Have you ever wondered how we managed to get along before smart phones? Our phones and other technology can keep us connected in ways we never dreamed. But they can also add an element of stress to our lives. There was a time when you could just be inaccessible. Now many of us find ourselves checking in during times that normally would have been reserved for relaxation and face to face interaction with family and friends (both two and four legged.)
My Favorite Ways to Destress With My Pets
To help myself unplug and unwind, I’ve created some new routines. Like all routines, I made a conscious effort at first, but now they’re pretty much habits and something I really look forward to. I spend time with my cat Turtle each morning over my first cup of coffee. This helps me relax and think about my priorities for the day, all while petting and playing with her. It reduces my blood pressure at a time of day when it would normally be rising due to the impending work obligations. And I end up feeling a little more prepared to meet those obligations because I’ve taken some time to center myself and make a game plan.
At night, I read a book with my other cat, Olivia. While my morning coffee with Turtle helps to calm me while I get ready for my day, reading with Olivia helps me to forget my worries. It’s a great way to end my day – relaxing and unwinding while enjoying her company, petting and grooming her. The cats look forward to these times as much as I do.
Chilly, my 8 year old dalmatian-lab mix is my mid-morning walking partner, my weekday lunch date, and my weekend dog park buddy. Chilly helps me live in the moment and just enjoy being with him. Even after a stressful morning, hanging out with him leaves me feeling calmer and ready to face the rest of my day.
Unplug – It’s Great for Relationships and Mental Health!
One reason that my daily bonding time with my pets gives my mental health such a boost is that the phone either stays on my desk or goes in my pocket while I’m spending time with them. Checking my email, seeing what’s new on Instagram, or returning messages can wait until later. (Admittedly, I do need to retrieve it to take a cute picture of them from time to time). But what I DON’T do is get lost in my device while spending time with them.
Now we can all do the same thing with our spouse or partners too – but I find that engaging with my pets every few hours during the day breaks up those digital binges with my computer, phone, and tablet, so that I am more accustomed to putting them down when my husband comes home from work. And our relationship is better because we are taking the time to give each other our undivided attention!
I’ve intentionally set these routines to ensure that my pets get enough attention and exercise, but also as a way to disconnect me from the daily grind. All of us have enjoyed the benefits of regular “unplugged” time together.