By Juan Santos, M.S., CRC, LPCA
Anxiety can cause worry, stress, headaches, and more unpleasant emotions. Dogs are built to work effortlessly to battle the symptoms and behaviors that come with anxiety. Our dog Riddle used to go by the name of “Gates”when we first met him at a local dog shelter in Greensboro. As he transitioned into our family, he became Riddle Santos. The always eager dog to push anxiety away.
I often encourage my patients to seek out activities such as journaling, exercise, or their pet as ways to manage their anxiety. As a person who lives with anxiety, I can understand its impact and tenacity. Journaling and exercise are straight forward. You pick up a journal and start writing your thoughts. Or you hop on the treadmill and begin walking. The goal is to alleviate the anxiety symptoms.
Pets, to me, are a completely different ball game. Take for instance, our family dog Riddle. Unlike a journal or exercise routine, he is in no way straight forward. Riddle finds so many creative and simply incredible ways to aid my anxiety and even that of our family members. Take a simple act of going for a hike. To some people, this may bring about anxiety symptoms such as worry that something bad may happen on the walk. Maybe being attack by someone or getting hurt and not being able to make it back home. By taking your dog with you, the symptoms can be reduced. The thoughts of being hurt or attack are diminished due to your dog being by your side. You trust your pet and have faith that as a loyal member of your family they will be with you and protect you.
I take Riddle on just about every walk that I go on. I allow Riddle to run up and down the steps of the house. I encourage my kids to play and cuddle with Riddle. Without a doubt in my mind, I know that Riddle will protect us and for me, he alleviates my anxiety. He is so much more than “just a dog”. Riddle, like many pets, can aid in alleviating symptoms associated to our mental health. I want to encourage readers to explore adopting from your local shelter. A pet, can be so much more than “just a pet.”