Holidays seem to be the collective stress time: humans are stressed, and because our animals are so intuitive, they in turn become stressed. Often times stress in dogs and horses is not obvious; the animals internalize the stress, often masking it…until their bowels tell us otherwise.
We know stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. Here are some simple ways to de-stress yourself and your fellow humans during the holidays, as well as reduce stress in dogs and horses.
- Drink more water: studies have shown that drinking more water can reduce anxiety. Sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeine are dehydrating to the body. Research has shown that one 12 ounce beer requires up to 3 times the amount of water to process that beer. If you don’t give your body the amount of water it needs, it will pull water from bones, muscles, and your brain. Make sure you are well hydrated before holiday parties!
- Nurture your karmic seeds: open the door for an older person, help a friend put on his or her coat, let the frantic woman driver in the parking lot have the parking space, buy food for a homeless person, share your smile at a nursing home. One daily act of kindness will nourish your karmic seeds of happiness/comfort/joy.
- Take care of your GI tract: all those wonderful sugary cookies and foods can increase inflammation. Eat more yoghurt or kefir; or take a high CFU probiotic supplement (14-15 billion CFUs minimum) to help support the intestinal micro organisms. Remember, CFUs tell you how active or “alive” the probiotic bacteria are. The higher the CFUs the more active, beneficial bacteria are in the supplement.
- Reduce cortisol: excess cortisol can contribute to higher inflammatory markers, weight gain, anxiety, and depression. Two Ayurvedic herbs are very helpful in reducing excess cortisol: Ashwaganda and Holy Basil. They are both available in supplement form at most health food stores. Holy Basil can also be found in tea form known as: Tulsi Tea.
- The seat of health begins in the GI tract…and there is no easier way to support the GI tract than providing a good probiotic during stressful times. Probiotics with CFUs in the millions cannot colonize the GI tract of horses, but do provide food for the existing colonies. Probiotics with CFUs at 100 billion or more per serving can colonize the GI tract thus providing better protection from stress in horses.
- Fiber treats: give your horse a gift of more fiber! Offer an extra flake of hay, or some chopped hay, or chaffe hay, because the fiber in forage is the food horses were designed to eat. And horses appreciate variety! Increasing fiber during is critical to the balance of the GI tract, and a balanced GI tract is a great reliever of stress in horses.
- Add a smile: humans who smile or laugh around their horses can provide a very positive vibration for the horses. When we work around our horses with a grim expression, or worry, or anger or fear, those energies are transported to the horses. Greeting your horse with a smile will go a long way to supporting the horse’s sense of wellbeing. Think about how little girls smile and laugh when they see their ponies!
- The intestinal microorganisms: how many dogs this holiday season will eat food they aren’t supposed to eat…or get into candy, nosh on some human leftovers, or be given food they aren’t used to eating? Probiotics are a dog’s best friend when it comes to keeping the GI tract balanced and stress in dogs under control. If your dog is going to be boarded during the holidays, it will increase his/her stress. Make sure this holiday to add a good canine probiotic with a minimum of 1 billion CFUs per serving to help keep the GI tract in balance and reduce gas, and diarrhea.
- Pass the almond butter: almond butter is an excellent source of magnesium and vitamin E. Increasing magnesium helps to relax muscles and supports a healthy nervous system. Fill the Kong with almond butter rather than peanut butter, or add a teaspoon to a tablespoon in your dog’s meal; or just let the dogs lick it off the spoon! Adding magnesium from almond butter will help your dog relax.
- Your visual clues: while humans rely on facial clues to read the expressions of one another, dogs and wolves use posture/body language as well as facial expressions. Recent research has shown that dogs are more sensitive to human facial clues than we knew. So give your dog a big smile, because as this research pointed out, even a neutral human facial expression was evaluated negatively by the dogs in the study. Smiling at your dog may just be the antidote to stress that he needs!