A number of studies have shown that petting dogs or cats can relieve feelings of stress in students with a high academic workload. Students preparing for and writing exams naturally have higher stress levels than normal and this can have a negative effect on their physical and mental state. Petting a dog or cat or even watching a pet fish swim around can help to relieve that stress. Here are five of the main reasons why pets have this power.
1. Reduces cortisol levels
Drinking too much coffee and not getting enough sleep are commonly associated with students and can raise cortisol levels but the levels also rise during times of stress. Moderate stressors can have a positive effect on students, motivating and inspiring them to perform well. However, high stress levels are unhealthy for many reasons and long-term stress can lead to depression, sleep disorders and substance abuse.
Petting cats and dogs can relieve stress in students by reducing levels of cortisol. In a 2019 study at Washington State University, students who petted a therapy animal for at least ten minutes had lower cortisol levels in their saliva than the control groups. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and consistently high levels of cortisol can have negative effects on physical and mental health.
2. Lifts mood
Students may be focused on studying for exams but a pet needs attention from them. They still need to feed their pet, take it for walks etc. This is a good thing because the interaction between the student and a pet increases the levels of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, in the body. It is easy to start feeling a little down when spending so much time studying and a pet can provide exactly the type of distraction students need to make them feel better.
Various studies have shown that even brief interactions with a dog can significantly improve mood. Students interacting with pets every day during stressful exam periods are generally more at ease, suffer less from anxiety and can cope better than those who don’t.
3. Take a walk with your dog and distract yourself from studying for the exam
When students are preparing for exams, they can lose track of how time flies by. Taking a walk with a dog gives them some much-needed physical exercise and prevents them from sitting for too long in front of their books. But it is worth noting that there are so many useful services that also help reduce stress just like a walk with a dog. For example students at college can benefit from using the plagiarism checker and other content help at Edubirdie. They can make sure your homework is plagiarism-free and use professional writers to write assignments for them to give you more time to spend with your pet or any other most important tasks.
4. Lowers blood pressure
The cortisol-lowering and oxytocin-boosting benefits of petting also help keep high blood pressure at bay. Petting and holding an animal can be incredibly relaxing and calming. Interacting with pets forces students to take time to slow down and relax away from their books. Just taking a dog for a walk can give them some physical exercise which is also good for their blood pressure and boosts their endorphins. They will return from a walk feeling refreshed and positive.
Many universities have brought in therapy pets as part of stress-relief programs for students. For students wanting to become professional veterinarians, there are various life hacks that can help them to cope with stress.
5. Better concentrating and planning
As a follow-up to the 2019 study, another three-year-long study tested 309 volunteer college students on their cognitive skills such as concentrating, organizing, planning and memorizing. All the volunteers were screened before the experiment to test their executive function and stress levels.
A third of the volunteers were considered at high risk for stress based on their mental health history and recent academic performance.
Each volunteer was placed in one of three experimental groups consisting of petting therapy dogs, stress management workshops, or both.
The researchers didn’t find any differences in planning and organizing in students with low stress levels but the highly stressed undergraduates showed significantly improved executive functioning skills. When researchers followed up six weeks after the experiment ended, the results were still evident.
Pets offer more than just unconditional love and companionship. There is scientific proof that interaction with pets reduces cortisol, releases oxytocin, lowers blood pressure, and helps highly stressed students to think and plan more clearly. This is why stress-relief programs that integrate therapy pets can help students to relax and feel less overwhelmed. Interacting with pets maybe even more effective than taking an academic approach to stress management.
Brandon Kryeger is in the writing field and has been creating waves with his high-class writing and training classes for newbie writers. He’s mostly interested in academic writing and his audience is students from colleges and universities around the world. His free time is for playing basketball, doing digital paintings and watching political debate shows.