Tag Archives: depression

21 ways pets help you beat the holiday blues

Holidays got you down?

Traditions can be a source of joy, but not for everyone all the time. It’s painful to feel sad when everyone else seems to be so happy. Maybe you lost a loved one or ended a relationship this year. Trimming the tree or lighting candles alone reminds you that life is forever changed.

Perhaps your family saves their nastiest barbs for what’s supposed to be a time of love and good will. Possibly Auld Lang Syne makes you tearful instead of giddy. You don’t have to be clinically depressed to feel out of step with the calendar’s forced cheer.

Whatever saps your spirit, pets can help. Here’s how:


  1. Get you to exercise.

Physical activity is a proven mood lifter. Walk the dogs or drag a cat toy around for her majesty. Walking dogs DSCN6249Taking care of yourself includes the body your feelings live in.

  1. Be your boon companion.

When your friends and family let you down, your four-legged family members keep you company without the drama. They’re happy to join your adventures or cuddle up while you watch trashy movies. If the house is too quiet, a chatty parrot or purring cat gives you someone to talk to. And you’ll get all the best lines.

3. Shift your focus to someone else.

Do fun, active things with your pets or for your neighbor’s pet. It will take your mind off your own problems, and move it to something with more potential.

  1. Offer you friendly physical contact.

People need hugs. Touch strengthens the immune system, and pets provide an opportunity to reap those benefits.  A caress, a nuzzle, and you’ll remember that someone loves you.

  1. Take a nap with you

Losing sleep can make you grumpy and feeds depression. Treating sleep problems so you get enough sleep will improve your state of mind. If you are one of those people who sleeps better with a warm body next to you, curl up with your pet.

  1. Spark your creative juices.

Making art, crafting, and writing satisfy your soul.  They help you feel productive instead of paralyzed.

Sketch the animals around you. Write your faraway mom a short note about how much your guinea pig loves his new toy. Bake dog treats. Crochet a cat toy. Create, and you’ll come out of the holidays with something to show for it.

  1. Get you to learn something.

It’s more fun to study something you love. Take a pet first aid course. Use your free time to prepare your dog for agility events. What you learn can keep your pet healthy and give you a new hobby, friends included.

  1. Inspire a visit to lonely animal lovers

Many people who love animals can’t have one of their own. Why not bring yours for a visit? Or invite them over to see your tropical fish? If your pet is sociable, consider training as an animal assisted therapy team.

  1. Invite you outdoors

The evidence is strong: Nature is good for us. Let your dog get you out of the house and into the great outdoors. Join a birdwatching group. Take a trail ride through the forest or down the beach. Research suggests that the more experiences you have, the happier you will be.

10. Provide an excuse to leave unpleasant events.

Trapped at a loud holiday party with people you hardly know? Family Feud starting at Uncle Harry’s annual get-together? Announce that your dog has to be walked every three hours and your cat gets cranky without her kibble. Excuse yourself and leave.

11. Lick your tears away

Going through a rough patch? Find that no one wants to hear how hard the holidays are for you? Your pet will not only listen but lick away your tears.

12. Get you into the here-and-now

When we are in the grip of sadness or fear, we grieve old injuries or worry about things that may never happen. Cats and dogs live right now. Like the best meditation teachers, pets remind us to stay in the present moment.

13.. Distract you.

Watching animals do their thing takes your mind off whatever ails you. In fact, animals make such good distractors, that people who hang out with pets after surgery need less pain medication. Let it work for you.

14.  Be your dance partner.

If your pet is willing to be picked up, put on your favorite music and waltz. Kitty not a fan of leaving the floor? Dance around your living room with moves inspired by different birds. Or if your dog loves to gambol, sign up for lessons in canine freestyle (dance steps with your dog!).  Blue ribbons and Internet fame, here you come.

15. Prompt you to try something new.

The old traditions may feel wrong this year. Make some new ones.  Pop Fido in the car and drive somewhere you’ve never been before.  Add your own additions to the potato latkes, cut your homemade dog treats with a candle-shaped cutter, and introduce your neighbors to Hanukkah. Head outside Rover and howl at the full moon.

16. Persuade you to talk to fellow pet lovers, even ones you don’t know.

Pets are great ice breakers. Animal lovers are friendly group, eager to talk about their furred, finned, or scaly family members. Say hi at the dog park. See if your pet supply store has special events. Start an animal-oriented book club.

17. Respond to a pet blog.

The web is full of sites, photos, and blogs about pets. Your fellow animal lovers are sharing hearts and experience for your enjoyment. They’d love to hear what you think. Take a moment to repin a photo or comment on an article. Like this one.

18.  Excite you to throw a pet-friendly party

How much fun would you have at a party where your pet was welcome? Right. Why not organize one yourself? Mulled cider and Scotty-shaped cookies. Or ice skating at the park. Your friends will thank you for it.

