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To My Dog, Who Helps Me Manage My Anxiety

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Not everyone can fully appreciate the value of pets, but to someone working through anxiety, they can mean the difference between calm and panic.

When I started therapy, one of the first exercises I did was creating visual images that I could pull from when I started to feel anxious. One of them was my “calming image.” When my therapist listed some ideas of an image I could use, I immediately knew my dog would be the perfect fit.

I could vividly see his expressive, dark eyes staring at me as he snuggled on my chest, his favorite place to be. I could almost feel his soft, curly fur beneath my fingers. The weight of his small body was just enough to help me feel safe and secure. The rhythmic rise and fall of his breathing immediately relaxed me.

I visualize my dog whenever I need a moment of calm. He made me realize just how valuable a pet is when managing anxiety.

When you’re feeling like you can’t deal with the world and the walls are caving in around you, a pet expects nothing more from you than your simple presence. There is no obligation to keep up appearances, to think of clever things to say or to give more than you are able. A pet is happy with you exactly as you are in that moment. There is no pressure to put on a brave face.

George Eliot said, “Animals are such agreeable friends — they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Pets are never disappointed in you, and their loyalty never wavers. When I am feeling invisible, I am the center of my dog’s world. When I want to be left alone, his silent presence is a welcome refuge from the world.

It is no wonder that I have felt a deep connection with animals my entire life. I realize now that for every time I didn’t feel understood, there was a pet that knew me perfectly. With no judgments and no assumptions, a pet was there to simply sit by my side.

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Thinkstock photo via Pilin_Petunyia.

Originally published: June 7, 2017
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