COPING WITH CANINE
By Guardian Angel
Joanne & Angel Asia
There was an
article in the February 24th issue of Newsweek that
talks about how living with fear affects the mind and damages the body.
The article is about the stress we are all under because of the uncertain
weak economy and the fear of war and terrorist attacks.
While reading the article I realized that every mom and dad
with an epi-pup is also living with fear...the fear of
seizures. There is also the anxiety when a
seizure happens and in the article it says; "Even at low levels, anxiety causes
muscle tension: aches, pains and twitching eyes."
One of my PhD's is in physiology and endocrinology. I understand how the body
reacts to stress and the changes it makes to metabolism's. In my private
practice I work with clients on stress reduction and rebalancing their
metabolism's. Maybe I can share with you some of the things than can
reduce your stress.
To quote from the article in Newsweek:
"Acute fear is not the only kind that can hurt
you. Constant, low-grade adrenaline baths may subtly
damage the heart, raising the long-term risk of
cardiovascular disease. (Who of us has not had an adrenaline rush with
hands shaking when a seizure happens) Continuous exposure to cortisone
(adrenaline) can dampen the immune system, leaving
stressed people more vulnerable to infections and possibly even cancer. Stress
hormones can harm the brain, too, severing connections
among neurons. Even when it doesn't wreck the
heart or the brain, prolonged stress can have
countless subtler effects. "People are reporting headaches, insomnia, back pain,
neck pain and disorientation. Such complaints are common among
worried people, and you don't have to be a hypochondriac to experience
Stress almost always comes out in a bodily
symptom" says Afton Hassett, an expert in
psychosomatic illness. Even at low levels, she says, anxiety causes muscle
tension which leads in turn to aches, pains and twitching eyes.
"Coping with anxiety?" Newsweek asks. "Science
shows that meditation, yoga and even laughter can change bad habits in the
So, we all realize that we are under a certain amount of stress with the
fear of seizures and then anxiety when they happen. Who has not woken up
in the middle of the night panicked when you hear a thumping noise? And, how
many times do you panic when you see your pup lying
very still in a strange place they don't normally lie?
How many times a day to you get an "adrenaline bath" when they "look strange."
We love our pups dearly and we give up a lot to care for them.
Medications, blood tests and vet's visits are all very expensive. How
about the worry of paying for all these things? That
is a stress also. The bond between a mom and dad of an epi is the exact same
bond that happens with parents of a sick child. You
worry about getting their medications on time along with
hundreds of other concerns for their well being. All you have to do with
a normal dog is put their food down, play with them
and let them run. Maybe once a year take them to a vet. None of your friends or
relatives are telling you to put a normal dog to
sleep. That is another stress you have. An epi is like caring for a baby. The
responsibility can be overwhelming and we need to look at that and cushion it
where you can.
I will share some of the things I feel will help with reducing stress. We work
so hard to reduce seizures, now how about reducing the stress that comes with
caring for an epi.
First of all BREATHE. This is the most important thing to reduce stress.
So many times you will find your self not breathing or holding your
breath. Your lungs deliver needed oxygen to every cell and organ in your body.
Those organs need a constant source of oxygen. (you know what happens with bloat
when the stomach is cut off from oxygen. The cells die and so
can the pup) If you hold your breath or breathe shallowly, you deprive
every cell in
every organ of vital oxygen.
So BREATHE. When you are under stress, frightened, anxious or fearful, breathe
deeply for 5 breaths and then count your breaths to make sure you take in deep
breaths. Fill your lungs with oxygen so that all your vital organs remain pink
and healthy. Take a deep breath right now... Yes, I mean now... Take a deep
breath....a slow... long...
deep breath. Breathe all the way in as much as you can..big breath...and then
let it all the way out...all the way out...every last little air in your lungs.
Take another breath...a big...long...deep one...all the way in... feel the
relaxation go all over your body. Doesn't that feel
good? Slowly...let the air all the way out and feel all the stagnant air going
out of your lungs. Yes, stagnant. If you don't take deep breaths occasionally,
the air in your lungs gets stale. OK, one more
time.... take a deep...
long... leisurely breath...
take all the air you can in your lungs... all the way
in.... and now gently...
blow it all the way out until there is no more air in your
Once more now... a long...
deep... big breath... take
all the air in you can in your lungs right up to the
tip of your lung in your shoulder. Now.... gently...
let it all out.... all the way out. Now, didn't
that feel good??? You have just reduced the stress from reading the quotes from
the Newsweek article. You may be a little light headed but that is because
your brain if full of oxygen.... but you did
great!!! I'm very proud of you.
Now that you have oxygen in your body, the next is laughter. Do everything you
can to amuse yourself so you laugh. The harder the better. Watch
movies that you know are funny and laugh as loud as you can. Watch your
pup, they will make you laugh. Find funny situations to laugh at and don't care
what anyone says even if they look at you funny. Laugh at them for not seeing
the humor in something. Laugh at them for being so serious. Not
everything in life is earth shattering. Find the funny things. Watch Animal
Planet's Funniest Video's. They will make you laugh for sure. I deliberately
watch them every night at 11 PM before I go to bed and I always laugh at the
funny antics of dogs.
Now comes the treats. Every day you should have a treat. Just like a good pup,
you are a good mom or dad and you should have treats to reward you
for caring for a helpless epi. So you should do something nice for
yourself EVERY day. Some kind of a special treat. It could be a bubble bath, a
forbidden little piece of chocolate, a small dish of ice cream, an extra
hour with your favorite book or what ever you consider a treat. These are
your rewards and they are IMPORTANT. Share with the list the kinds of treats
that you like the best and maybe you will give someone a great idea they didn't
think about. Title it simply "Treats."
Walking is a great stress reducer especially if you have your pup with
you. Breathe the air, look at the flowers (in spring), look up at the sky
and see the birds. Walk leisurely so that you don't
miss any of the beauty in nature. Wave at people, say hi, be friendly. You will
be amazed at how good that feels when they smile back.
Those that frown are doomed to a life of frowns. Ignore them. They don't know
how to enjoy life.
There are lots of stress reducers. There is yoga, there is meditation (counting
your breaths), there is watching a sunset, there is cuddling, a glass of wine
with dinner, there are phone calls to friends, a great sale,
a hug from one of your kids or friends, a hobby you enjoy, some exercise,
read a book or even dancing by yourself to your favorite music. That is
great fun.... There are a hundred ways to reduce stress. Each one of you
knows what feels best to you. My belief is that it if
feels good, do it, as long as it is not harmful to
yourself or others. Doing things that feel good puts positive chemicals in your
body that negate the "adrenaline bath" that seizures cause which is harmful.
This is important information to tuck away and
I always want to be helpful. That is my nature. I have been a "rescue worker"
since I dragged my first stray pupper home when I was 3. Just typing this out
and sharing my experience and knowledge has made me feel better.
Oh, by the way, didn't deep breathing feel good? Well, to remind yourself to
breathe, why not put a post-it up on your computer or around the house that says
BREATHE. It will be a good daily reminder and you will feel so much better.