Struggling With Your Mental Health? Adopt a Pet

Struggling With Your Mental Health? Adopt a Pet

Pets are known worldwide to make our lives better. They’re natural, cuddly stress relievers  that can improve cardiovascular health and decrease loneliness.

That’s why it can be an excellent idea for nurses to adopt a pet of their own, especially if they’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue.

If you’re thinking, “But what if I’m not an animal person?” consider the different types of pets you can own besides cats and dogs. You might have some setbacks in deciding what type of pet is right for you and how much maintenance you’re willing to put in, but who knows? You might find that owning a pet that loves you is worth it.

Why Pets Can Make You Happier

Nurses know that burnout can happen on the job. Or, you might experience depression and anxiety outside of your career. However, caring for a pet can come with many benefits that can make your life feel brighter and fuller.

“They provide companionship, unconditional love, and a sense of purpose, which can be particularly beneficial for nurses working long, demanding shifts in the healthcare profession,” says Adam Zagha, a mental health and addiction treatment specialist and owner of Numa Recovery Centers.

In his experience, Zagha has even seen how pets can make a difference in those who struggle with common mental health conditions, causing burnout and loneliness.

“One of my clients, a nurse who works in an intensive care unit, was experiencing high levels of stress and emotional exhaustion. She decided to adopt a rescue cat and noticed an immediate improvement in her mood and overall well-being,” says Zagha. “The cat provided her with companionship during her downtime and gave her something to look forward to when she returned home from work.”

Caring for a pet can also bring stability outside of an unpredictable work routine, according to veterinarian Dr. Mollie Newton, founder of PetMeTwice. Pets can provide comfort and emotional support at home, encouraging nurses to destress and find peace.

Tips for Adopting and Caring for a Pet

Chances are you might be a dog lover. Or a cat lover. Maybe you’d prefer a pet with less hair and might adopt a hamster instead. Either way, no “one size fits all” pets work for everyone.

Dr. Newton suggests self-sufficient pets like cats or smaller pets like hamsters, guinea pigs, or fish for busy professionals. Consider common fish you can find at a pet shop, such as bettas, guppies, and zebrafish, that you would feed daily, with your biggest chore cleaning their fish tank.

Dogs and cats are usually the most popular choice for adoption because of their versatility.

“Cats are generally more independent, comfortable being alone for extended periods, and content with napping or watching the world from a window,” says Dr. Newton. “For those leaning towards dogs, adult dogs, particularly those with lower energy levels, can often adapt to solitude during your work hours, making them a suitable choice.”

Before adopting a pet, consider researching where to adopt and getting advice on caring for your type of pet so you know what to expect when dealing with any challenges.

“To get started with adopting a pet, nurses can reach out to their local animal shelters or rescue organizations,” says Zagha. “These organizations often have a variety of pets available for adoption and can guide pet care, including the specific needs of different breeds.”

Lastly, consider how much time and energy you have to care for a pet. Zagha mentions that being mindful of limitations and thinking about how much attention you can give off your job can help you decide whether to adopt. Other adoption factors include allergies, housing restrictions, and lifestyle.

Owning a pet isn’t just a walk in the park (literally)— there are factors to consider, such as paying a pet deposit or personal considerations, like if we want to walk your dog daily. Ask any pet owner, however, and you’ll get the same response. Caring for a pet can be worth it, especially during our low times when we can appreciate their loyal company.