Stress Management Goes To The Dogs
Today we are all under more stress than we care to admit or know. Making the rent payments, taking the kids to practice, driving to work, peer pressures, health management and simply just feeding the family, are all pressures that just ‘show up’ in a lot of our day-to-day lives.
Our stressors though, are quite different from years past. Feeding the family used to mean something very different in the past than it does at this time in our human history. Other things that stress us out have changed enormously also, but the ways of managing that stress have remained much the same over the years and throughout our history.
There are a lot of acceptable and effective ways to cut your personal stress levels, but I’m going to give you one method today that not only works to reduce your stress levels, but also positively impacts many other aspects of your life. I’m talking about having a pet…and even more specifically…a dog.
Now, I’ll say right from the outset that having a dog is not for everyone. There are specific responsibilities that come with dog ownership. There are also personal tastes in types of pets, that play into whether you are going to enjoy having and caring for a dog or whether it will actually increase your stress level because of your unfamiliarity with a dog’s needs and requirements. You are the only one who can intelligently make a decision as to whether a dog is the pet for you or not…but if you are a dog loving person…read on!
In recent years, study after study has shown that stress is one of the greatest factors in most of the major illnesses of our times. Stress, in its many forms, is a contributing factor in high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more. If any of these are a risk factor for you, controlling your stress level may be to your advantage. You must do more than just think about stress management. Developing a specific plan to find ways to cut you levels of stress, and reduce frustration and fear, is just what you need.
There have been many studies and press releases in the last years showing that dog ownership can reduce blood pressure, stress levels and stress producing chemicals in the body. In fact, studies are showing that high blood pressure may be controlled better through pet ownership than with the most popular drugs on the market today. ACE inhibiting drugs generally do fine to reduce general overall blood pressure, but studies show that they don’t work as well as pet ownership in controlling the spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension.
Exercise is one of the key factors in maintaining health. Dog ownership is a great way to get out there walking, because to care for your dog responsibly, she needs to go for walk every day. That, in turn, gets you out there going for that walk. One of the greatest benefits to dog ownership is encouragement to ‘walk our way to health’. It’s true that dog owners walk more than people who don’t own a dog. There is a saying in the dog world that goes something like: If your dog is overweight…you are not getting enough exercise.
Going for walks aside, there are other factors like playing with your dog that gets you out there ‘moving’. Sometimes we get lulled into being sedentary because we’re not having fun in our lives. A dog can bring some of that joy of life back into our everyday living and just a little more movement can make an enormous difference in how we feel about ourselves and life in general. Dog ownership then, is a positive force in combating depression also. Depression is a huge risk factor in today’s world and stress is a well-known contributor to the alarming rise in the incidences of depression.
Dogs make you smile; they make you laugh at their antics and sooth you when you’re upset. Just one look into the loving eyes of a dog or puppy and happiness comes to the forefront. If you are a dog lover, it is hard, I dare say almost impossible, to stay in a ‘bad mood’ or a ‘funk’ if you have a loving canine companion there to comfort you. Dogs love unconditionally, with no agenda, no hidden requirements and always with forgiveness in their hearts, even when we make mistakes.
Therapy dogs are often used in nursing homes, hospices and some hospital type settings to combat loneliness and to give short-term companionship to people who suffer from loneliness and depression. Just the act of petting a dog can lower the blood pressure and increase the ‘feel good’ hormones in the body. With this information, we now know that dog ownership can be a decisive factor in a personal health plan, even for a healthy person.
We know that stress is a large contributing factor to the diseases of our day. We also know that each of us needs to find ways that work for us, on an individual basis, to combat the stress that presents itself in our lives. Is having a dog one of the ways you will choose to fight the stress in your life? A dog in your life may be one of the most joyful things you do for yourself for many reasons, not just stress management.
If you decide that getting a dog might be for you, please do your due diligence and research about what kind of dog will be right for you and your lifestyle. There is a lot of great information out there about dog breeds, puppy vs. older dog, dog care and training. Take the time to make an informed decision so you can lower your stress level and create a more joyful life for yourself and your new canine companion.
Sue Lee Ringwelski