A vet student’s perspective: Animals Are My Therapy

INTRODUCTION

After following Barkind Mad Vet for a while, I was keen to reach out to Victoria to contribute to Animals are my therapy.

In the meantime of writing her personal story to share on here, Victoria has shared the wider perspective as a vet student on her blog. 

So here is part one of Victoria’s Animals are my therapy story.

BARKING MAD VET BLOG POST:

Following last week’s blog, I have started working on a much more personal post surrounding the title ‘Animals Are My Therapy’, on a blog published by an amazing pre-vet student with a special message to share.

My animal therapy story has been one of the hardest things I’ve written so far, mainly because after sitting with a blank piece of paper, I didn’t know where to start! I quickly realised that animals have shaped my personality and now my career choices in countless ways. Although I can’t think of a specific significant event, being surrounded by animals has grown to be what makes me feel at home.

I could now go off on a tangent with several anecdotes and memories, but I want to focus on the bigger picture; I know for a fact that I am not the only person who finds comfort and strength through a four-legged friend (or a feathered friend!) and this is my major motivation for training as a vet.

The obvious role of a vet is the one most people see: a general practitioner in the consulting room with them, trying to cure their dog’s recent stomach upset or treat his painful leg. However, if you look a bit closer, you see the vet taking time to explain what’s wrong with the pet, describing different treatment options, going through positives and negatives, being patient, and helping the owner make a decision. When you can help an owner leave the vets feeling reassured and confident that they’ve made the right decision, it is just as important and just as rewarding as treating their pet.

Working as a vet on a farm is quite different to working with dogs and cats; whilst farmers do passionately care about their livestock, a vet has to be more aware of the business element of the decisions a farmer has to make. As you’ll know if you’re read some of my other blogs, I spend a lot of my time on farms when I’m back home in the North East and I know how much a farmer wants to help his stock. There is no better feeling than when a vet helps you design a treatment plan which allows the cow or sheep or pig to be treated within you budget! Alongside being their livelihood, farm animals are quite often the pride and joy of their owners, who have been working hard to build up their pedigree for generations; this explains the disastrous consequences the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 when so many farmers faced severe depression and even suicide after losing their stock.

So, as a vet, vet nurse, vet student, nursing student, or an aspiring veterinary professional, it’s super important to remember what an amazing job the profession is doing in working to make sure that humans can keep their animals in the best possible conditions, and keep their four legged friends by their side for as long as possible. Keep going everyone, you’re doing great!

If I’ve not quite convinced you how much animals mean to humans, or if you just want to read some amazing animal therapy stories, check out the ‘Animals Are My Therapy’ tab of Mammalsandmicroscopes: an amazing set of stories put together by an awesome soon-to-be vet student! Well done Heidi, your message is super special and very very important!

FOLLOW VICTORIA

BLOG: Barking Mad Vet

FACEBOOK: Barking Mad

Animals for academic anxiety

ANIMALS FOR ACADEMIC ANXIETY

MY STORY

From the beginning of primary school, or I have been told as far back as nursery, I had difficulties settling in. Every task I completed had to be a replica of the image I created in my head. So, imagine the dread and anxiety little Heidi experienced when she was faced with tests at the young age of 7.

Over the years, I have developed a phobia of exams. Stemmed from low self-esteem and a fear of failure, failure being anything below 100%. Studying became obsessive and compulsive, if I did not complete 12 hours a day then I was a nervous wreck. Ironically, for the past three years, even attempting exams sent my brain into complete meltdown and crisis mode. Believing that a life of 99% results is a life not worth living.

The reality of rigorously controlling something is that it takes a three hundred and sixty degrees turn before beginning to control you. Society deems a 24 hour scheduled life as perfection, I know first-hand how rigid thinking and the need for productivity is in fact a hindrance. Let us praise the “go with the flow” attitude in academia, and those learning through exam mock failures. This is how we must face difficulties in life, rather than working so intensely to avoid the what-ifs.

Only after hypnotherapy and animal therapy can I even say the word EXAM, so now I can shout EXAMS at the top of my voice without fear of irrational curses that will doom me to failure.

I am not lagging behind my high school class, I am on Heidi’s academic journey. The Heidi journey has been full of adventures and life lessons along the way, it is only beginning.

