing new; humans have been interacting with animals since the dawn of time. But how can these furry, feathered, or scaly friends help us deal with stress and anxiety? The companionship of animals offers a multitude of emotional and physical health benefits. Their simple presence in our lives can provide a powerful form of stress relief, contributing significantly to our mental and physical well-being. Here are just a few of the ways that animals can aid in reducing stress:

Emotional support

Animals, particularly dogs, can offer emotional support, enriching the therapy process. They can sense emotions and respond with unconditional love, which assists in creating a safe and supportive environment.

They’re non-judgmental and accept us for who we are, which can help boost our self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

Improved communication skills

Animals can serve as a non-threatening medium for those with communication difficulties to facilitate conversation and interaction.

Increased motivation

The presence of animals can motivate people to participate more fully in their therapy sessions, encouraging active engagement.

Improved physical health

Engaging with animals often involves physical activity, such as petting, walking, or grooming them, which helps improve motor skills, balance, and coordination.

Many pets, particularly dogs, encourage physical activity.

Regular walks or playtime can lead to increased exercise, which is an effective stress reliever and contributes to overall physical health. Exercise promotes the production of endorphins, our body’s natural ‘feel-good’ hormones, which can enhance our mood and energy levels.

Boosted self-esteem

The sense of achievement and responsibility that comes from caring for an animal can significantly enhance self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. Having a pet also creates a routine, providing a sense of purpose and accomplishment that can positively impact our mental well-being.

Feeding them, caring for their grooming needs, or simply playing with them can instill a sense of structure and responsibility in our daily lives. This often results in a shift of focus from self to others, promoting an outward perspective that can help alleviate negative thoughts and feelings.

Reduced feelings of isolation

The companionship of animals can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, fostering a sense of connection and belonging.

How to incorporate animals into your routine

There are numerous ways to find comfort in animals, even if pet ownership isn’t currently possible for you. Visiting local shelters and farms or participating in animal-assisted therapy programs are valuable opportunities to enjoy the animal company and reap the therapeutic benefits they offer. Nature also offers us a wonderful, stress-relieving retreat. Simple activities like bird watching in a park, observing squirrels play, or even watching fish swim in an aquarium encourage mindfulness. These moments of presence help you to slow down, appreciate the natural world, and significantly reduce stress levels.

While interaction with animals can be a powerful stress reliever, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a substitute for professional mental health support. Animals provide a comforting and calming influence that helps manage daily stress, but if you’re dealing with severe mental health conditions, please consider finding a therapist near you.

At Serene Health, we understand the importance of proper mental health support and believe everyone deserves access to quality, compassionate care and behavioral health and mental health services. That’s why we offer a variety of services – from telehealth appointments to Personalized repetitive transcranial stimulation (PrTMS)- designed to help you maintain your mental health and well-being. So take comfort in animals whenever you can, but don’t forget to reach out when you need a helping hand. Our experienced and compassionate team is here for you. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit to schedule an appointment.