Pet Care as Self Care?
Self care in numerous forms has taken center stage as we live through this pandemic. We’re acutely aware of the importance of mindfulness. It took a pandemic for the world to realise how far off the rails we are. People write it off as absurdity, primarily because of a lack of understanding. 2020 will be a landmark year in human history, we learned how emotionally immature we are as a species. The fear of facing emotions and the Pandoras Box of truths they unravel has undone the fine veneer of governments, families, marriages and relationships.
Self care is as unique as your finger print, for you it may be involving yourself with pet care or animal rescue. For another person it may involve trekking, or painting or martial arts! There is no one size fits all. Pet care has its positive and negative outcomes and moments. The point is to help you decide and may be realise, walking my dog is self care after all!
Marriages, family, friendship routinely pale in comparison to bonds a person develops with their companion animalOliver
Zen Doggie, is a community dog in our neighbourhood of bustling Mumbai city, who’s been so nicknamed as, he radiates stoicism. To be in his presence is to be in an aura of calmness. Many a morning walker and evening stroller benefit from Zen Doggie’s quiet wisdom.
Peace of mind may come from loosing yourself in the woods, solitude for your morning exercise routine or reading a book in a quiet corner. Why so many of us retreat to animals is perhaps best understood by their ability to listen and never condemn.
Pets and the Digital Age
Mindfulness and self care pre digital age went by the term peace of mind! It refers not to a state of bliss, but a coming to terms with your circumstances and reality. When you cannot change your situation do you work with or around it? If you can change a situation it may the most courageous steps you ever take. If you let the opportunity slip by, you maybe forever trapped. Life altering changes are frightening, but often necessary. The digital age pressurises us (age no bar) to share, share and over share every step of our lives. Validation has become an intoxicant and as so many portray their “white picket fence life” look a little closer, and the fence may hide barbed wire.
Pet care is life altering, healing truthful and testing. It is an experience which heals through patience and learning. Fractured families will often find it easier to communicate in the presence of a family pet. A companion animal teaches you to go with the flow like few other life experiences. And for the right pairing of pet and person, the ups and downs they ride together make them each others safe havens.
Photo Credit: Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
Time with animals such as horses, cows, goats, not necessarily pets, is being used to treat/ assist spectrums of Autism, ADHD and anxiety disorders. Bird watching maybe self care. Birds are physical manifestations of “born free” Watching a bird in flight frees our minds and souls and for a brief moment we’re carried away to destination unknown
Self care and wellness are used interchangeably but are they?
What is wellness? Is it the absence of any and all conflict? Or is it self care? Labels are confusing especially for a topic as intangible as mental wellbeing. Is it all in your mind? Or can we measure wellness?
Self Care is broadly defined as taking part in an activity which brings you happiness and a sense of calm. It is not a selfish act. In fact, as most mental health will tell you, self care, is essential for every person to be a productive functioning member of a community.
Wellness is understood more as a state of physical health and wellbeing. This is as important an aspect of overall health as mental health. An unhealthy pain riddled body has a profound impact on the daily functioning of a person. It can reduce social interactions, confidence and people often withdraw into themselves, afraid or unwilling to leave their homes. Animals for those on the path to physical rehabilitation have been and continue to be one of the greatest motivators.
We crave validation, non judgemental companionship and pure relationships. The only living beings humans have developed this bond with is an animal. Could it be our primitive brain, or the contentment of non verbal communication which creates this bond ?
Why are we drawn to animals?
Be a good listener and people will tell you stories and events of their lives, past and present you may not necessarily care to know! The world is a noisy place- sights and sounds overwhelm even the strongest mind. Pets are one of the few remaining good listeners.
Hundreds of happy videos of children receiving pups and kittens as surprises. Their first reaction is to be overcome with joy. They cry uncontrollably a joyful recognition of the fact that this is the first being who will love them unconditionally. Across age, race, continent and colour this reaction is brought to us courtesy social media. If there was ever a reminder of animals as the great levellers of our emotions!
Companion animals as their title suggests are our comrades. Faithfully by our side through life’s ups and downs. Anthropological records tells us our domestic canine ancestors have been living in and around human settlements for over 10,000 years. No one knows for certain when dogs and humans formed the bonds they did, but it was and continues to be a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Every dog is a therapy dog”
How many laps of the internet has this saying done? Original and edited versions of this sentiment fly fast and furious online. There is a serenity in the soul of a dog which draws human beings in distress. Our over loaded senses barely know how to function or focus. Your pets- dog, cat or cow are your ‘down time.’
They force you to unplug. it’s difficult to be tethered to a computer or device when you are chasing your dog around the dog park or out on an invigorating hike! Dopamine, the happy hormone is released when people are involved in activities which make them happy. Playing with puppies or kittens must be self care at its peak!
And let’s never forget our incredible therapy dogs for hearing, sight and physically impaired. Their life altering presence in the lives of families and individuals is undeniable. As a society we’re still in search of a technological advancement which can replace something as simple as a happy therapy dog by your side!
The empathic effect of animals
“Empathy can also motivate co-operative behaviour. If you see a child crying alone in a train station, you feel compelled to help. If you see a puppy whimpering after being bullied by another dog, again, you feel moved to help. As humans, we literally feel the pain of others. If we watch someone suffering, we experience negative emotions in response.”
Hare, B., & Woods, V. (2013). The genius of dogs: How dogs are smarter than you think.
This is true of your relationship with yourself. When you ‘see’ yourself wounded or bruised, your mind and body need help. Self care, is recognising a need to rest and repair. Self care may also be a practice of self empathy. Only when we take care ourselves can we take care of the world around us. Whether that world is your family, circle of friends, students or community. Dogs are geniuses in disguise, friend philosopher and teacher .
Atheist, agnostic or deeply religious will testify to the fact that pet care as self care is an undeniable fact.Oliver