The Benefits Of Therapy Dogs On College Campuses

The Benefits Of Therapy Dogs On College Campuses

"Paws to Relax" at Stevenson University
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With the end of the semester quickly approaching, college students are beginning to feel the stress of last-minute assignments and final exams. We tend to get so caught up in our work that we don't "paws" to relax. This past week at Stevenson University we welcomed Pets on Wheels to help students reduce their stress and anxiety by spending time petting calm, good-tempered dogs. Pet therapy has become very popular in colleges and universities across the nation, which had me questioning, "what's the real benefit of therapy dogs for college students?" First off, who doesn't love dogs? There are days I find myself missing my dogs more than anything, so having them on campus can help students feel at home. But, most importantly, interacting with a friendly, gentle pet has been scientifically proven to provide significant benefits to both mental and physical health.

Therapy dogs have been shown to lift spirits and lessen feelings of depression and anxiety. In a survey of college students conducted by the Associated Press and mtvU, 80% of students said they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress, 34% felt depressed at some point in the past three months and 13% had been diagnosed with mental health conditions such as an anxiety disorder or depression. These percentages are alarming so it is important that stress relievers (such as therapy dogs) are provided to students, ideally throughout the school year.

Physical side effects of stress and anxiety can include excessive ongoing worry and tension, muscle tension and respiratory or cardiovascular issues. But, interacting with therapy dogs can lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, release endorphins and can create an automatic relaxation response. This is exactly what college students need during periods of increased stress, such as final exams week. Taking a moment to relax can help them regain the motivation they need to finish out the semester. Therapy dog handlers are usually volunteers for a non-profit organization, such as Pets on Wheels, making this a nearly cost-free anxiety reducer available to universities. I hope to see therapy dogs at Stevenson University more often and become a norm on all college campuses.

Cover Image Credit: Stevenson University Facebook

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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Having a Plan

It's OK if things don't work out as planned.

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Growing up is a lot of work. As we age, there comes a certain pressure to know exactly what you intend to do with your life. This is something that society and often times the people we love most demand of us. Our culture is so busy there is no time to waste. "You need to be driven, have a goal," is the scream of the world. This ideology has shaped every ounce of who we are. We panic when we don't know. We're supposed to have an answer.

We plan and we plan and we plan, and we make ourselves miserable in the process. We become so caught up in the logistics that we look all around us: left, right, forwards, and backward. We search all over to no prevail, and we forget to look up.

Proverbs 16:9 (HCSB):

A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.

This is something I've been learning in my time at college. And I'm a planner. I like a good plan. When things don't go according to plan, I tend to resort to panic.

All this to say, plans aren't a bad thing, but it's important to recognize it's OK if our plan doesn't work out exactly.

It's also OK not to know it all right now. There are things in life that will come to pass before we know it. So don't rush.

God's timing is more than perfect. Even when we don't understand.

God's plan is never messed up, so we should take comfort in that.

Rest in this truth today. Surrender your plans to the Lord, and take a breath.

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