photo of gray cat looking up against black background

I have gotten so stressed at work and/or studying for an exam I felt like exploding. Grinding away on a task for hours on end I would ask myself; what have I accomplished? These are common occurrences among students and the working force alike. I have been on both sides of that fence. I have spent countless hours worrying about the future and worse, ruminating about the past. Unfortunately many endure stress and anxiety on a daily basis, some not as well as others. This problem can be greatly alleviated by getting out of yourself, not literally of course, but by simply thinking of yourself less. Thinking about caring for another life a little more goes an extraordinarily long way. Relief from these grave hinderances, worry, regret and remorse became a critical focus of my life. One of the best actions I ever took to achieve relief from these bedevilments was to adopt a cat. Two cats in fact almost exactly two years apart. The adoration I receive from them is uncompromised by how lousy my day was or how poorly I scored on my physiology exam. Unconditional affection and love would be the best way to phrase what I receive from them both. I am not trying to make light of the serious effects and affects experienced by academic stress, on the contrary, my only goal is to share an idea that may work for you.

Brown writes in his article, “3 Out of 4 College Students Say They’re Stressed how mounting expectations, evolving self-identity and the shock of leaving home makes college students more vulnerable to mental health risks, including suicidality. The article goes on to mention a study conducted by Cindy Liu, PhD, involving 67,000 college students from over 100 college campuses. This study, primarily about stress, anxiety and depression, found that 1 in 5 students said they had thought of suicide. And 1 in 10 actually attempted it. These statistics more than double the national average for adults. The danger, Dr. Liu states, “Is identifying those students who are quietly enduring a significant mental health experience.” Feelings of loneliness anxiety and physical lethargy are all symptoms of stress and being overwhelmed. There is also a great number of students and non-students who suffer from more grave and emotional disorders but whom soldier on as best they can. Author Ana Sandoiu wrote about a study conducted concerning people living with conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, PTSD and bipolar disorder. This study found that those having a pet offered them a deep sense of “ontological security.” Or, “the feeling of stability, continuity and meaning in one’s life.”

Depression and isolation can be extremely dangerous, I have personally suffered from depression in the past and found it at times to be insurmountable. The weight of expectationand the fear of failure were enough to bog me down for years. I was frequented a psychiatrist for a time but found little relief there. A psychiatrist’s job is to use the patient as a human guinea pig. I was given different medications and told to report back in two weeks. When I returned to see him I was discouraged to say the least. My sleep cycle was completely thrown off as was my appetite. I was sleeping only 2 to 3 hours a night and eating only once a day. So he changed my prescriptions as well as the dosages. The next visit found me perpetually groggy and lethargic. This was only my experience and do not advocate someone not seeing a physician if or when one is needed. Those with serious chemical imbalances in their brains by all means should seek medical treatment and follow the advice of their doctor.

It would not be until years later that I would experience taking care of an animal and reapall the benefits that come with caring for something completely and unreservedly. Unlike caring for a plant say, which I have heard can be peaceful and therapeutic, an animal gives back  tangible affection. As much as the affection not thinking about myself constantly was crucial in helping to free me from myself. It did take more introspective work than pet adoption to achieve a healthier mental and emotional state but my cats do rank high on that list.

Acquisition of a rescue animal is what I am proposing here. Guinea pigs are cute, rabbits too, but the feedback you get from them may be limited compared to a cat or a dog. In her article, “12 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Health”, Hark listed the top eight ways pets can help you: They get you outside exposed to fresh air which elevate your mood as well as vitamin D from being in the sun. They get you moving: studies have shown that animal owners have have lower blood pressure as well as cholesterol. They lessen allergies in children who  have been raised with animals as infants. Petting reduces stress while you connect with your animal, soft fur, rhythmic breathing all promote the release of oxytocin in your blood stream. They lessen loneliness, often pets can read your mood and will seek you out when you are depressed. Most importantly your animal loves you unconditionally. That is not an easy thing to come across either. Most everyone in this world puts some kind of condition on affection.

Author Emily Holland wrote in 2017 concerning a study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University. This study examined stress levels of employees who brought their dogs to work, employees that left them at home and those that did not own dogs at all. The employees who left their dogs at home all reported higher levels of stress as did those who did not own dogs. Furthermore, “Pets serve as constant reminders to live in the moment because it is the only way they know how to live. While us humans ruminate over the past and worry about the future, pets simply live in the here and now. Pets focus on whatever is directly in front of them, although they appear to be simple creatures, in many ways, are much wiser than their owners.”

The benefits of being a pet owner to those enduring more serious mental illnesses remain positive.  Another study written by author Erin Ross documented the positive effects of animal ownership by those with bipolar-disorder and schizophrenia. “Many people with more serious mental illness live at home and have limited contact with the health care system.” One of the participants with two dogs and two cats stated, “They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it.”

