“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”……. or is it?

Many people dread both the lead up to the Christmas period along with the actual day, when we are caught up in the excitement of Christmas we may not realise that the reality for many is that Christmas is in fact the worst time of the year.

Christmas can be stressful for everybody but for those with depression or anxiety the stress can be amplified creating a whirlwind of emotions that many find it difficult to cope with.

Our CAL dogs work with children throughout this period that may not have had the wonderful experience of Christmas that TV and movies say it should be, with an abundance of presents and rich food. The reality is some of these children have had a very different experience of Christmas one of loneliness, dread, hunger, abuse to name a few. Through the work of our dogs we help support these vulnerable young people in their educational environment, helping them manage and regulate their emotions, helping them to be able to cope better and be able to get through this time in a calm and supported way.pip-santa

Each Christmas I hear how our dogs help many children and it fills my heart with both sadness and joy, sadness of the issues these young people are going through but joy in that our four legged friends have helped make this time a little more bearable and have brought some happiness in to their lives. Our wonderful CAL dogs support young people both in and out of the classroom, here is how (we have changed names of the young people to protect their identity)

A carol service may seem like a lovely event however for Katie it was a sensory overload, too much noise, too many people, the whole event just too much to deal with.  However with a CAL dog at her side she managed to sit through the majority of the service – a great achievement that she was so pleased with.

Knowing that you are not going to see your parents over the festive period is not easy to deal with, Karl had been having increasingly aggressive outbursts, absconding from school, refusing to engage with any staff – It was then when one of our dogs was asked to work with him. Over time Karl became more settled, he was of course still incredibly upset and angry but with the help of our team was able to work through his feelings, continue with some schoolwork and hopefully has learnt some tools to help him cope over the holidays.

One of our dogs accompanied a young person to a Christmas ice rink for an end of term trip, this young person usually refuses to attend school trips however on this occasion she had the added confidence, motivation and support from her CAL dog – the result a fantastic day enjoyed by all,  a  real achievement  for Sophie.

Animal Assisted Therapy can help young people and adults during this period, although we work primarily with young people there are some great ways your pets can help you relax, de-stress and help lift your mood this festive period.

  • Taking your dog for long walk this Christmas can be a great way to get some exercise for you both, the time away from the hustle and bustle of the busy day spent with your dog can release serotonin and dopamine which can help calm and relax you.
  • Take some time out of your busy schedule to just sit down and spend some time stroking your pet; the therapeutic effects of physically stroking an animal can reduce blood pressure along with making your feel calmer and less stressed.
  • If you are feeling lonely or isolated walking your dog is a great way of meeting people
  • If there is something worrying you, talking can be a great way to help resolve the issue. Your pets can be the best listeners, they are non judgmental and always happy to listen
  • Pets love attention, playing with a dog or cat can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine which calm and relax you.
  • The companionship of a dog can offer comfort in times of loneliness.
  • Your pet can provide sensory stress relief; touch and movement are two great ways to quickly manage stress. Stroking a dog lowers blood pressure and can help you quickly feel calmer and less stressed.

If you are struggling there are many organisations available around the clock to help you.

We’re hsams_logoere round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need a response immediately, it’s best to call us on the phone. This number is FREE to call. You don’t have to be suicidal to call us on 116 123