Today, I want to share a story about stress, but not from a human perspective.
Instead, I found it intriguing to observe the reaction of a four-legged friend, Ringo, when the smoke detector in the house went off.
As humans, the high-pitched sound of a smoke detector can be uncomfortable for us, but for dogs like Ringo, it's an entirely different experience.
When the detector went off, Ringo reacted with sheer panic. He started shaking uncontrollably, and there was no way to calm him down. It was as if he was stuck in a state of fight or flight, even after the alarm stopped blaring. Not even petting or treats could ease his distress. What Ringo clearly wanted was to get out of the house. He didn't feel safe, and he was in a state of extreme distress. The only thing on his mind was escaping the situation.
So, I decided to take him for a walk in nature. This little dog, despite being older and not as physically fit as he used to be, was determined to run—fast. Ringo didn't stop until he, or rather both of us were out of breath. However, when we returned home, a place Ringo usually loves, he stopped in front of the house and refused to go back inside.
He was still apprehensive and didn't feel at ease. It was only when he shook himself off that he was able to accept the treats and slowly return to normal.
What Ringo experienced is comparable to what happens to us when we find ourselves in stressful situations.
When we face stress, a region in our brain called the amygdala sends a signal to the hypothalamus, which serves as a control center. The hypothalamus then communicates with our body through the nervous system to respond to the stress.
This response includes the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands, often called the "stress hormone," which raises heart rate and blood pressure, triggering the innate "fight or flight" (flee) reaction.
Ringo was ready to "fly" - he simply wanted to escape the stressful and potentially dangerous environment.
What's fascinating about animals, and something we can learn from, is their innate ability to self-regulate their nervous systems.
Ringo instinctively knew that physical movement could help him reduce the elevated cortisol levels caused by stress.
Exercise is a powerful tool for reducing stress since it lowers the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
I've noticed that whenever Ringo feels stressed, he shakes himself off, literally shaking away the stress and the situation. It's a natural way for him to reset.
What can we take away from Ringo's experience
Firstly, when you find yourself stressed and in "fight or flight" mode, consider moving your body—go for a run or exercise.
Elevated cortisol levels in your system can impact your heart rate, motivation, sleep, and even lead to serious health issues.
Secondly, learn to shake off your stress, just like Ringo.
SHAKE your body - physically releasing tension can help you move past a stressful situation.
Lastly, always prioritize safety when returning to a stressful situation.
Trust your instincts and make sure you're in a safe environment... AND indulge in self-care to soothe your nervous system.
Ringo's story reminds us that we can learn valuable lessons from our furry companions on how to cope with stress. Next time you're feeling stressed, do like Ringo and go for a run to relieve stress, and shake it off like a dog ready to move on to something better.