Can dogs really improve your work-life balance?
I must confess I never thought of a dog being able to give humans simple work-life balance strategies, but they can.
In 2012, we adopted a cheeky Cavoodle (poodle x Cavalier mix) Buddy as I could no longer ignore my 9 year old son’s frequent pleas for a dog. I wasn’t excited about the prospect of bringing a little puppy into the mix, but I caved in knowing that a dog would be a wonderful companion for him.
Puppies bring mess, chaos, dirt and the responsibility of daily walks, which I felt would distract me from starting my new coaching & consulting business, Life Balance Coach.
To be honest I was still struggling with juggling a host of responsibilities given my newly acquired single mum status, and providing for my son. So I personally know how difficult it can be to find the balance between work and looking after your family.
How dogs can improve your work-life balance
A year after we adopted Buddy, I created Life Balance Coaching, and I credit my fur ball with giving me a better work-life balance and here’s seven ways he did it.
Companionship – A dog can help you feel less isolated especially if you work from home and yearn for the interaction of colleagues. More and more employees are choosing a nomadic digital sort of lifestyle, i.e. laptop at a café, but it can be lonely.
On the other hand, more and more businesses e.g. Google, Business Chicks and RSPCA National Call Centre know the benefits of bringing pets to work. Studies have shown dogs reduce stress by decreasing levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure. They also boost social interaction, your overall mood and increase feelings of social support.
Work-Life Balance Monitors – Yes really. If I’m still on the laptop at 4pm Buddy will come over, stand, stare and eventually start poking me. I have less migraines and lower back issues from being reminded to take frequent breaks.
Dogs are such social creatures and will say hi to just about anyone. Buddy is a great conversation starter and I’ve acquired a few clients as a result of it.
Letting Go Of Worries – A dog helps you to let go of your responsibilities and be fully present. Sometimes I’ll take my work worries into the park, and like a dairy cow chew, chew over the problem. Buddy has the ability to live in the moment and to let things go quickly and effortlessly. When an anxious dog approaches Buddy and snaps at him, we’ll both jump back in fright. Then as another dog approaches, I’ll tense up and want to walk on, but Buddy lets that experience go and with a waggly tail and an open heart. He’s not suffering from rejection or ruminating over it. Dogs can teach us not to sweat the small stuff or let our worries takeover our day.
Exercise and wellbeing – Since adopting buddy I’ve lost about 3 kgs and increased my strength and cardio endurance. For example a 3.7km loop around Centennial Park would take over an hour before Buddy but now 50 mins.
Studies by the American Heart Association explain this form of endurance activity keeps our heart, circulatory system, and lungs all healthy and improves our overall fitness.
Self-Care Saviours – Unplugging from technology and sitting in nature helps to reset our nervous system. They are great reminders of our need to break free from a busy and demanding society. Buddy is a quiet companion. Sometimes I just need to sit in silence, and be with my thoughts. Walking a dog makes you schedule this special time for yourself.
Family, Play & Fun time – Having a dog opened my eyes to wonderful family bonding moments, like brunch together at an outdoor café, or visiting a dog friendly beach. We love playing ball with Buddy and going on long family walks. Buddy has given me permission to play with the joyfulness of a child. I love my “doggie friends” and confess to being invited to “doggie birthday parties” and dress ups for public holidays.
When I’m with Buddy I stop multitasking, put the phone away, stop thinking about my to do list and give myself a mini vacation from work.
I can’t imagine a life without Buddy. Besides bringing a lot of laughter and joy into our home, I thank Buddy for helping me find my balance as a Life Balance Coach.
Images by Fiona Craig
Fiona Craig is a life coach, psychotherapist, business mentor, and published author of the award winning self-help book, “Stuck in a Rut – How to rescue yourself & live your truth” helping women remove the fear, worry and guilt to confidently take the steps towards creating the life they want to live.
Fiona has been interviewed by The Australian Women’s Weekly, Women’s Fitness Magazine and The New Daily and written articles for Collective Magazine, Herald Sun Melbourne, Sunday Life Magazine, Career One, I Am Woman Magazine, plus Mouths Of Mums and other online publications. You can learn more about working with Fiona at www.lifebalancecoach.com.au or call 0405 433 217.