Stress relief via a four-legged friend

Just Life By Sarah M. Anderson, PharmD

New Practitioners are often caught up in the day-to-day routine of residency, fellowship, and careers. Stress becomes a present reality and often you do not realize your workload is all-consuming. It is helpful to incorporate healthy distractions into your routines to remind you that there is more to life than work. Many often think of meditation, napping, and other mind and body relaxation methods when trying to destress. Pets are often a great source of stress relief.

 

An article in Psychology Today noted that when someone pets a friendly and familiar dog, stress is reduced. Blood pressure goes down, heart rate slows, breathing becoming more regular, and muscles relax. Often these effects are seen within 5 to 24 minutes of interacting with a dog. Additionally, dogs have been used for stress reduction for victims of crimes, hospital patients, and the elderly, among others. However, with any new modification to life, stress can briefly increase. This may occur especially with dogs as you both adjust to a new routine.

 

I have had dogs in my life for a very long time, except while attending pharmacy school. Upon graduation, I embraced two puppies into my new adventure as a resident. Residency can have high demands while you are learning and growing into a New Practitioner. Now as a fellow, those demands still exist, but through both of these experiences, I have my dogs. At first it was difficult with training, guilt for leaving them during my long days, and making sure they are being cared for appropriately. Once you make it past the first few weeks of adjustment for both you and the dog, your schedule will begin its new normal.

What to consider
Before diving into pet ownership, there are a few things you may want to consider. According to the American Kennel Club, you should consider your lifestyle, expectations, and the best breed for you. Then you should consider if you want to adopt from a shelter, rescue, or breeder. Either way, it is best to thoroughly research your decision prior to incorporating a dog in your life. For me, it was a natural fit, as I grew up with a small dog breed since age 2. I knew what to expect with the breed and the care that they would require. I also knew that they would be fine alone at home when I have longer hours.

A new best friend

They have definitely been a stress reliever during residency and fellowship. The dogs require me to take breaks when working long nights and weekends because they need exercise and fresh air! They need a lot of love and let me know when I have been working too long by laying their heads down on my laptop. Sometimes, they just want to be near and it is nice to have that comfort after a long day. While there are added expenses to your budget when owning a pet, the benefits outweigh the costs in my opinion.

 

Pet ownership is a wonderful endeavor. I urge you to do your due diligence and research your options and hypothesize how your life may change for the better or worse. If you decide to continue the pet journey, get ready for change, a little less stress, and some excitement!