Many times in the course of my career I felt the negative effects of stress. With looming deadlines, an inexperienced team, demanding clients, big presentations to prepare and present…all the ingredients needed for a rough night’s sleep, a foggy head, and a deficit of tolerance. Stress, for me, was hard to manage, but one trick always seemed to help: taking a walk with a dog. The dog in question wasn’t even my own. I usually borrowed a neighbor’s dog, or sometimes my boss brought her big Golden Retriever to work and I’d enthusiastically take him for a walk.
It turns out that taking a walk with a dog is a great stress-buster. As highlighted in Harvard Medical School’s article “Wag More: a tale of healthy living”, walking with a dog can lower our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and having lower cortisol levels helps us combat anxiety and feel less stressed. It can even help us release oxytocin–our happy hormone.
My canine co-coach is a young black Labrador named Melling, He is the perfect walking companion as he willingly and naturally shares his sense of joy (maybe he has an overdose of oxytocin) with all who walk with him. And like all dogs, he appreciates every moment, savoring the breeze, the bushes, and every new experience offered. I try to use his appreciation of every moment to remind myself to also be in the moment and increase my mindfulness.
More on mindfulness here.