The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper

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Food & Health

Paws to De-Stress

With exam stress just around the corner, how could our animal friends help us?

For many years it has been recommended to spend time with animals to help reduce our stress levels. Most of us have had the calming experience of snuggling up next to our cat, playing with our dog in the park or even having a pet bird for company while you work. Having an animal present during stressful times is a well-known stress-eliminator.

“By petting an animal we are encouraging the release of the ‘happy hormone’”

Animals help to provide comfort, joy and company in stressful and upsetting times. But how do our animal companions help us so much in time of difficulty? And how can you, as a student, get your fix without stalking dogs at the local park, or travelling all the way back home?

The science behind the calm we get from animals is a chemical reaction in the brain. This gives us a similar relieved and comforted feeling to the one we have when receiving a hug from a loved one. By being around, playing with, or petting an animal we are encouraging the release of the ‘happy hormone’ known as oxytocin; the hormone responsible for reducing stress. It also causes a reduction in the production of cortisone, the hormone which is released when we are feeling stressed or anxious. While you can have this same reaction from hugging a loved one, it appears that many people prefer to have animals around in times of stress. This is due to the unconditional emotional support that an animal can provide that our loved ones cannot.

Animals are not as likely to annoy you, or become annoyed at you, as you work away on a deadline then perhaps our well-meaning, but always distracting friends, would be. This, combined with the chemical reaction, is how they are able to provide such a calming and peaceful environment.

But how are we students meant to get our fix of animal love? The responsibility of getting a pet, both financial and physical, should not be taken lightly. All animals deserve a stable home where they are cared for by their owner, who should have permission to have them there and the financial capability of caring for them. This makes it very rare for a student to be able to properly support a pet. However, it is still possible to get your animal fix, even as a student.

Here are a few ways to get in some stress-busting time with animals without taking on the responsibility of your own pet or taking sudden, and expensive, trips back home.

Stress-less Animal Farm Experience
The Stress-less Animal Farm Experience is an annual event organised by the Student’s Union. This year scheduled for the 21st of March, on the green outside the back of the Student’s Union. This experience is a great chance to get up close and personal with some adorable farm mammals, birds and more homely animals, whichever takes your fancy. You even have traditional farm animals available for a scratch, including friendly pigs and sheep. The pigs in particular enjoy having their stomachs scratched and students always enjoy watching the lambs and goats having fun jumping around on the bales of hay in their pen.

For bird lovers there is a manner of strange and starling farm birds available to pet and there is always a friendly member of staff on hand to help you handle them correctly and give you more information. If these animals are not for you, there are also household animals like dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs that are happy to receive your attention.

Borrow my Doggy
Perfect for dog lovers, this free service allows you to connect with dog owners across the city who need their dog walked on certain days, or are even just looking for company for their dog during the day. This way you can have the joys of owning a dog without the financial stress and responsibility.
Through Borrow my Doggy you can set up a one-time dog sitting experience, either while the owner is at work or, for longer periods of time, when the owners are on holiday. Or you can arrange a recurring role as the day-time carer or weekday walker of your new furry friend.

Borrow my Doggy is very popular in the Portsmouth area, with currently 131 dogs in a 2 mile radius of Southsea, as professionals don’t want their pet left alone in the flat all day. They would appreciate friendly students, with the day off, popping in and spending time with their pet.

At the moment, there is a huge selection of dogs to choose from with various responsibilities and needs. This includes a ten week old Springer Spaniel Labrador cross who needs a friend during the day, a pair of Dachsund’s looking for walks and company during the daytime and an older whippet looking for a friend in the evening.
No matter what kind of dog, or responsibility level, you are looking for, there is sure to be something on Borrow my Doggy.

Tailster
If you’re more of a cat person, or a dog-person who is a little bit lacking on cash, why not try and get some pet-related work? Finding cat-sitting or dog-walking jobs has been made easier by using the free app, Tailster. This platform allows you to get in contact with people who are willing to pay to have you look after their pets.

While it takes a while to be approved for the carer responsibilities, Tailster provides an easy way to get in contact with people who are willing to pay for pet services; and by using the app you are covered by their insurance, so if there are any accidents, it won’t be at your expense.
Tailster offers a huge amount of services, tailored to your specific desires. Split into several sections you have the option of looking for dog, cat or small animal related work and it is up to you to provide quotes for your work.
It is an interesting and satisfying form of self-employment for any animal lover, and this way you have an excuse to hang out with animals – whilst getting paid for it!

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