Today I am publishing something a bit different. It's national dog week and for me, animals are a great help for reducing anxiety. Here's a post by puppyspot. 

If you’ve ever pet a dog before you know the instant calming effect that comes over you. It feels like that dog is specifically there to see you and they know just what kind of attention you need to feel better. Well what if I told you this wasn’t just a feeling, but that dogs are actually improving your health. That’s right, aside from being ridiculously adorable, dogs have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans behaviors and emotions. As a result, this means positive benefits to our mental, physical and spiritual health. So let’s break this down.
            Mental Health Benefits:
·       Reduce anxiety and depression
·       Higher self-esteem
·       Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness
·       Improve emotional and social development

These benefits all stem from the companionship dogs offer. As human beings, companionship can help prevent illness and even add years to our lives. While the basic act of caring for another living thing can help make you feel needed, distracting your mind away from the tribulations going on in your head.

                        Physical Health Benefits:
·       Boost immune system
·       Increase oxytocin levels and lower cortisol
·       Increase exercise frequency
·       Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
·       Reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

Of course having a dog means increased exercise as dogs require daily walks. These walks, runs, and hikes not only keep you and your pup fit and healthy, but also send off mood boosting endorphins through your system. So win, win.

This graphic by PuppySpot goes into further detail on these benefits, as well as the incredible abilities dogs can be trained on. Including identifying seizures and certain types of cancers in humans.

Pretty impressive right? Well they don’t call dogs “man’s best friend” for nothing! Speaking of which, if you’re on the hunt for your new furry bff make sure you take into consideration which breed fits best with your lifestyle. Picking out your perfect puppy is an awesome experience, but it’s important to keep in mind your needs and theirs. Things like yard size, other pets in the house, allergies, kids and budget should all be considered. Or if you’re not quite ready for a pup of your own, check out your local shelters looking for volunteers or the good dog park. Fortunately a friendly pup is never to hard to find!

Why am I anonymous?

I have been writing this blog anonymously for over four years and I do often think about revealing a picture of myself, but I can't just yet. I have absolutely no problem in talking about my mental illness. I have told employers, the whole internet and people who want to know. Of course, I don't just go up to people and tell them but only if they ask or if it were to come up in conversation. The depth of detail that I go into also depends on the circumstances. However even after four years of sharing my journey with the world, I still haven't shared a picture of myself or a youtube video. This is not because I am ashamed of my illness - far from it. It is because of my planned future job in which I am disclosing my mental health and have done in work experience in the field. The job I am applying for cannot be associated with being known and recognised by many people. Perhaps if I am given the all clear to do this, I would be more than happy to do so but until that point, in spite of my dream career and giving it all that I've got I will have to remain anonymous for now. I'm hoping the big reveal won't be too far away!

Amy Xx

It all comes out in the wash

I can just her my Mother's words ringing in my ears; "It all comes out in the wash" and I guess it does. Right now I have just finished university and for the first time in my life I don't have a set plan. Because of my anxiety, I like to be sure that everything is in control and so I know what to expect, but currently I only have a very loose plan! 

At the moment I am taking it day by day and slowly forging my future. It's hard because I feel that I'm in a race against time, knowing how fast life can pass you by. But at the same time not everything can be achieved in an instant and things can take time. 

Looking back at my mental health journey, it has been extremely tough and still can be. But focusing on the present, it's strange to see how everything has come together. It's almost as if Mum was right to say that "everything comes out in the wash". Even though I can still get panic attacks, anxiety and depression, I am a world away from the severity that it once was many years ago. At that time I didn't think that I would live to see the next day, let alone ever get better and yet years later I am in a much better place and achieving the things that I want to, even if I do find it harder than others. It's almost as if it's beginning to come out in the wash. Now after university I am in a place of uncertainty and it is scary because for the first time ever I don't have a set plan. But just like my mental health journey, I'm hoping with hard work, help and determination it will all fall into place. I'm not expecting it to be easy or straightforward but it can just happen that things we never think we are going to get through or aren't working out, may do just that. It's about taking things day by day and looking at how much you have already achieved. It will come together in one way or another.

Amy Xx

The cure for your anxiety?

Throughout my mental health journey I have always credited CBT to be a huge help. CBT is cognitive behavioural therapy where you are exposed to situations which trigger your anxiety. It sounds scary I know, but it's not as bad as you think. Usually with CBT you start small, with the things that trigger your anxiety the least and as you move on you get to the things that trigger your anxiety the most. By facing your anxiety head on your mind learns that there isn't a threat there at all and soon learns a new positive behaviour. It does take willpower, but it is definitely something you are capable of! You may not be able to complete the task first of all but you will get there.

Recently I have come across an app called nOCD whom contacted me to highlight their new app and asked to collaborate with me. I downloaded the app and have given it a go myself. In comparison to therapy in which I had CBT, it is pretty much the same thing but without a counsellor being there. I think if you are finding it hard to talk to someone and/or need something to help your anxiety then this app is definitely something you can try. I know I wish it was around when I was having therapy and struggling with my anxiety. It's free to download, so you're not losing anything by just giving it a go. You can download the app free to your phone, here; http://m.treatmyocd.com/ReliefFromAnxiety

I hope it helps you. If there's just a small chance it may help, then why not give it a try? I know CBT really helped me, so I hope this app can help your anxiety and/or OCD too. Below is an example of how I have used the app!

Amy Xx

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The new additions

Pets have always been a soother for the soul and if you have been following me on social media recently, you will know that I have gotten some pet rats; RJ and Remmy. I did have a pet rat before around ten years ago, at a time when life was tough. It was one of the main things that got me through. I don't know how or why, she just did. With my love of pet rats still strong (and all other animals, but I can't get a dog just yet!) I thought it was time to get some more. Many people are horrified of the thought, but in reality domesticated rats are clean, loving and intelligent and make great pets. I feel they also do wonders for my mental health because it provides a purpose to look after something else other than myself and are just generally therapeutic. It sounds weird because they can't talk and yet they seem to provide some peace in the mind. 

With this, here are some introductory pictures. Do you have pets or animals that help you?

Amy Xx