Role of Pets in Relieving the Stress in Humans
In today’s busy life human beings are very much stressed due to hectic schedules, lot of workload and less time to meet the set targets. Stress is the emotional and physical strain caused by our response to pressure from the outside world. A feeling of frustration, anxiety and depression can make some people feel stressed more easily than others. Common stress reactions include tension, irritability, inability to concentrate, and a variety of physical symptoms that include headache and a fast heartbeat. It’s almost impossible to live without some stress because it gives life some spice and excitement. But if stress gets out of control, it may harm our health, relationships, and enjoyment of life. There are various medications for reliving the stress but looking to their side effects now a day everyone thinking for new alternative to cope with this generalized problem of every human being. Hence, an alternative is the pet, the notion that animals benefit human health and wellbeing has become a widespread belief today. ‘Pet therapy is a general term that encompasses many therapeutic activities involving animals as companions; it uses the unconditional love of the animal for a human being.’ From pediatrics to geriatrics, acute-care facilities to community health, and from prevention to healing, the human-animal bond can be integrated in a holistic approach to care (Jorgenson et al., 1997). In this backdrop the present paper highlights role of pets in stress management.
Reasons for Stress
Many people due to just thinking about something, or several small things that accumulate, can feel stress. The most common causes of stress are family problems, financial matters, Illness, Job issues, lack of time, moving home and Relationships (including divorce) Other less common causes includes abortion, conflicts in the workplace, losing your job, miscarriage, noisy neighbors, overcrowding, pollution, pregnancy, retirement, uncertainty (awaiting laboratory test results, academic exam results, job interview results, etc).
Management of Stress
Flashback on Human-Pet Relationship
Throughout history, animals have played a significant role in our customs, legends, and religions. Fossil evidence indicates an association between humans and animals dating back to at least half a million years ago. Today, this relationship remains strong, as evidenced by millions of visits to the zoo annually, high rates of pet ownership, and the economic prosperity of the pet industry. Early surveys reported a strong psychological and emotional attachment between people and their pets, and the term human-pet bond emerged to represent this attachment. Although the majority of households include a pet, it is only recently that we have begun to explore the relationship between people and their pets and the possible physical and emotional benefits of that relationship. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1993) defines the term “pet” as “an animal kept for pleasure rather than utility.” The newer term “companion animal” is defined more broadly and is often used interchangeably with the term “pet.” It connotes an animal that is frequently in the company of, associates with, or accompanies another or others; one that assists, and lives with another as a helpful friend. The human companion animal bond is more specifically defined as an attachment that can be interpreted as an affectionate, friendly, and companionable interaction between a human being and an animal (Baun, Oetting, & Bergstrom, 1991).
Role of Pets in Management Of Stress
Unless we learn to manage stress, we will get sick. Whether we can relieve the day-to-day stress without medication? This is a question which millions of people across the world ask their relatives and doctors. The answer to this question is – YES. Stress can be dealt with, without any drugs or medications. There are several ways to manage stress which includes medical treatment, meditation, exercise, listening to music, taking a soak in a tub, etc. come to mind but now medical science has proved the potential of companions or pets in relaxing the human life. The documented history of the use of animals to benefit human health extends back as far as the 17th century.
Positive physiological and psychological benefits to humans have been linked to the presence of companion animals. The importance of unconditional love, the value of touch, the energy derived from an act of unselfish kindness, and the security are some of key components of having a companion, all of these enhance and improve our quality of life and health and in moderating stressful events (Friedmann, 1990).
Compared to people without dogs, those with dogs smiled more, received more social greetings and acknowledgments, and engaged in conversations to a much greater extent the animal can facilitate a sustained commitment for the activities. Talking to an animal, or reading in the presence of an animal, is less stressful than talking or reading without the animal there. Facial expressions used with animals are much more relaxed and more comfortable, that intimacy makes touching, petting, and talking to dog relieves tension and appear more comfortable, more relaxed, and more attractive to others. In terms of your physical health, a dog really is your best friend, Psychologists call it ‘unconditional positive regard’ which means your dog loves you no matter what sort of a day you are having, how rotten you have been to the people at work, how stressed you have been. You come home and your dog is glad to see you and it’s always glad to see you,” So dogs really are man’s best friend after all (Edney, 1992).
Researchers suggest that decreases in blood pressure, heart rates, and stress levels, as well as increases in emotional well-being and social interaction are benefits of the human-animal bond (Jorenson, 2007). Studies revealed that most pet owners view their pets as both enhancing the quality of family life by minimizing tension between family members and enhancing their owner’s compassion for living things (Barker, 1993). Barker and Barker (1990) found that dog owners were as emotionally close to their dogs as to their closest family member. For people with AIDS, the presence of a companion animal was associated with a buffering of depression. Siegel (1990) compared physician utilization of Medicare recipients experiencing stressful life events and found lower utilization among pet owners compared to those who did not own pets. Allen et al. (1991) reported that females had lowered stress levels when their dogs were present compared with the presence of a human best friend or control condition. Studies have found that simply having an animal present or visiting is beneficial to children and adults in some health care situations. Friedmann et al. (1983) observed reductions in children’s blood pressure levels when a dog was present during a mildly stressful task. Physical contact such as hugging and petting the dog may result in physiological and psychological reductions in stress that have been reported for nonclinical populations, and that the dog may serve as an entertaining distraction (Barker and Dawson, 1998).
Stress disturbs our work, relations and progress. There are many avenues to relive stress including medical and physiotherapy. Pet therapy is one of the vital control measures to manage our day-to-day stress. Based on proven medical research a significant body of literature supporting the therapeutic value of the human-companion animal interaction has been accumulated. The unconditional love, unselfish kindness, and the security are some of key components of having a buddy, which helps to enhance and improve our health and in moderating stress.
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