I work from home, and it’s funny, but self-care is the last on my list of concerns. I worry that I get distracted too easily, that I’m not productive enough, or that I’m not taking my job seriously enough, especially if I’m doing my writing wearing an old tee-shirt and sweatpants. But, self-care? No so much.
The thing is when you work from home, it’s still a job and it still has all the stresses that regular jobs have: deadlines, pressure to do quality work, and staying productive. However, unlike going to an office, you can roll out of bed and start working at an ungodly hour. You can forget to take breaks, each lunch, or manage to get some movement in—even if you have a standing desk.
You can work twice as hard at home as you ever do at the workplace, which is why having pets and taking pet breaks can help you with your self-care. Research has shown that having a pet companion can make you healthier: petting your pooch or kitty, talking to your bird, or feeding your fish can help to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall cardiovascular disease risk.
Pets are a natural chronic pain remedy. In an article on Health, Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD., and the director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine says, “Petting your animal releases endorphins—the same hormones that give a runner’s high—and they are powerful pain relievers.” Johnson went on to say, “That’s [petting pets as pain relief] been demonstrated in hospitalized patients who had a visit from an animal and reported less pain simply from one visit.”
Having pets helps us in so many ways from improving our mental and physical health to improving relationships, so it stands to reason that they can help us with our working-from home self-care.
Why it’s important for our own self-care to take pet breaks.
Frustrated and stressed out by the job? Take a moment to be affectionate with your pet. We know that petting animals causes us to calm down and to relax, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need when you’re on a deadline or are experiencing complications on a work project.
Walk the dog. It’s important to get up and move for at least five minutes every hour. So, take the dog out and use your break time for a good walk—it will be good for both you and your dog. You’ll be able to clear your head, get some cardio, and when you get back to your desk you’ll be in better shape to continue your day, and your dog will be ready for a nap!
Let your pet help to boost your mood. Work can be overwhelming sometimes, but if we take a moment to just be with our pets; it will help us to feel better. “Pets are completely non-judgmental, don’t have an agenda, take you at face value, and they don’t care what you look like or how you behave—they love unconditionally, and that boosts self-esteem,” says Johnson.
When we take a pet break, it helps us to be mindful. When we’re playing ball with our dogs, or using a teaser toy with our cats, we clear our brain for a while and let it relax, which leads to the brain not being overloaded and able to retain more information.
Pets breaks can defeat boredom. When we’re in work-mode, we tend to do the same kind of activities repeatedly—giving some attention to our pets helps to break up the routine so that when we return to work, we are revitalized.
When we take pet breaks, it helps us to appreciate the small moments. It’s easy to work too hard and to spend more time than you should be working. When we spend time with our pets, it helps us to be grateful and appreciate what we have already, and not worry so much about acquiring material goods.
I try to take a pet break at least once an hour, even if it’s just to find out where my cat, Josie is sleeping. She’s kind of a genius at sleeping places (she’s the only cat I’ve ever had that sleeps in the chimney) so not only does searching for her get me moving, but trying to figure out where she is, stimulates my brain.
Breaks are necessary for our well-being, so everybody wins when you add your pets into the mix. You’ll feel calmer, have more focus and energy, and are ready to take on the rest of your day, and they’ll love you for it.