Facing academic anxiety head-on is a huge leap forward on my journey. This journey will change my life, not because of grades that I will achieve or how many hours of work experience I will clock up.
I am escaping from that rat race.

“Once we face our fear, once we treat our anxiety itself as a thing, we can then choose otherwise. Instead of filling the unknown in our minds with expectations of the tragic, we can choose to fill the void with a different expectation – the expectation of adventure.”

ANIMALS ALLEVIATE ANXIETY 

Hypnotherapy is not an option for everyone, I am fortunate to be receptive to this form of therapy. However, animals have the ability to put us in a state of relaxation, they are hypnotherapists in their own right. Animals also help us to eradicate unnecessary anxiety and negative emotions, because remaining calm improve our focus and concentration on the task at hand.

So here are 3 ways that animals alleviate exam anxiety. 

1. SELF CARE

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Other how-to-overcome-exam-anxiety posts will tell you to have a quality sleep, to eat wholesome and nutritious brain food, to take regular breaks outside.

I understand just how difficult this can be, especially when your self-worth has hit rock bottom. This is where animals can help:
Care for your pet whilst caring for yourself.

You are your dog’s world. You feed them, you take them to the toilet, you make their tail wags. With any animal we have responsibilities away from the tasks that are gluing us to our books.

They encourage us to get outside and take a wander in the great outdoors. I shared the benefits of the outdoors here

2. THE BEST STUDY BUDDIES

Get yourself a furry study-buddy. (Hopefully your dog won’t eat your homework).

During a particularly difficult depressive episode, a litter of puppies literally saved my life. I was reassured that everything had happened for a reason, that Esme the pup was sent to be my companion.

After sneaking Esme upstairs in my dressing gown, she would sit in my knee whilst I studied in bed. Easing the overwhelming fears of studying and exams, when life was already pretty much unbearable, my little pup was the best buddy. 

They divert our attention from the never-ending spiral of worry. From feeling uneasy and anxious, our study buddies help us feel calm and concentrated. 

3. ALTERNATIVE ACHIEVEMENTS

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“Caring for animals gives you a sense of achievement that is not a graded % or measured in kilograms, but wagging tails and kisses.” – my ANIMALS ARE MY THERAPY post.

Check out my “Animals are my therapy” post to read how animals helped my self-esteem, in more detail. 

Animals continue to motivate me on my journey, to overcome the obstacles with pride, and to shout it from the rooftop so that other people can benefit too.

Heidi x

Put your wellies on

I often recognise that animals provide us with the key to unlock our front door on the days the all-consuming demoralising cloud of depression would leave us feeling trapped. Our four-legged companions can remove the barrier of fog in our minds, and lead us to the great outdoors.
Animals are my therapy.

Many of the benefits of animal therapy stem from the healing powers of being outside.

The outdoors are also my therapy.

So, what do I gain from the outdoors?

1. GRATITUDE

I cannot measure the profound feeling I experience when hiking in the Swiss mountains. Instead of attempting to quantify my success and productivity, I wholeheartedly appreciate the little things in life when enchanted by nature. The things that are free of charge from sunrise to sunrise. 

We are surrounded by it, and is not a fleeting time period of our life. It’s an escape, a refuge, a safe haven. Imagine nature as the secure foundation of our lives, strip back everything else, and you can continue to experience gratitude for being alive.

2. MINDFULNESS

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When the extra things in life can feel overwhelming, the basic foundations of nature ground us. You can simply “be”, surrounded by sights that make you grateful for the life you live. Stop and be captivated, there is no experience likewise. 

Mindfulness involves the other 4 senses too. Allow yourself to touch, taste, hear, smell, and see the natural environments without judgement.

Slow down. Switch off of your inner critic. Sense the wonders of life.

3. STRESS RELIEF

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Nature provides an easy escape from the academic rat race. The change of scenery from four walls and a pile of revision, to picturesque open spaces is an immense stress reliever.

The outdoors offer a chance to gain practical skills, to add another string to your bow whilst learning outdoors. Sequentially, this reduces the stake and mental intensity of textbook learning. 

4. EXPLORATION

Whilst others are being sheep, be the goat that takes the mountain sides.

Whether the outdoor offers you increased spontaneity is in the form of taking your muddy dog on a new route, or hiking in the sweltering heat abroad, always be a goat.

It is easy to be tempted to go off track, to explore new areas, to meet new people. 

Why is the outdoors therapy to you?