Occasionally, looking after pets can be as stressful as raising children. However, it is more often the case that pets help to relieve stress.
Studies have shown that patients recovering from surgery heal significantly faster if they have a pet. Stress has been linked with a higher occurrence of infection, so by having something that reduces stress – in this case, a pet – then the chances of infection are diminished, speeding up recovery time.
There are many psychological bonuses to pets. They provide constant responsibility, which makes them difficult to ignore. Pets are largely unaware of your problems, so they help to shift your focus away from any issues that you might have when you attention is turned towards caring for your pet. By moving your thoughts away from a situation that is stressing you, your stress levels automatically fall.
Stress can bring about the ‘fight or flight’ defense mechanism that all animals – including humans – have. When your attention is diverted from a stressful issue or situation, it allows your body to calm down. When returned to your normal state, it is known as homeostasis, something that stress interferes with.
When they’re not creating stress, dogs are fantastic companions and help to relieve stress. There are times when their behavior can actually aggravate any stress that you are suffering from. However, normally they provide an outlet to help relieve stress. A walk in the park or a game of fetch is a great stress buster. The simplicity of a dogs life – wanting to play, be fed, and get the occasional pat – helps people to remember that life doesn’t always have to be a challenge. The simple things in life are often the best.
For over 10,000 years dog have lived with humans in a domesticated setting. Their presence in people’s lives has been shown to alleviate stress. Whether you’re a hiker, hunter or fisher, having a dog by your side amplifies the good affect of the activities you are undertaking.
Some people don’t have the time or resources to take care of a cat or a dog though. But they don’t have to miss out. Caring for tropical fish takes a certain level of effort, and that effort can move your mind away from whatever problem is stressing you. Added to that, watching sea creatures swim and interact can be extremely relaxing.
Of course, you don’t have to stick to cats and dogs – many animals exhibit behaviors that people think is amusing. And studies have shown that laughter is indeed the best medicine when it comes to reducing stress.
Communication between humans and animals is obviously different than communication between people, but that can be of benefit. An animal is not going to add to your stress with their pessimistic thoughts about a problem. Instead, you get support, and the only thing that they want in return is some affection and dinner.
There’s nothing more you could really ask for in a companion.
It has been estimated that two-thirds of all visits to physicians are for stress-related problems. Recent evidence indicates that the physical changes associated with stress may contribute to the leading causes of death - heart disease and cancer.
The effects of stress include the following:
• Stress can cause chronic fatigue, digestive upsets, headaches, and back pain.
• Stress can affect the blood cells that help you fight off infection, so you are more likely to get colds and other diseases.
• Constant stress can increase blood pressure and can increase the risk for stroke.
• Stress can increase the danger of heart attacks, particularly if you are often angry and mistrustful.
• Stress can make an asthma attack worse.
• Stress triggers behaviors that contribute to death and disability, such as smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, and overeating.
• Stress can lead to diminished sexual desire and an inability to achieve orgasm.
• Stress makes it harder to take other steps to improve health, such as giving up smoking or making changes in diet.
XI. Stress Curing Techniques – How to Deal with Stress
It’s all but impossible to cure the type of situations that cause stress. However, it is possible to implement short-term and long-term techniques that can help to minimize stress, and its effects, during situations that would normally cause you to suffer from this problem.
When faced with a stressful situation, many people allow the stress to build, rather than simply dealing with the problem. They might conclude that it’s just something that is, and cannot be changed, or it will take too much effort to make the situation reverse. It is, however, unhealthy to live with large stress levels, and in most cases, a situation can be changed, with a little effort.
Being aware of both how you are feeling, and the external situation is the key to bringing stress under control. It’s important that you be realistic about circumstances that are out of your control. It’s also vital that you don’t face the situation with fear, or obsession though. Neither will help to change what is happening.
Simply taking a deep breath to clear your head can help. Shallow breathing can lead to neck tension, which then affects your entire body. Breathe deeply and gently move your neck from side to side if you do feel any tension beginning.
Don’t turn the exercise into a production though. You’re not trying to turn it into a yoga class. You’re simply trying to release any tension quickly and simply. Two or three deep breaths are usually enough to help stop tension forming.
The above suggestions are only really helpful for acute stress though, the kind brought on by a particular situation or event, but that subsides quickly. Chronic stress, which is a result of ongoing circumstances, requires more intensive methods to be used.
Getting outside and taking a walk can be useful. Fresh air and sunshine are both helpful in clearing your head, and exercising, even if it’s simply walking, is effective in helping to reduce the physical symptoms associated with stress.
Listening to music you associate with a happy even or time in your life can be effective, as can watching a comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine when it comes to relieving stress. Creative endeavors, from writing to sculpting, building to painting can all be beneficial. You can channel your stress into energy and create something beautiful.
Talking, but not over talking, to a friend can be helpful. Don’t focus too much on what is causing the stress, but bounce ideas about how to deal with the situation off the other person. Don’t obsess, but rather think of ways to make the situation better, and then act on those ideas. It’s also important to choose someone to talk to who isn’t going to bring their own negativity to the problem.
All of these methods can help to relieve the symptoms of stress, but it’s important to realize that they do nothing towards working on the underlying problem. The only way to actually cure stress is to deal with the problem, rather than, simply dealing with the side issues that arise because of the problem.