Animals might be the key to your recovery – how amazing is that?
A therapy pet’s duty is to give a person struggling with mental health issues a loyal companion while also helping to boost their confidence and reduce their anxiety. The fact that a living creature depends on you to feed it and look after it can give a person a strong sense of routine, something that they may have lost track of if they are struggling with depression or anxiety, and the reward of gaining their love and trust is inconceivable. Just simply stroking an animal or watching fish swim around is well known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
Therapy pets can be any animal you wish, and since the needs of different pets vary widely there is no need to worry about biting off more than you can chew. Whether you want a dog to help you to start walking every day, or a goldfish that just needs a pinch of food every day and regular tank cleans, a therapy pet can help significantly with your mental health.
I have five rats as therapy pets (I know, that sounds absolutely insane!), and they brighten up my life so much.
The reason I chose rats is because I missed having rodents in my life, and rats are perhaps the most rewarding rodents you could keep as pets. They are extremely affectionate (I just wanted all of the love), and highly intelligent – you can train them much like you can a dog. They also really love to play, so I knew I would never feel alone with them in my life. They don’t get overly grumpy or judgemental like humans can, and their love is unconditional. Basically whenever I feel down I turn to my rats to cheer me up, and they haven’t failed me yet.
Another great thing about rats is that, like dogs, you can enter them into shows! I am a member of the North of England Rat Society, which is fantastic for meeting new people and giving and receiving advice on looking after your rats.
There are a lot of pros and cons to each animal, so it’s always worth doing some research before you choose a therapy animal, and make sure that you can afford potential vet bills.
Of course, there are people out there who can’t get their own therapy pet due to living circumstances or just not having the time or the money to keep them. However there are other ways in which to get your furry fix. Going horse riding has the added benefit of fresh air and exercise.
Do things that make you feel good – even if you don’t feel like it
One of the ways in which depression makes us feel utterly alone and useless in the world is by making us lose interest in the things we used to love. It makes us feel too overwhelmed to even think about doing those fun things, and before we know it life just seems pointless.
While you may not be able to force those feelings away and have fun, you can push yourself to do things that you enjoyed once, whether that be a sport that you enjoyed, a walk in the park, some music or art, or just going out with friends. Set yourself little goals that are really easy to achieve and you could be surprised by how much better you feel for it. You might even start to have some fun again!
I used to do a lot of writing, which I haven’t done for a good couple of years due to my depression. I recently decided to set myself a daily task of 100 words a day – or more if I feel like it – just to get back into the habit of writing again. It didn’t have to be good or make much sense. It just had to be a minimum of 100 words each day. Sometimes I don’t manage it, and I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not always meet this target – it’s a work in progress to make this a habit again. But the fact that I am writing – somewhat – again feels amazing. I feel as though I’m slowly seeing the real Claire again. I try not to think about the fact that this post took me three weeks to write!
Learn something new!
What better way to earn a sense of achievement? It can be absolutely anything and has the potential to become a new hobby for you to turn to in times of need. I’m learning how to knit and crochet and it’s actually been so ideal for me. I can do it whenever I want, whether it’s while I’m watching TV or working out on my exercise bike, and it also gives my hands something to do – I have a condition called dermatillomania, which causes me to obsessively pick at my skin, so knitting and crochet have reduced this significantly for me.
You could also try learning a language, photography, sewing, a musical instrument, anything that is doable for you and that will give you a real sense of achievement.
Stay connected to friends and family who can offer you support
This may seem like an obvious one, but one of the biggest things that depression does is make you feel alone in the world. You don’t feel like going out with friends anymore because you feel like you’ll just be a constant downer and they won’t want to hang out with you.
You are WRONG.
We are fortunate today that society is becoming more aware of mental illnesses, and understand better that depression is a whole lot more than just “feeling down”. There is more respect and support now for those who struggle with mental illnesses than ever before.
The worst thing you can do is shut yourself away from those who can help you overcome this. Friends and family are there for us to reach out to when we’re in the darkest of places, just like we are for them in their hour of need. You are not a burden; you are a human being fighting a mental illness. The fact that you have decided that you have accepted this and decided to find ways in which to conquer it just shows how strong you are. But a battle is never won alone. You need comrades.
Going out with friends can take your mind off your depression for a little while and make you feel better about yourself. You can also confide in them about how you’re feeling, and maybe help support them in their woes – if you’re anything like me, then you can deal with anyone’s issues but your own!
Social support is essential to your recovery, so make the time to call or hang out or send a message.
Keep a Bullet Journal
This is a fantastic way to plan your days, set goals for yourself, and unleash your creative side. As the Bullet Journal website puts it, “The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.”
Your bullet journal can be as simple or as extensive as you want it to be. You can jot down a list of things to do and goals to aim towards each day and places you need to be. You can also create ‘collections’ of information you want to keep a record of, such as books you want to read, movies you want to see, new healthy habits you want to start up and maintain, and savings goals. It can also help you to introduce the previous coping ideas into your life without you having to remember it all in your head.
It is your own planning and creative haven for you to do as you wish with.
If you’re still not sure about bullet journals, there are plenty of websites and YouTube videos out there to help you figure out if keeping one would be useful for you. Boho Berry is a particularly good channel to go to in order to gain a good idea of how to start and use a bullet journal.
I hope that these ideas help you to get onto the road to recovery. Regardless of whether you have suffered with depression for a day or 10+ years, you are not alone and you can get through this. You just need love and support, and with that you can get through anything, even this horrible chapter in your life.
And remember: you are worth every second that you are in this world.