5 Ways to De-stress with Your Pet This Holiday Season

By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished: Updated:

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5 Ways to De-stress with Your Pet This Holiday Season

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.
ways to de-stress
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1. Get Your Ohm On

Meditation is a great way to recharge, find a sense of inner calm and deal with stressful emotions. “The goal of meditation isn't to clear our mind completely of thoughts,” explains Josephine Atluri, a certified meditation teacher and host of the podcast, “Responding to Life.” “Rather, our meditations give us the opportunity to practice how to deal with thoughts.”

With a 2019 Washington State University study finding that 10 minutes of cuddling or stroking a pet can lead to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, having your pet by your side as you meditate can help amplify a feeling of calm. Your pet will probably appreciate the extra attention, too!

“Pick a place that is free from as much distraction as possible so that your pet doesn't get tempted to leave and disrupt the meditation,” instructs Atluri. “Then, 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.”

To begin your meditation, focus on your breath by 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:

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Downward-Facing Dog

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This is the foundation for all yoga poses, according to Brie Mazin, a registered yoga teacher based in Boynton Beach, Florida. It uses all parts of the body and especially benefits your shoulders, arms, legs and feet.

“Begin on your hands and knees and spread your fingers wide, pressing firmly through your palms and knuckles,” she instructs. “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.

Cat-Cow

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“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,” Mazin says.

To complete the move, 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.

Butterfly

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This deep stretch really works your inner thighs and can even aid in a healthy digestion, notes Mazin. She says to 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.

“From here, 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.”

You’re already taking inspiration from your pet for your poses, so why not encourage them to join you for a yoga session? Learn how to incorporate your four-legged companion into your stretching routine here.

ways to de-stress
Chewy Studios

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!

Find both recipes here.

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.

ways to de-stress
Chewy Studios
ways to de-stress
Chewy Studios

5. Treat Your Pup to a Massage

Sally Morgan, PT, CST, a holistic physical therapist for both pets and people in Northampton, Massachusetts, says that massaging your dog can help increase their circulation, relax their muscle spasms, and even improve their posture and gait. “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.

Spending ample time with your pet will truly help make the holidays the most wonderful time of the year—but be sure to watch pets closely for any behavior that seems out of the ordinary. Like we said, the changes of the holiday season can be anxiety-inducing for our furry friends, too, and changes in mood, appetite and behavior should be taken seriously. They may need more than some seasonal self-care sessions to feel comfortable. Contact your vet if anything seems unusual. With their guidance, everyone in the family can have a relaxing holiday.

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By: Wendy Rose GouldPublished: Updated:

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