Self-Care and Tips for Pups with Anxiety and DepressionMay 17, 2016
Originally Written on Tumblr at http://pupeko.tumblr.com/post/144173283052/self-care-and-tips-for-pups-with-anxiety-and
I know this isn’t something typically brought up in the community, but I still wanted to make it a point to share some skills that I’ve come across that can really help puppies that suffer from mental illness.
Personally, this pup has been waging war with anxiety and depression for a long time, and though battle-worn and scarred, I think I’ve managed through solely with the help of the coping skills and support along the way.
As well as pups with anxiety and depression that already in the community, I know there are plenty of to-be-pups out there dealing with the anxiety and depression of wanting to join the community but aren’t quite there yet.
So, I’ve compiled a few lists of activities to do when either anxiety or depression rear their ugly, scaly heads!
Anxiety is a nasty little creature that can pop up in the least expected places. It could be at work, home, or even at a playdate with other pups. (Especially if it’s your first one, which is to be expected!)
Here are some tips to get through your anxieties:
Wear a hood!
If you’re nervous about your identity at a play party, I would definitely invest in buying a hood. Even if it’s a simple muzzle with a lycra/spandex hood and some fuzzy ears, people will identify you as a pup and usually greet you positively and with a smile!
I picked up this tip from another anxiety blog on Tumblr, but it’s definitely useful! I have what would be considered mild scopophobia, the fear of being looked at/stared at, or making eye contact, which can be unsettling when people get excited and want to ‘pet the puppy.’ But grabbing some stylish aviators with the mirrored lenses solved that problem pretty quick! They work with most hoods, too, so you can look extra spiffy sporting a pair! Now you don’t have to worry about making eye contact with others, especially at larger outdoor events such as Folsom.
This one may seem a bit foo-foo if you haven’t reaped the benefits of breathing techniques before, but they are powerful tools to quickly decelerate a fluttering heart or quiet a noise-filled mind. They don’t work right off the bat, though! You wouldn’t expect to hit a baseball into the outfield on your first try, would you? No, you need to practice your swings first. Try these at home, in the car, at work, wherever! But remember, the brain is a muscle like any other, you got to work it out before you can lift the big weights. Start with no pressure or stress, and work your way up to mild, moderate, and eventually intensely stressful situations.
This is probably the easiest, but best thing you can do outwardly to decrease anxiety. Not only do studies show that smiling lifts your mood, it also lifts the moods of others around you! When you’re anxious, it shows in your face. You may not realize it, but others can pick up on these small signals. Slap a smile on, and not only will you start feeling better, but you will look more pleasant to those around you. And it shows in your eyes, for those of you that wear hoods and masks!
This one can be quite fun, actually. Get down on all fours and romp around! Whether you’re alone, with a partner, or in your bedroom at your parents’ house, working out that nervous energy is good for you! So chew a toy, pounce a squeaky, or shred that stuffie! Wag your tail and try to get your mind clear from what’s making you anxious.
If you’re struggling to enter the pup community due to anxiety or shyness, or maybe you’re looking for that friend or special someone to take your lead, this may be a good exercise for you. Either act it out alone, with a friend, or write it out. Role-play the scenario in your head with as many outcomes as you’d like. Some can be negative, but you have to come up with at least a few positive scenarios! Maybe write out an introductory letter to a group leader or someone you want to pup with. Write out, or have someone role-play that other person and see what the possible responses could be.
Carry a toy
This can be any toy! One that has sentimental value, one with sensory treats like squeakies and crinklies, or something you picked up at your local bet shop because you liked the color green. *ahem* I personally kept a squeaky/crinkly blue fox in my car that I found in the pet department at Target. I’d give him a squeak or crinkle his feet and listen to the sound whenever I started to feel anxious driving. It really helped my road rage!
Here are techniques to pull you out from your puppy crate and back into the realm of squeaky toys and waggling tails!
Just Five Minutes
That’s all I ask for, is five minutes of your time. Put on your pup hood for just five minutes, or put on your knee pads and crawl around for five. Chew a toy, bay at the moon, anything puppyish. If you aren’t feeling it in five minutes, you don’t have to continue, but just putting forth the minimal amount of effort can sometimes snowball into a change in headspace, maybe even into pupspace! And if not, hey, don’t worry about it. I’m proud of you for trying in those five minutes, and so should you be. You did it, after all! The little victories are what counts in this game, every point gets you closer to your goals.
Schedule Your Time
With work, school, family and friends, who has time to pup out any more often than maybe once every few months at a convention or pet play event? Please be sure to schedule some time for yourself to pup on a regular basis. Puppy play can be very therapeutic in the way that it relieves you from stress and worries that you may otherwise dwell on while watching TV or browsing the web.
Is there a pup or handler that you can talk to? Maybe a support group or a therapist? You don’t have to struggle through this alone! Sometimes you can really fit together the pieces of your distress by talking out loud or writing it out, especially if you just can’t put your paw on what’s bothering you.
Pup with a Friend
This person doesn’t have to be another pup, a handler, your Owner, or anyone in the pet play scene. Just someone that understands you and is willing to let you be you. We human pups are social creatures, and solitude is a one-ingredient recipe for depression.
Treat Yourself/Do It Yourself
If you can afford it, go out and get those puppy mitts or waggily tail you’ve been drooling over for months, now. Anything to make you feel like a pup again! If you can’t afford it, but are crafty enough, make your own gear. It doesn’t have to be perfect, functional, or expensive, but a finished product will give you some pride at a job well done. Arts and crafts are known to boost self esteem, happiness, pride, and hopefulness!
Studies show that cuddling can actually increase levels of oxytocin (the happiness hormone) in the brain! This is great news for depressed puppies, because not only will it lift your spirits, oxytocin increases your bond with others, making you feel less like an outsider, and more like part of the pack. Also, studies show that cuddling stuffies can benefit your mood and quell your anxiety as well! Keep one around!
Other Remedies for Anxiety and Depression
Therapy is a powerful tool that has been used for years to help hoomins overcome both their anxieties and depression. There are plenty of online, kink-friendly therapists that have a sliding pay scale where you can determine payment by your household income, if you’re low on resources and kink-friendly therapists in your area. Many of them offer Skype sessions as well, so it feels like you’re face to face with a real person. Therapists can be short term to get you over a certain hurdle you’ve been tripping over, or long term to help you live your life happy and as worry free as you can.
Yes, I said the ‘M’ word. A lot of people seem to be intimidated or put off by psychoactive medication, which is quite unfortunate, especially with all the good it does. I am #MedicatedandMighty, and I probably will be for a good portion of my life. I’m okay with that, because the alternative are nights drowned out with sobbing, days with debilitating panic attacks, and a life I was honestly sick and tired of living. Psychoactive drugs are helpers that allow you to think more rationally, slow down your thoughts so you can actually listen to them, and boost chemicals in the brain you may need to be happy with a life worth living. There’s no shame in that.
Living with anxiety is hard enough. If you are really struggling with your mental health, you can get your doctor to prescribe an as-needed anxiety medication. I usually will take half a tablet before driving (DON’T TRY THIS UNTIL YOU KNOW HOW MEDS EFFECT YOU), before going to events, or even half an hour before calling a client at work.
No, downward dog is not going to stop a panic attack—actually, nothing will, you just gotta wait for that to pass—but doing yoga and other exercises will increase your overall wellbeing, including your mental health!
You see, there are many techniques to curb both anxiety and depression! All you need are the tools and support to get through this. And just remember, I’m one ask box away if you need a floppy ear to bark at for a while, or need more resources! :3