The modern world is full of stressors. In fact, stress runs so rampant in modern life that it’s become a state that’s almost considered normal. The fight-or-flight response our ancestors needed to escape the grasp of a wolf or saber-toothed tiger isn’t needed today to survive. Unfortunately, your body still relies on your stress response – it simply can’t tell the difference between a tiger and running late to work!
Every year, millions of Americans are diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and other illnesses that are made worse by stress. One of the best ways to deal with stress and the illnesses it exacerbates is to bond with your emotional support animal.
Not every pet is an emotional support animal (ESA), but they can be. There are just a few things you need to know to utilize your ESA to its fullest and create a bond. This can help you both to get the most from the relationship and bond you’re building together.
What is an ESA?
An emotional support animal is essentially a furry ball of love and support. It’s a pet that can help its owner to alleviate sources of stress that can make some medical conditions worse. Animals that help to support a person are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional who decides that the presence of the animal is essential to your mental health.
An ESA can be any kind of animal – from a hamster to a dog to a hedgehog. As long as it’s an animal that fits into your life and helps you, then it can be any type of animal you’re comfortable with!
The importance of your bond
For thousands of years, humans have benefitted from a unique connection to their animals. They’ve been essential to the daily lives of humans for a long time and we likely would not have survived or thrived without them. Your ESA is no different.
One of the most important things about an emotional support animal is your bond with it. It’s that bond that helps to calm your mind and helps you focus when you feel anxiety or a worsening of your particular symptoms.
There are several ways this bond can help improve your daily life. These include:
- Reduction in stress – Many studies have shown simply petting an animal can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
- Increased independence and healing – Emotional support animals are invaluable to their humans because they help with emotional and mental support, as well as recovery from traumatic events.
- Boost in mood – Your brain releases feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin when you simply stroke the fur of a friendly animal.
- Exercise – When you have an animal to care for, you spend more time being active, which can help to relieve symptoms of illness you may have.
- Emotional support – Your pet doesn’t judge you; it provides you with unconditional love and support.
Tips for bonding
One of the challenging things about ESAs is that they’re often older animals. Baby animals or young animals often don’t have the maturity needed to give you the support you require. When it comes time to bond, this offers unique challenges.
To create a lasting and strong bond with your ESA, you should:
Set aside time just for them
Everyone loves attention and your emotional support animal is no different. The simple act of spending time with your ESA can help build and strengthen a bond. Set aside time each day to focus solely on them and do something together you know they enjoy.
Just as stroking your pet helps you to feel good, your pet loves it too. This helps your animal become accustomed to your touch and helps to establish trust as well. As those feelings of trust grow and deepen, the bond between you does the same.
You’ve seen mother animals groom their babies, so take a page from their book to help bond with your emotional support animal. No one is asking you to lick them, but you should spend some time cleaning and brushing your pet to help you grow closer.
Every ESA has a personality that’s all their own. If you can set aside time to play with them, then you can better uncover that personality, helping you to feel more connected.
The quickest way to any creature’s heart is through their stomach, and emotional support animals are no different! Your pet depends on you for food, so seize the opportunity to help you establish a bond and strengthen trust. As they start to trust you as their source of sustenance and a ritual around mealtime develops, you’ll begin to grow closer.
Even with an animal as close to you as an emotional support animal, it’s still important to set boundaries. That’s because happy animals have boundaries. Become the leader in your relationship with your ESA, and establish commands and spaces for your pet.
Share a meal with your emotional support animal to strengthen your bond!
An emotional support animal adds happiness and health to your life, so start working on that bond right away. That way, if you ever do encounter a saber-toothed tiger, you know your ESA will be there to help keep you calm!