Sit. Stay. Heal. How Animals Help Lower Our Stress Levels.

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Do you have one of those friends?  You know, the one that sends you crazy cat videos?  Or maybe photos of their dog in its latest holiday costume?  While the video shares may get old, chances are the friend is less stressed than you are, unless you’re a pet parent as well.  Turns out man and woman’s furry best friends are a great stress reliever. 

Type “stress management” in an online search window and you’ll find over one billion entries to choose from.  It’s clearly on the minds, and fingertips, of most of the population, with good reason.  Chronic stress is the gateway to multiple mental and physical health issues.  Having a pet can help. 

Most dogs require daily walks, and that exercise is good for both owner and animal.  But you don’t even need to have your own animal to see the benefits. Research by Washington State University indicates as little as 10 minutes of petting a cat or dog reduces a person’s cortisol levels.  Volunteer at a shelter, play with a neighbor’s cat or dog or pet sit a “granddog” or “grandcat” and reap the rewards from a good deed that gives back.   

Why are reduced cortisol levels important?  It’s your body’s main stress hormone.  When your body is on constant alert, aka chronic stress, too much adrenaline and cortisol are produced which can alter the body’s normal processes and put you at risk for a myriad of health problems from depression and memory impairment to heart disease and digestive issues. 

Other studies show that both dogs and owners receive a surge of oxytocin after positive interactions. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that creates the bond between a mother and baby after childbirth. It’s also associated with empathy, trust and relationship-building.   

Pets help our mental wellness, too.  And it’s not just from laughing at all the funny gifs or videos online (4.9 billion cat and 12.8 billion dog videos), although laughter is a great stress reliever. 

A survey of pet owners 65 and older by the Journal of Aging & Mental Health found the benefits of pet ownership include “providing companionship, giving a sense of purpose and meaning, reducing loneliness and increasing socialization.”  That’s especially vital for older adults who may live alone – and especially during times of forced isolation like the pandemic.  Knowing you have to get up and let a dog out, feed a cat, or clean a birdcage gives you a purposeful start to the day. 

April 11th is National Pet Day – a day to celebrate all the many ways our pets bring joy to our lives.  The header above shows off some of our favorites from the Growing Bolder tribe. Share a photo of yours on our Facebook page

New Mental-Well-being Tool Helps Florida Blue Medicare Members 

Florida Blue Medicare members now have a new mental well-being solution to help them manage stress and build resilience – the ability to adapt well and recover quickly from stress.  

This tool, called meQuilibrium, offers simple techniques to reduce stress, calm worry and anxiety and stay connected to others. It is available to Florida Blue Medicare Advantage members at no extra cost. 

“We can’t make today’s challenges disappear, but we can take control of our responses,” explains Dr. Nick Dewan, M.D., Florida Blue’s vice president of behavioral health. “meQuilibrium can help build your confidence, be more mindful and boost your resiliance to help you live your best life.” 

Ready to Get Started?  

Look for meQuilibrium in the Find and Get Care section of your member account. Click the Mental Well-Being tab and scroll to meQuilibrium to get started. Don’t have a member account? Sign up today at floridabluemedicare.com

meQuilibrium is an independent company contracted by Florida Blue to provide health services. 

Florida Blue and Florida Blue Medicare are Independent Licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or gender. For more information visit floridablue.com/ndnotice. © 2022 Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, Inc., DBA Florida Blue. All rights reserved. 

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