Want to learn one simple tool to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression in you and your fur babies? Read on!
Whenever I travel and return home to Minnesota, I'm usually asked by at least one person "Are you sad to be home?" If you've ever survived a Minnesota winter, you'll know why this question comes up. In short anything colder than 20f sucks and we usually spend most of it 30 degrees colder than that. So when I say, "NO, I'm so happy to be home!" They are always shocked. There are two main reasons I'm still happy to come home to the arctic tundra: 1) I always miss my baby, Sugarpants and am delighted to return home to her. 2) I miss my daily routines, and I am comforted to fall back into them.
My most recent trip to Seattle was for Thanksgiving; it ended up being a really sad week because my beloved niece, Olive, was extremely ill and passed away. My whole family grief-stricken.
Traveling, the holidays or even your 9-5 job can create a lot of anxiety and stress that can mess up the best version of ourselves. And if you're experiencing any of these negative emotions, you can bet your bottom dollar it's impacting the happiness of your little furry or feathered ones.
When we feel happy, our brain and mental state are open. In these moments, we’re far more likely to find opportunities and enhance our creativity and growth.
But it’s the exact opposite in times of emotional negativity. We get closed off to new experiences and sensations, and we shut down. All the brain cares about in times of anxiety is the anxiety itself. Which is part of our evolution that kept us alive -we escaped the Woolly Mammoth and therefore survived! But surviving and thriving are two very different outcomes. An anxious brain merely survives. It does not thrive.
How can we pull our brain out of a state of anxiousness? Well, the answer is simple: Ritual.
I realized my daily routines aren't just 'routines,' they're rituals. oh and I FREAKING LOVE RITUALS!
Rituals are a natural anxiety buster for both us and our animal companions. In an article published by Thrive Global Community, Behavioral scientist, Nick Hobson digs into the science behind why rituals in particular (and not any other behaviors like habits, for instance) are effective at battling negative emotions. He says, "Be it anxiety, stress, fear, doubt, sadness, grief – you name it. Rituals are there to save the day. The dread we feel after experiencing a loss happens because it feels like the situation is outside our control (and it usually is). Rituals reinstate that control."
Nick Hobson and his research team say that "Rituals alleviate the feeling of grief and loss by increasing a feeling of control." AH! This makes so much sense! I was so sad when Olive passed that when I returned home to Sugarpants and my life stockpiled with rituals, it was like someone had wrapped me in a warm fuzzy blanket.
I've been very aware of my rituals since I was in my 20s and have updated them as needed. And, since I've dived into working with sick animals as a profession, my self-care rituals have been paramount to my health because working with animals who have a terminal illness can be incredibly depressing. I know that if I slip on them, it quickly shows up in my emotional state. And even tho you might not be aware of it, this is also true for you and your animal companions.
We can rattle off holiday rituals no problem. "Get a tree, listen to specific music, hang garland around the house, watch A Christmas Story, drink pumpkin lattes, use specific china at dinner, etc..." but what about all the other rituals that might be a little harder to name because they look more like routines? I made a quick list of some of mine to give you an idea.
Every morning I lather my face, neck, and body in Frankincense, Myhhr, Northern Lights Black Spruce, Jasmine, and sandalwood essential oil.
I stretch out my arms, legs, feet, lower back and do a quick belly dance to wake up all the things that need to wake up.
I start my day with delicious coffee that I drink from my kitty cat mug, and I stare out the window for about 15 minutes watching the birds while listening to Ella Fitzgerald or Louis Armstrong or something similar.
I make a green smoothie with lots of kale, bananas, Ashwagandha, Moringa and mushrooms powders.
I write three things I'm grateful for that day.
When I'm overly stressed about something stupid like why my computer won't work, I have a dance party to Girl on fire by Alicia Keys
Every night I run lavender essential oil through my hair.
I get my weekly shopping done on Sundays and make a couple of meals I can eat throughout the week for lunches.
I take a clay bath on Sunday nights and usually listen to Besse Smith while I'm soaking.
Rituals that involve Sugarpants:When I wake up, I go to find her (I have to lock her out of my room because she would instead disco dance than sleep), and I ask her how her night was. I kiss her head and cheeks.
I feed her breakfast in her favorite kitty cat bowl at the same time daily.
When it's nice outside, I take her for a long walk around the lake in her stroller.
She gets a daily brushing session in the same cat tower.
When I'm working, I open the pencil drawer on my desk to create a bed for her to sleep in while I'm taking care of business. In the evenings, I hold her over my shoulder, and we slow dance to "I Will" by the beetles.
I nibble her ears when we're laying together (she insists, okay!).
Just like us, a lot of 'behavioral issues' come up when there aren't any rituals in place. If you don't have any, create them and if you do, embrace them! Rituals are like warm fuzzy blankets for you and your animal companions.