19. Inspire you to volunteer at shelter

You know how good you feel when you do something for someone else? Think how much your local animal rescue group could use an extra pair of hands. Or your fundraising efforts. Or your word smithing for their newsletter. Even a small act of kindness lifts your spirit and may help you live longer.

20. Excuse you from Facebook and other places where people seem happier than they really are.

Most people put the best version of themselves on display. For lots of reasons you don’t want the world to know you’ve been laid off or spent half your vacation in your room with traveler’s tummy. If seeing your friends’ happy updates makes you jealous or feel like a failure, pets are your way out. And truthfully, wouldn’t you rather make new memories with them than cozy up to a computer?

21. Make you laugh

Let’s face it. Animals are hilarious. They vault into the air for the ball you threw. They use the sounds you taught them to wolf whistle at the dog. They stalk across your floor to pounce on imaginary prey. They make you laugh. And laughter is the best antidote to holiday blues.

Tell us what you think of these tips. Which ones will you try? What’s your favorite way to beat the blues?

Susan P. Cohen, DSW





Self-Care for People Who Do It All

Chronic stress and a perfectionist streak can destroy you. Over the long haul you can quit caring–Burn Out–or care so unrelentingly you bleed out emotionally–Compassion Fatigue (CF). With CF you can’t stop yourself from getting involved the problems of others, so to recharge, you overindulge in things that aren’t necessarily good for you, from sugar to shopping. When that doesn’t do the job, you try to keep your energy from leaking away by isolating yourself, not only from friends but from your own body. (For more information on CF, see my blog post, (You feel sooo exhausted. Do you have Compassion Fatigue?

Not only does Compassion Fatigue take a toll on your personal life, it can eviscerate your practice. People with CF feel no one can do as good a job as they do. They work long hours, snipe at others for not working enough, and prevent coworkers from developing new skills and ideas by insisting that their way is the best, and therefore only, way.The things you do to care for patients and their families that should build your practice wind up hurting it.

The good news is, even smart, Type A chocoholics can prevent or treat Compassion Fatigue with these six techniques.

Blog_2_pic1. Move around a little, preferably outdoors.

Research confirms that even mild exercise is good for your mood as well as well as your health. Regular exercise lessens the worry and the blues that come with setting impossible standards for yourself.Here’s what WebMD says: https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depressionBeing outside in nature for twenty minutes a day makes you feel more alive and energetic. What’s more, outdoors you get a dose of Vitamin D, which fights depression and enhances thinking. Check out this  study on nature and mood. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100603172219.htm Instead of another double espresso, take a walk around the block. Declare a five-minute dance party.

2. Make sure you sleep seven to eight hours a night.

Americans are sleep deprived. We need it to give our bodies break and to clear the cobwebs from our brains. If you handle your work stress by cruising the internet till the wee hours of the morning, you risk poor thinking, slow reaction time, and trouble learning.


3. Eat healthy food and take time to enjoy it.

You know those doughnuts aren’t good for you, but when you focus everywhere but on yourself, you may take the shortcut to energy and grab a hunk of fried dough smothered in chocolate to give you a boost. The sad part is, you probably won’t even enjoy it. The next time you get hungry, pick something with protein and fiber to sustain you. Then, and this is the hard part, sit down to eat. Before you take your first bite, stop and inhale deeply. How does your food smell? What color is it? Taking a few extra seconds to tune into your senses will not only make the meal more delicious, it will help you reconnect to the body you’ve been ignoring.



4. Talk to your neighbors.


I know, I know, you’re an introvert who needs alone time to re-energize. The problem is, Compassion Fatigue exaggerates your need to escape. You forget how to interact, and the next thing you know, you can’t make conversation even with the ones you love. If that sounds familiar, start small. Greet the receptionist when you come in. Ask the kid bagging your groceries how his day is going. You’ll be surprised at how less alone in the world you feel.

5. Tap a source of strength and inspiration.

We all need a life outside work, and most people benefit from connecting to something that braces us in the bad times and expands our minds when we’re ready. For some this will be a spiritual practice. Others read poetry or keep journals. Simple meditation can put life in perspective and remind you that what is happening in this moment, no matter how important it seems, will pass


6. Work with a counselor.

If you’ve tried the first five techniques and find you still overcommit to work and undercommit to yourself, it’s time to get outside help. Since your situation isn’t new to the profession, many local VMAs and other animal health organizations have support systems in place for veterinarians, technicians, and others who face challenges in their work and personal lives. Veterinary Information Network(VIN.com) has online boards that focus on practice issues and a confidential one, Vets4Vets, for those that want a private channel to find help locally.When you choose a mental health professional, find one who deals with your kind of concerns, one that you connect to personally. If getting through CF were easy, you’d have done it. It’s time to have someone on your side. Ask a friend to recommend someone, check with your physician, call your clergyperson, or see what the community mental health center suggests. You wouldn’t ask your patient to suffer; why should you? Since no one can have all the good ideas, let’s share ours. What do you do restore yourself? What are you doing to avoid Compassion Fatigue?