For many of us, the holidays, while fun and joyful, can also sometimes be a bit stressful. Shopping, entertaining, travel, end-of-year deadlines, hustle and bustle—whatever it is that has you tossing and turning, suffering an achy neck or fueling up on sugar and coffee—it all adds up. Don’t just live with it; instead set aside time for some much-needed TLC. And that goes for your pets, too. They pick up on your vibe, and add to that all the new sights and smells and they may be feeling a little anxiety, too.
To help you and your fur friend relax, we rounded up five ways to de-stress this holiday season.
1. Get Your Ohm On
Meditation is a great way to recharge, find a sense of inner calm and deal with stressful emotions. Know what else helps to promote a sense of calm? Our pets. (A 2019 Washington State University study found that 10 minutes of cuddling or stroking a pet can lead to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol).
Follow these instructions for a pet-friendly mediation sesh from Josephine Atluri, a certified meditation teacher and host of the podcast, “Responding to Life.”
- Pick a place that is free from as much distraction as possible.
- Have your pet lie next to you or on your lap to increase the combined mood-boosting effects of your pet's presence and the meditation.
- Begin your meditation by focusing on your breath: Taking a deep inhale and then exhale, expanding your belly and releasing any tension held in your body.
- Gently and rhythmically stroke your pet while focusing on your breath to deepen both of your relaxation. Start in short increments and build your way up to longer durations. If your pet wants to get up any point though, let them. This should be an enjoyable experience for both of you!
2. Assume an Animal-Inspired Yoga Position
You don’t need to be a master yogi to enjoy the relaxing benefits of yoga. What makes it even more fun for pet parents is that many of the positions are actually inspired by the animal kingdom. Start with these three easy poses, recommended by Brie Mazin, a registered yoga teacher based in Boynton Beach, Florida:
- Downward-Facing Dog: Begin on your hands and knees and spread your fingers wide, pressing firmly through your palms and knuckles. Next, tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor, and press the floor away from you as you lift through your pelvis. Hold for 10 seconds.
Additional benefits: This is the foundation of all yoga poses, using all parts of the body and especially benefits your shoulders, arms, legs and feet.
- Cat-Cow: Start on your hands and knees. For “cow,” inhale as you drop your belly toward the mat, lifting your chin and chest as you gaze up at the ceiling. Slowly move into “cat” by exhaling, drawing your belly in, rounding your back to the sky, and lowering your head. (If you have a feline, you know this classic move!) Oscillate back and forth three to five times.
Additional benefits: This gentle flow between two poses warms the body and brings flexibility to the spine. It also stretches the back torso and neck and softly stimulates the abdominal organs.
- Butterfly: Start in a seated position, bringing the soles of your feet together and as close to your pelvis as you can without too much strain. Your knees should easily fall out to the sides. Lengthen your spine while holding onto the outsides of your feet, and press the soles of your feet toward each other. Next, begin to fold forward from the hips, keeping your spine long and your collar bones spread. Stay for five breaths.
Additional benefits: This deep stretch really works your inner thighs and can even aid in a healthy digestion
3. Indulge in a "Pooch & Me" Pampering Session
Indulge in an at-home spa day and invite your pet to get in on the fun.
This Pumpkin DIY Hair Mask & Dog Conditioner is a suitable spa treatment for both you and your pup. It’s designed to soothe the scalp while nourishing your hair and your dog's coat. Also on the menu is a DIY Foot Mask and Dog Pawdicure treatment. This recipe contains shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax pellets and vitamin E oil to soothe, soften and nourish both your feet and your pet’s paws.
If you feel like a facial, whip up this DIY Blueberry Facial. Simply combine the ingredients until smooth and then apply to your skin. It can also be used as a brightening pre-shampoo treatment for your pooch!
4. Make a Tasty Treat
Preparing and eating yummy treats can be a great way to de-stress —and don’t forget to make some for your furry love, too, while you’re at it.
Enjoy a lazy Sunday morning together and whip up pups a "bacon,” cheddar, and egg frittata muffin. It only takes a half hour to cook, and Fido will be able to nosh right alongside you and your omelets.
For kitties, opt for a breakfast treat inspired by the lox and bagel sandwich at your favorite deli. Our recipe has everything felines swoon over including tuna, salmon and catnip. Yum!
For especially anxious fur babies, you may want to consider talking to your vet about calming supplements. For example, Zesty Paws Calming Supplement Cat Supplement features a yummy tuna flavor and is designed to help keep cats calm with ingredients like chamomile and melatonin.
5. Treat Your Pup to a Massage
Massaging your dog can help increase their circulation, relax their muscle spasms, and even improve their posture and gait, says Sally Morgan, PT, CST, a holistic physical therapist for both pets and people in Northampton, Massachusetts. “A dog that is in physical balance is likely to be in emotional balance, so massage can provide many layers of benefit for your dog,” she explains.
You'll want to use a delicate touch and stick to techniques approved for pet parents to complete at home. The effleurage technique, which uses a circular stroking motion, is a good place to start. “[It’s] used to affect the fluid dynamics at a superficial level,” says Sullivan. “It’s a good technique for initiating touch.”
In a calm environment, simply place your flat hand over your dog’s skin and move over the muscles using a light pressure. Spend about two minutes on each part of the body, making sure to tend to their paws, legs, head, ears and tail.
You can learn more about how to give your dog a massage here.
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