Feeling Anxious? Turn to Animals During Times of Stress

Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today, and we share her blog posts here. Enjoy!

I’m writing this post during the U.S. election week, where uncertain results and unsubstantiated accusations, coupled with rapidly rising rates of and deaths from COVID-19, are unnerving an already anxious nation.


While there are many ways to calm ourselves when we feel anxious, there’s one way I’ve found that works like magic every time: paying attention to other species.

The morning after the election, I brought our bird feeders to their stand in the snow as the clouds turned vermilion just before sunrise. Perched on top of the stand was a flock of Evening Grosbeaks awaiting breakfast.

Prior to Election Day, I’d never seen these birds. I hung up the feeders, and the Grosbeaks quickly descended upon the seeds. I marveled at their beauty and enjoyed hearing their chatter. While the human world was a flurry with anticipation for the future—and inside my house the radio was already on, relaying the nailbiting reports—watching the Grosbeaks brought me into the present moment.

What a relief.

After dinner that night, I sat on our couch, phone in hand, and two of our dogs immediately jumped up to demand my attention. When they didn’t receive it, because I was already busy scrolling through my newsfeed, they chose to play with each other, my lap as their playing field. I was impatient with their shenanigans, and tried, halfheartedly, to push them off me. Didn’t they realize I was busy trying to soothe my anxious mind with more information?!