College is a wonderful, but stressful time for many. Students juggle assignments and studying across all of their classes while trying to find time to rest and relaxation. Often, some of these needs don’t get met. Add to that the pressure of holding a job, acquiring student loans, and managing other expenses for possibly the first time, and it’s no wonder that some college students feel on the brink of disaster. That means college students need methods for quickly lowering their stress levels. And one of those ways can be as simple as having a pet.
Pets are Comforting
Most pet owners find interacting with a pet after a long day extremely comforting. And, the stronger the bond, the more relief they generally feel.
Since many college students feel more stress at this time in their lives than they may have ever felt before, having a pet to greet them at the end of a day full of classes can provide a quick respite. Even a short encounter can reduce feelings of anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels. In fact, one study found that owning a cat or dog could control blood pressure more effectively than certain ACE inhibitors.
The benefits aren’t limited to pets of the traditional furry, four-legged variety. Even relaxing in front of a fish tank can provide a strong source of relaxation. And that form of a pet may be more accessible to college students who are renting and contending with significant restrictions in their leases regarding pet ownership.
Pets Reduce Loneliness
Having a pet to come home to can reduce feelings of loneliness. They provide a sense companionship and can even serve as a point of social support. They serve as “someone” to talk to, providing a confidante for secrets. Additionally, they offer a feeling of unconditional love.
Even knowing a pet is counting on you can help alleviate loneliness. Having an animal to care for provides a sense of purpose beyond the every day. This feeling can extend beyond actual interactions. For example, when a college student is at the grocery store looking for the best dog food for golden retrievers, they know they are doing something important to meet their dog’s needs.
Pets can also serve as icebreakers for meeting new people. Walking a dog gives people an automatic conversation point when you cross paths. That makes it easier for people to approach the dog owner, and that increases the number of social interactions in which one may participate.
Pets as Part of the Solution
Owning a pet might not handle all of the stress associated with being a college student. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important, including eating right, exercising (though they can help in this area), and getting enough sleep. However, having a pet can be part of a larger plan to keep stress low which may make it easier to maintain a healthier lifestyle during times of stress.
Now, not all college students will have access to their own pet while at school. Often, college dorms have fairly strict rules regarding animals on premises. But finding ways to increase a student’s exposure to animals may also be beneficial. Visiting animals at a no-kill animal shelter could provide a source of relaxation, and allows them to do something charitable in the process, or visiting a friend who owns a pet may help. Or, when at a loss, they can consider using the icebreaker idea to their advantage by introducing themselves to local dog owners who walk by. Who knows, maybe they’ll make new friends along the way too.