Finding Peace Through Paws: A Woman’s Story of Overcoming Anxiety

Haneen Al Najjar finds comfort through confiding in her furry friend.

By Donia Ibrahim

Haneen Al Najjar was no stranger to anxiety. She had struggled for years with an ongoing feeling of overwhelm and dread, as though something horrible was about to happen. 

As she entered college, she began to experience the weight of anxiety. With the demands of academic life combined with the strains of adjusting to a new environment, it wasn’t long before her anxiety became crippling.

“I still remember the first day of classes like it was yesterday. As I walked into the campus, something inside me changed. I was so happy to begin a new chapter in my life. I couldn’t help but feel intensely intimidated and overwhelmed by seeing so many students rush to class and to see the unfamiliar buildings looming overhead,” she recalled.

Al Najjar’s anxiety seemed to worsen as time passed. What began as sporadic panic episodes while still in college quickly developed into a constant state of concern.

Even though she tried many therapeutic methods, her anxiety started to take over her life. Simple tasks like driving, running errands, hanging out with friends or even being at home became sources of severe anxiety. 

One day, after a long, stressful day at college, Al Najjar strolled through her neighborhood in Dubai. As she walked, she heard barking and happy growls coming from a nearby dog park and decided to follow the sounds out of curiosity and ended up at the park’s entrance. She entered without thinking and was greeted by a pack of amiable dogs who ran in excitement, wagging their tails.

She quickly noticed that her nervousness started to ease away as she knelt to pet the fluffy dogs and felt a wave of serenity sweep over her. She was moved by the moment’s understated force and realized that spending time with animals could be an effective kind of treatment for her.

“Anxiety feels like a never-ending maze and when I found myself lost, I turned to the online multiverse, the internet. I came across a ton of articles about natural remedies and tips and tricks to control anxiety. However, I felt as like I had unlocked a treasure trove of knowledge, but there was so much of it that it was simple to feel overwhelmed,” said college student, Haneen Al Najjar.

She started looking into the science of this phenomenon after observing the calming effects of spending time with dogs. She learned more about the subject and the potential advantages of animal-assisted therapy for people dealing with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

After a lot of research, Al Najjar started looking for pet adoption centers in Dubai. She knew that having a dog would be a big responsibility, but she was ready to give it a shot.

When she picked up her little furry puppy, she immediately felt warmth in confiding in her new buddy. Eventually, the college student started noticing the benefits of owning a pet, where she would discover that she was generally happier, more focused and less stressed..

It’s well recognized that pets improve the mood in a home, especially dogs who can be therapeutic. Studies have shown that spending time with animals can improve feelings of happiness and well-being and lowering stress, anxiety and sadness. 

This is related to the release of serotonin and oxytocin, chemicals that are linked to happiness when one interacts with animals. 

Additionally, dogs can detect their owners’ moods and respond appropriately, which is particularly beneficial for those who are depressed or anxious. They offer a sense of stability and security because of a pet’s everlasting affection and support.

In the wake of her experience with animal-assisted therapy, Al Najjar has seen a significant change in her life. She discovered a level of serenity and security when she spends time with her furry friend.

She has also become a supporter of animal-assisted therapy, where she tells people about her experience and urges them to discover the therapeutic advantages of animals. 

Al Najjar’s journey has not been without difficulties, but her tale serves as an inspiring example of how, with time, effort and the love of family and friends, it is possible to overcome even the most challenging struggles and live a happy life.

Finding support can be challenging if you or a loved one is dealing with anxiety or other mental health issues. Owning a pet or working at an animal shelter are examples of ways that connecting with animals can assist in reducing stress and anxiety, increase feelings of enjoyment and improve quality of life in general. Al Najjar’s experience is a testimonial to the efficacy of this therapy and offers hope to those who may be going through a similar ordeal.