Post traumatic stress can be one of the most difficult periods in a person’s life and an incredibly difficult thing to get through. Whatever the cause of the stress, dealing with the aftermath can sometimes be a lonely and frightening experience. While nothing can make the difficult memories or the pain go away however, there are certain comforts in life that can help you through these difficult experiences and times – and one of the most reliable and rewarding is spending time with your pets.
Here we will look at why pets make the perfect antidote to post traumatic stress, and just how they can help you through this time in your life.
First of all, stroking a pet has been shown to have very therapeutic benefits in many studies – this includes helping to improve immune system function, reduce heart rate and blood pressure and generate the slower and more calming brain waves associated with calm. This then means that just stroking your dog which is a repetitive and calming movement can help you to feel peaceful and to reverse some of the negative physical effects that stress has on your body and mind.
The great thing about pets, whether for PTSD or just generally, is that they are your biggest fans without criticism or judgment. Whatever you do, your pet will think the world of you and they never judge or look down on you. Many people struggle partly with PTSD because they feel embarrassed that they should be so shaken by something that happened and that they aren’t ‘coping’ better. With an animal there is no reason to feel judged and you can be completely yourself – you can cry in front of your dog and you have no need to feel self conscious when you do.
While dogs might not understand the reason you are crying or feeling low, this doesn’t mean that they can’t show genuine sympathy for the way you feel. Dogs and cats can pick up on a range of signs and indicators that we are feeling sad and this is possibly even because they can pick up on our pheromones.
One of the great things about pets is that for the most part (or at least as far as we are aware), they have no cares and no troubles. Almost all animals seem to have a fixed look of excitement and mischief and often of unbridled joy, and give them a chew or something to play with and you will see how happy a simple thing can make them. This is exactly what someone with PTSD or any other mood disorder or stress needs – the simple joy being the ideal way to pick up your mood and to remind you of the simple joys. The problem is that when you spend time with other humans, their happiness will often be unappreciated as it makes them seem unsympathetic – but then if they join you in your low mood then this is going to do very little to cheer you up. With animals however they can be completely happy completely innocently and this can obviously lighten up your mood.
When life seems a little too much to handle, finding something that you can control and that you can do well can work wonders for your sense of self. Animals are perfect in this regard – they want simple things like stroking, feeding and taking out, and they will obey your instructions (usually). At the same time the distraction of taking care of someone or something else can be a great way for you to escape your own problems and to start easing your way back to taking care of yourself again.
Another great thing about animals is that they force you to go outside. This is of course most true with dogs as you will have to walk them (and usually meet other dog owners too). With small outdoor animals like rabbits and guinea pigs too though you will still need to head outside to find them, to clear out their hutch and to put them in their run. Even cats will sometimes need you to go outside to call them in etc. This is a great way to ease you back outdoors and get you back into society.