Not long ago, I came home from work with an anxiety attack. My heart was beating so fast and so hard that I could feel it in my throat. My breathing was shallow. I felt as if I was about to jump out of my skin. I knew what was happening and decided to try some of the strategies I knew to work. First I tried deep breathing. Getting control of your breathing controls your hyperventilation and helps to slow your heart rate. Even though I tried my best, it didn’t work. Perhaps I hadn’t managed to breathe deeply enough. Next, I thought, this is a fight or flight reaction. Perhaps a bit of exercise would help. Exercise releases helpful hormones and relieves stress. I tried jogging lightly in place. It only made my heart beat even harder. Then I thought perhaps a glass of wine would help. Alcohol is a depressant, so I figured it might relax me. I poured a half glass of wine and took a few sips. It’s true that sometimes this does relax me, but it also didn’t work. Finally, I remembered listening to Marty Becker, DVM on The People’s Pharmacy. He talked about how animals can relieve stress and mentioned that a cat’s purr can be soothing. I have read about this phenomenon both in regard to people and regarding cats soothing each other or themselves with their purrs. I decided to lie down on the bed and put a cat on my chest. I live with five cats, so this was easily accomplished. I stroked the cat so that she started to purr. Then another cat sat on my legs and began to purr as well. Soon I could tell that my heart rate began to slow. In a short while, I was fine.
Most people know by now that pets are considered good for people’s health and emotional well-being. There are countless articles on the fact. It was really nice to be able to put those ideas into practical and immediate use! Next time I have an anxiety attack, I’m grabbing the cats first!