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You may ask how come I’m so sure about this.
How do I know these tools and do they actually work?
Yes, they work, and you might not believe that my dog was my main inspiration.
Beera, my seven-year-old irish setter, suffers from extreme sound anxiety. Loud sounds like thunder, fireworks, and motorcycle engines can easily freak her out. She starts uncontrollably shaking and runs to the bathroom to seek shelter.
It’s been years that we’ve been trying to find ways to minimize her sound anxiety. Fortunately, after trying many attempts and practices, I’m glad to say that Beera has found ways to cope with her anxiety—and has surprisingly taught me how to deal with mine.
I, too, suffer from anxiety. And just like Beera, I have been (constantly) trying to find ways that might reduce my worrisome nature and give way to ease and comfort.
Believe it or not, when I witnessed Beera’s transformation, I seriously thought about adopting the tools myself. And, yes, they actually worked.
Here are four tools for reducing anxiety—from my dog:
1. Seeking shelter. For Beera, the bathroom is her shelter. Sometimes, we’d carry her and bring her back to the couch, but she insists on going back to the bathroom’s floor. Surprisingly enough, after 20 or 30 minutes, she stop shaking and falls asleep. Apparently, the bathroom makes her feel safe.
Beera taught me about the importance of “seeking shelter” during an anxiety attack. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a place; it could be a person, for example. What (or who is) your shelter? What makes you feel safe? People or places that make us feel safe can dramatically reduce our anxiety.
2. Seeking support. Recently, whenever there’s a thunderstorm at night, Beera jumps on the bed and sleeps next to me and my husband. We’ve noticed that whenever she’s near us, she instantly falls asleep and forgets about the noise that’s worrying her.
I’m forever grateful for Beera for teaching me about support. When I’m in the middle of an anxiety attack, even when if I’m surrounded by people, I feel alone and often forget that others might be able to help me. We can inform our loved ones if they’re near about our attacks and work something together. Having others around might not completely stop our anxiety, but it can significantly reduce it.
3. Distraction. When Beera is in the middle of an anxiety attack, I try to lure her with treats. Although she doesn’t always follow me to the kitchen, when I give her treats, she stops shaking and forgets about her noise anxiety for a minute or two. Treats are her distraction.
What’s yours? I’ve realized that doing something—anything—when I’m having an anxiety attack tremendously helps me. The reason is because when I touch something, my mind shifts from focusing on fear to focusing on touch. Slowly, and eventually, my body calms down and I get immersed in what I’m doing. Gardening and cooking have been my recent distraction.
4. Patience. What strikes me about watching my dog having an anxiety attack is her patience. When she runs to the bathroom, sleeps next to us, or takes a treat, her anxiety doesn’t instantly go away. She goes through every single (bad) emotion, until her mind and body are ready to feel safe and comfortable.
This has inspired me to not pressure or force myself to abruptly end my anxiety attacks. I realize, in that ominous moment, that my body gave in, and I need to give it time to restore its balance. It’s okay; it’s normal; I will get through this.
What do you think about my dog’s personal tools? Share your own experience!