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A natural antidote to stress

These days stress can feel like a constant companion.  It’s present in our daily lives, at work, and even in the minds of our students.  Stress stinks.  We have discussed how stress can evolve to toxic levels which can threaten proper development and learning.

Even here the laws of physics apply: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In this case, our bodies create a natural antidote to stress: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a hormone (just like cortisol) with the power to counteract stress.  Oxytocin is also responsible for family bonding, generosity, trusting new people and compassion for others.

What’s more, we can control our levels of oxytocin.  When we are treated kindly, our levels of oxytocin increase.  When we share experiences with loved ones, oxytocin spikes.

Interestingly, dog owners have a slight advantage when it comes to increasing their levels of oxytocin.  This study compared increases in oxytocin after playing with dogs and cats and found that the only subset which experienced increased oxytocin were dog owners who were playing with a dog.

The study piqued my interest.  It’s ripe for classroom discussion and is a perfect segue into analyzing experimental design and results data.  Of course, it’s also a wonderful tool to give to students.  Imagine how empowered those who deal with chronic stress would be to know that a K9 companion could soothe their stress.

Are you a pet owner?




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