THE SECRET TO LESS STRESS: HAVING A PET AROUND

PHOTO COURTESY | Roberto Nickson

PHOTO COURTESY | Roberto Nickson

Have you been looking for a way to deal with your stress?

Here's a secret that many are not aware of – simply having a pet around can significantly reduce your stress levels!

This is something that has been proven by science countless times, and the fact that owning a pet brings with it so many other advantages too is just another bonus.

HOW DO PETS HELP WHEN DEALING WITH STRESS? 

The idea that pets can help with stress is hard for some to believe, but there are now more studies than ever that prove this.

When you are stressed, your body releases certain hormones, such as cortisol. These hormones put your body into “fight or flight” mode, which is something that used to help our ancestors deal with stressful situations (since these were usually life or death matters!).

In small amounts, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cortisol. In fact, it can even have its benefits.

However, today's modern day lifestyle means that cortisol levels often remain elevated in a person's body for an extended period of time. This chronic stress causes a number of different health problems, from high blood pressure and muscle weakness to mood swings, depression and anxiety.

So, how do pets help with this?

Simply having contact with a pet, or even just watching your pet, has the effect of lowering the amount of stress hormones in your body.

Not only that, but this contact can also lower the heart rate and blood pressure while calming feelings of fear and anxiety.

HOW DO PETS HELP TO PREVENT STRESS?

Helping to lower your stress levels in times of stress are just one of the ways in which pets can help...

Having a pet around also helps to prevent stress from occurring in the first place!

How?

Well, to begin with, owning a pet means that your blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety levels, and everything else are kept more steady and consistent. This makes you so much better equipped to deal with stressful situations in a calmer and more rational way.

Pets also help to combat feelings of loneliness, which is something that exacerbates stress. Not only do they provide so much unconditional love and companionship, but they also encourage socialization with other pet owners.

Certain pets, such as dogs, also require plenty of exercise and outdoor time. This has been proven to make a huge difference when it comes to keeping stress at bay (learn more here).

FINDING YOUR PERFECT PET

When pets are mentioned, most people immediately think of a dog or a cat.

There is no denying that those animals can really make a huge difference when dealing with stress, and bring with them a number of other benefits too.

However, a dog or a cat isn't for everyone...

If you aren't at home much, or have physical limitations, you may be better off with a pet that is easier to care for, such as a bird or a fish. These animals can provide the same stress-busting benefits as a dog or a cat, so keep an open mind when choosing a pet.

Stress can really take its toll on a person's overall health, which is why it is so important to minimize your stress as much as possible. Having a pet around is one of the easiest ways to do this, and will also make your life so much more enjoyable in general too!

Read more from the latest issue of Athleisure Mag.

HOLISTIC HEALTH, OR WHY MEN SHOULD SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

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No man is an island, and the same principle rings true for each system of your body. It’s all too easy to compartmentalize health and well being into sections – exercise, diet, and so on – but research shows you need to look at the whole, not the individual. Take this study published in 2018 by the American College of Cardiology; they found that simply being optimistic is enough to reduce heart disease mortality by 38%. Being positive seems like a small change, but clearly has big results – and the pathway to understanding this is through your hormones.

The hormonal system

Your hormonal system is your internal messaging system and probably one of the most integrated parts of the body, with multiple different mechanisms working through it. It can be easy to overlook, given how they work very much in the background. Having your hormones in balance and in check is important, and is relatively easily achieved through proper sleeping schedules, eating at regular intervals, and engaging in physical activity. It can’t be overstated how important this is, and a 2011 study published by the National Institute for Health noted that decreased sleep is linked heavily to obesity. For some, there may be medical reasons for a hormone deficiency; this is common in both men and women, with it not uncommon for men to experience testosterone shortages. In these cases, it’s absolutely fine, and likely important, to look for hormone replacement therapy.

The power of breathing

Meditation, yoga, and measured breathing – these are buzzwords for a new generation of holistic health practices in the modern day, and are sometimes burdened with being seen as hippy-ish. However, deep breathing has been practiced for thousands of years by yoga, tai chi and other meditation practitioners. What’s interesting is that science backs up the powerful effect of deep breathing – tests on mice have shown deep breathing to directly reduce signals of stress in the brain, according to The Verge. Stress produces hormones of its own that can be unhelpful, flooding the body and causing strain; regular deep breathing and meditation helps to countenance that. 

Stretching your muscles

Stretching was probably discarded along with your school gym lessons, and was often an annoying precursor to having fun on the field. It really shouldn’t be disregarded, as it has a wide range of health effects that benefit more than just your bones and muscles. According to an article by UC Davis, stretching also helps to increase energy levels and release tension. Once again, this helps your body hormonally; it provides an impetus, assisting your metabolism, and makes you feel more full of vitality.

Through understanding your hormones, learning to take a deep breath and looking to stretch out, you can improve your life in subtle but powerful ways. Your hormones come together to be stronger than the sum of their parts, and that can be of immeasurable help in your day to day life. For the modern man, taking stock and addressing shortages in their daily routines is a must.

Read more from the latest issue of Athleisure Mag