The holidays can be a busy time. Between entertaining out-of-town friends and family, shopping for gifts, and whipping up a seemingly endless array of treats (eggnog, anyone?), it’s easy for that holiday busyness to turn into full-blown holiday stress.
But when it comes to beating holiday stress, you have a secret weapon that you might not even know about—and that’s your dog.
Dogs are amazing at keeping you calm, cool and centered—which can be especially helpful during more stressful times, like the holiday season.
But how, exactly, can your dog help you stay stress-free during the holidays?
Stress is a physical experience. When you’re stressed out, your body releases a hormone called cortisol (also known as “the stress hormone”), which can cause a number of not-so-great physical changes (like increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and digestive issues).
But if you want to get rid of stress (and all the negative stress-related side effects)? Turns out, all you may need to do is pet your dog. Research from the University of Missouri-Columbia found that just 15 minutes of petting your dog releases a cascade of “feel good hormones,” including serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin. Not only does petting your dog increase the number of stress-busting hormones in the body, but it also reduces the amount of cortisol—making it the perfect one-two punch for managing stress.
Carve out a few minutes every day between wrapping presents and other holiday errands to snuggle up with your dog for a stress-reducing pet session.
Between the colder temperatures, shorter days, and the seemingly endless to-do’s that come along with the holiday season, it can be tempting to spend your time indoors.
But one of the best things you can do to beat holiday stress? Go for a walk.
Aerobic exercise (like walking) has a number of stress-busting benefits, including reducing stress hormones (like adrenaline and cortisol) in the body, releasing feel-good endorphins, and improving mood and sleep quality. Even a few minutes of brisk walking can be enough to keep stress at bay—and when you have a dog, you have a built-in reason for working at least a few walks per day into your busy holiday schedule.
Next time you start to feel overwhelmed by holiday stress, lace up your shoes, grab your leash, and take your dog for a walk around the block. By the time you get back, chances are you’ll be feeling a whole lot better (and less stressed).
Presents need to be wrapped. Gifts need to be delivered. Meals need to be prepared. Travel plans need to be made, the pet sitter needs to be booked—the list goes on.
With so much to do during the holidays, it can be easy to get caught up in all the stress and forget to let loose and have fun.
But your dog can be a great reminder not to take the stress of the holiday season so seriously. Dr. Philip Tedeschi, canine behaviorist and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, explains: “research suggests that our connections with dogs increases our social interactions, evidenced by more openness to others, initiating conversations, focusing toward other people, being more positive, increased physical activity and play, touching … not to mention more laughing.”
Whether it’s making you laugh with their adorable holiday sweater or getting you to take a break from holiday to-do’s to play on the floor or run around in the backyard, dogs are great at pulling you out of holiday stress mode and reminding you that it’s ok to loosen up and have fun.
And really, isn’t fun what the holidays are all about?
The holidays can be a stressful time for you—but they can also be a stressful time for your dog. During the holidays, your dog can get stressed by everything from an increase in visitors to the home to travel to changes in their schedule.
In order to make sure your dog feels as stress-free as possible during the holidays, make sure to:
- Keep their schedule consistent. The more routine you can keep things for your pup—including when and what they eat, how many times a day they go out for walks, and where and when they sleep—the less stressed they’ll feel.
- Make sure visitors respect your pet. If you have out-of-town visitors staying at your home for the holidays, make sure they treat your dog (including your dog’s space and routines) with respect. If you have children coming to visit, make sure to let them know to be gentle with your dog.
- Carve out time to spend with your dog. Holiday obligations may have you out of the house more than usual, which can make your dog feel lonely and stressed. Make sure to carve out time to spend with your dog every day so they get the attention they need to feel stress-free. Enlist the help of a trusted pet sitter or dog walker as needed, too.