There’s little doubt that pets add much value to many people’s lives. By giving and receiving love; providing reasons to get up each day and to get out and exercise; and by just being there as a friend and companion, providing an antidote to the loneliness and isolation many of us feel on a regular basis.
But even the most loving and caring and dedicated pet-owner might, at times, want or need to go away for a holiday or work trip. And obviously, it’s not always possible or appropriate to take one’s pet along on these occasions.
For many pet owners, then, the prospect of time away can invoke stress and anxiety; which can potentially ruin the time away and which doesn’t serve anyone well. But the good news (there’s always good news) is that there are a range of simple, effective strategies one can employ to manage this anxiety, enjoy the time way and ensure one’s pets are well taken care of in the process.
Here’s what I’d recommend:
Plan and prepare
You probably plan your itinerary and activities for your time away so why not include in these plans some preparations for your pet. The more you plan and prepare, the more likely things will go well (for both of you) and the less likely anything will be forgotten or be left to go wrong.
Practice calming techniques
If you’re anxiety is moderate or severe, you’ll probably find it helpful to practice and apply strategies such as applied relaxation, meditation and/or mindfulness. There are a range of calming techniques, and different ones work for different people in different ways, so don’t be afraid to sample a few before you decide which is best for you. In fact, if you head on over to iTunes or the Google app store and search for “meditation”, “mindfulness” or “relaxation” and you’ll find plenty from which to choose.
Enjoy the moment you’re in
If you’re away, you’re away; there won’t be much you can do to or for your pet if you’re in another town, city or country! Worry won’t help you or them. So focus on being present where you are and enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.
At the risk of contradicting the previous point, it is normal to care about someone or something you love so some level of anxiety is not unusual. But if you’ve done all or most of the above, then reassure yourself that you’ve prepared and planned and that it’s now time to do what you’ve set out to do (and enjoy your time away).
Manage other potentially unhelpful thoughts
We all worry at times, and many of us have particular types of unhelpful thoughts including “catastrophizing”, or making mountains out of molehills. If this sounds familiar then it’s important to combat this by making sure you don’t predict the future in an overly negative way and by keeping things in perspective.
Focus on the benefits (for you and for your pet)
Finally, it’s important to remember that taking a break is important for everyone involved. Getting away has been shown to have positive effects on our mental health and to improve other aspects of our lives as well. There’s also a good case for arguing that a change of scenery and routine would also benefit your pet. As they say, a change is as good as a holiday! So focus on the positives, make an effort to think about what will go right rather than what could go wrong, and reap the rewards of focusing more with positivity.
Dr. Tim Sharp is HIF’s Mental Health Blogger and Australia’s very own ‘Dr. Happy’, at the forefront of the positive psychology movement and founder of The Happiness Institute.