Stress and Anxiety

These Animals Reduce Stress and Anxiety, May Boost Exam Scores

Just about a week before last semester’s midterms, my parents decided to finally jump back into the world of having a pet. Considering I live at home, this meant that I did too. It was especially exciting since we lost our beloved Rosie of 14 years over a year before while I was studying abroad. Once our fur baby was home, we began doing all the usual stuff that new pet owners would do. Following him around with a camera, stuff to clean up accidents, and voices as if we were speaking to an infant (he was, after all) while we enjoyed the new addition to our family.

Mid-terms rolled around.

Unfortunately, I knew that studying at home would not be an option if I wanted to be remotely productive. Due to that obvious issue around an adorable new animal, I begrudgingly dragged myself to the library a few blocks down on the Monday before a Thursday accounting test. After grinding it out for 8 or 9 hours, I decided to call the studying and head home later that night. Accounting might be the language of business, but that was evidently not my first language. Not that I did not enjoy the challenge, but sometimes I think the practice exams had a mind of their own and enjoyed stressing me out.

stress photo

I was losing sleep.

Typically, at my school, the accounting classes all followed a similar structure for exams. We would get a practice test a week or so before, everyone would try to memorize it as best as possible, then it would feel like the actual test was from a different planet. In any case, I would routinely toss and turn, rarely sleeping a full 7-8 hours on the days leading up to a test. Not only was this bad for me in general, but it negatively affected studying, keeping up in other classes, and exercising in the morning. I followed this bad routine for every accounting exam during college. Having not lived at home the first two years of school, I did not see our old pet very much. She was never all that friendly to begin with anyway.

Coming home from studying all day, I somewhat expected the greeting that was waiting. Our red lab puppy would hear the door open, sprint and slide around the corner from our kitchen where his bed was, and tackle (as best a 16 pound puppy could) me at our front door with all the energy he saved up from sleeping all day. I imagine everyone has their opinion of what an ideal greeting is, but I doubt any can really beat being welcomed home by a soft, energetic puppy. As expected, he ran as uncoordinated as ever, spinning out like someone at Nascar when he rounded the turn out of our kitchen on the hardwood floor, then got back on track for his sprint at me to say “iloveyouiloveyouohhumanyou’rehomeiloveyouiloveyou” in the typical dog language of yipping, licking, and jumping up on me.

The stress just…left.

I do not know what exactly it is about dogs that helps me relax. Whether it’s how friendly most are, soft, or enjoyable to sit next to on the couch, I can safely say I understand the main reasons why so many people have them. I threw a few toys around and worked on tiring the pup out for a little while, quickly unravelling my wound up stress from trying to cram in accounting knowledge all day. Some might drink a beer, many watch Netflix, but this was my ideal stress release. It is no surprise then, that many colleges and universities out there bring in animals around exam times to help people calm down and lessen any building test anxiety. I slept all night that week with my new relaxation exercise and even scored slightly higher than usual on my test. The pup certainly did not mind his extra attention, either. If you are lucky enough to have a school that brings in dogs as therapy animals, make sure you take some time to stop by and see them. You might just feel a difference.