What is the proposed cost of buying an animal today, or even better rescuing one! According to Weliver, [Money] the annual cost of owning a dog is approximately $1270 dollars a year. Owning a cat is approximately $1070 dollars a year. The initial costs may vary but the ballpark for a dog ranges from about $695 and a cat is $595. These cover all the shots, crate, bed, scratching post, leashes, food etc. Now, if you rescue an animal the current information from the CITY OF RANCHO CUCAMONGA ANIMAL SHELTER, lists the costs as kittens (up to 6 months) $60. Adults (6 months and up) $45. Puppy (up to 6 months) $150. Adults $100. Rabbits (all ages $40) this includes spay or neuter, micro-chip, vaccinations, de-wormer and flea and tick prevention. Much more affordable and humane to rescue rather than buy at a pet store.

All the pets (cats) I have owned, I have rescued from the pound. It can sometimes be a bit of a heartbreaking experience. You look on all those long faces and want to take several home with you. The joy comes from being able to give at least one a good home. I have two now. My male, Drama (9 years old) and a female, Piglet (7 years old). The exercise of loving them unconditionally has mellowed me out as a person immensely. Despite the goofing around on the bed at 2am, they are nocturnal, the fur balls yakked up on the carpet, they groom themselves you know, and a general sense of ownership upon anything they come across in our home, my wife and I love them like family members. They both, (Drama and Piglet), have distinct personalities but both give affection unconditionally. I take care of them daily and when finally settling in for the night luxuriate attention upon them both. The rewards far outweigh even the attributes mentioned in this essay. Rescue one and see for yourself.

Annotated Bibliography

Brown, Italo M. “3 Out of 4 College Students Say They’re Stressed, Many Report Suicidal Thoughts Study.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 6 Sept. 2018, abcnews.go.com/GMA/college-Students- stressed-report-suicidal-thoughts-study/story?id=57646236.
The information from this report by way of ABC News is completely pertinent to this proposal essay. The above article concerning stress on college students used statistics from Dr. Cindy Liu. She is the Director of Multicultural Research at the Commonwealth Research Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is an Assistant Professor of Psychology within the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. I wanted to appropriate my findings using these facts because they are very relatable to my target audience: college students. I felt the seriousness of stress and even suicidal ideology were important problems to convey in my proposal and this study shows this.

Hark, Danielle. “12 Ways Your Pet Can Improve Your Health.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017 , www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-hark/pet ownership health_b_3187960.html.
Danielle Harks editorial piece gave simple but very effective examples of how pets can help your mental well-being. Danielle is a certified life coach as well as a wellness writer. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post as well as Psychology Today. She is a mental health advocate and the founder of the non-profit Broken Light Collective, which empowers people living with or affected by mental illness.
Danielle gave me simple reasons why owning a pet can help someone with depression and/or stress in their lives. This article gives credibility to the corrective actions part of my essay.

Holland, Emily. “7 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet.” The Chopra Center, 13 Feb. 2017    chopra.com/articles/7-health-benefits-of-owning-a-pet.
Writing about not only the physical wellness achieved by owning a cat or a dog I wanted to address the stress relieving attributes to being a pet owner as well. The research referenced in Emily Hollands article helped to articulate that. Holland is also a certified life coach with a Masters’ degree in General Psychology. Holland spoke about an activity achieved with pets that many of us find near impossible to master. That is to live in the moment. Now is the only time your pet understands and I want my reader to understand that too.

Sandoiu, Ana. “It’s Official: Pets Benefit Our Mental Health.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 19 Feb. 2018, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320950.php.
In the problem identification portion of my essay I spoke about some detrimental mental health concerns. The article penned by Ana Sandoiu helped to emphasize the positive nature a dog or a cat can have on someone with depression, schizophrenia, or bi-polar disorder. This editorial from Medical News Today supports my proposal for the attributes of being a pet owner and their contributions to your well-being.

Weliver, David. “The Annual Cost Of Pet Ownership: Can You Afford A Pet?” Money Under 30, Money Under 30, 14 June 2018, www.moneyunder30.com/the-true-cost-of-pet-ownership
I needed to reference the practical cost of owning an animal for this essay. I felt my essay incomplete without some cost analysis to my suggested corrective actions for the problem presented. The referenced material by writer David Weliver is just basic math anyone can do for themselves. This editorial fit in perfect with the monetary portion of this essay, so I used it.
David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30.com and a cited authority on personal finance. He has written for CNBC, Investor’s Business Daily as well as the PBS News Hour.

“Piglet” 7 years old

Drama” 9 years old