By Rachel Townsend
I have been actively working in the dog training industry for 10 years, as a dog trainer and business owner. I have had anxiety since childhood and have learned through the years that keeping my mind focused on the current moment and letting go of everything else, helps to calm me and ground me.
I have observed that anxiety comes from trying to analyse and predict an uncontrollable and unpredictable event, so grounding and bringing yourself into the present moment is incredibly helpful in easing anxiety. Even as a child, I was doing this intuitively with my dog, and now this is my business and I pass this knowledge onto my clients with their dogs.
My business is The Honest Canine, located in Albury NSW, but I have clients all over the country. I chose that name as a promise to myself to be as honest as a dog in my work, with myself and my clients. It’s not always easy but it’s how I can be the most helpful to myself and others. I find my clients succeed well beyond what they were able to do working with other trainers, and it’s because I concentrate so much on the owner and coach them in such a way that they can really communicate with their dog.
Helping clients during COVID-19
While I had some personal challenges with working from home with kids and juggling demands, workwise, COVID-19 has impacted the business in a positive way. While people were at home, they were face-to-face with their dog’s problems that they could normally escape from a few hours of the day. So they can’t ignore the issue, and people have really reached out for support at this time.
There have also been more people getting puppies, and they can put in the work with them now to lay a solid foundation to make the puppy stage easier, as well as helping them transition their puppy from having company all the time to having breaks in the day when they are home alone.
My clients are some of the most incredible people, and an absolute pleasure to work with. We are a business built for a certain type of person, and honestly, if I can’t help them, I will refer them on. Having the ability to choose who your clients are, and how to help them best, is a great feeling.
Taking care of myself during COVID-19
I have definitely had my moments of feeling overwhelmed and tired and have needed to put things on hold or slow down a lot. Having chronic pain has taught me to be very selective with what I give my time and energy to, and to do things as quickly and efficiently as possible before my mind and body taps out for the day. It’s been made easier by having mentors who have done an amazing job to coach me through this process. I make sure I don’t feed the beast (anxiety) and that I don’t overload myself and end up being stressed, anxious and angry. This is important not only for me, but for my kids as well to ensure that they don’t see COVID-19 as something to panic over.
It’s also important to be able to sit down and talk to someone who is neutral, as it helps realign me to what’s important. Eating healthily makes a big difference, not only to my physical health, but my mental health too.
Taking time out for myself was difficult when the kids were home 24/7 and not able to go anywhere. But small things matter, like taking a bath, sitting in a quiet place in the house and reading my favourite book, or accepting that dishes always get dirty and allowing myself to rest - guilt free!
Checking in with friends and family frequently and having coffee dates over the phone with friends or video chatting has been a great way to connect and make sure no one is feeling isolated or lonely.
Play is also a key thing I teach with my clients as a stress reliever, not only for their dogs but them! And it’s a useful tool for me as well, to make sure I take time to play – with the dogs, kids, or maybe even just a game of cards or something. Play relieves tension and grounds me back into the present moment.
Support for rural small business owners
r small business and for people in general, no matter what work you do or if you work for yourself or others. We weren’t designed to go at life on our own. We are built to need and rely on a community, and great support.
Right now, we are all going through a shared trauma and you aren’t meant to have all the answers about how to deal with and process what is going. I didn’t grow up with a stable support system, so I built my own support system with therapist, nutritionist, supportive medical professionals, business mentors. I am also conscious to connect with people who have no shame in reaching out and gathering as much help and resources as possible to make their lives as easy as possible. It’s easier to do something when you see others displaying the habits and behaviours you wish to carry out.