As global leaders in stress management John and Judy are committed to sharing how to embrace stress as it takes a shocking toll on people’s lives, businesses and health. Learn from this very talented and highly experienced couple how to tap into energy resources that renew the body, mind and spirit to relieve the effects of damaging stress.
Social Support and PTSD
Last Monday morning Judy and I met with Bob & Hannah Richards who are the Co-Founders of the ‘Paws for Hope and Understanding Inc.’ program. Bob had his wonderfully trained Collie Lara by his side in full harness during our meeting. Also Hannah had her new White Swiss Shepherd Service dog Faith with her.
This innovative initiative is believed to be one of the most comprehensive PTSD training programs in the world, and an Australian first. It provides trained assistance or service dogs for both young and older ex-Defence personnel as an aid to help them transition from high stress and combat environments to general society.
Last night we visited a large Shopping Mall to observe an assortment of new service dogs in training doing ‘their thing’ with the throng of late night shoppers. Dodging people in the packed Food Court, walking the busy thorough fares, up and down a travelator and riding in a lift. The dogs all were wearing their yellow and black ‘L Plates’!
They all performed extremely well.
Fortunately, reducing stress can be as simple as interacting with a dog, which significantly decreases production of the stress hormone cortisol and improves your immune system’s functions by raising levels of the stress-reducing bonding hormone oxytocin.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Aaron Katcher, M.D. explains that because humans evolved solving problems about animals, animals have the power to entrain our attention. “When we are around animals, we become more joyous, communicative, expressive, and calm,” he says.
In a study on blood pressure and mental stress, researchers found that pet-owning patients with high blood pressure could keep their blood pressure lower during times of mental stress than patients without pets.
Playing with or petting an animal, or even just being with an animal can increase levels of the oxytocin and decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol. These hormonal changes can help a nervous child feel more relaxed about reading aloud. Reduced stress can also benefit physical health.
In a special Elementary school program in Arizona, students can read to dogs and take care of them at school. “You can always talk to the dog, and the dog’s not going to judge you,” said the school principal.
A study in the American Journal of Cardiology explains that research shows that pet owners may also have increased odds of surviving for at least a year after having a heart attack. Social support and pet ownership, a nonhuman form of social support, have both been associated with increased coronary artery disease survival. “Both pet ownership and social support are significant predictors of survival, independent of the effects of the other psychosocial factors and physiologic status,” wrote the heart-disease researchers.
Both Paws for Hope & Understanding and Strength for Stress are in the process of formulating a program to give veterans a chance to develop a support system that will assist their Mental Health.
Another research study found that when people took care of dogs for just three months, they showed significant drops in blood pressure and reactivity to stress. The days their blood pressure fell the lowest were the days they took their dogs to work.