Need a break from holiday hustle and bustle? Follow your cat’s example with these five feline stress busters.
The day finally grinds to a halt and it’s time to kick back and relax. Thing is, you’re holding onto so much stress that relaxing doesn’t come easy, especially during the festive season when there’s so much more to do than usual.
Then your cat rubs against your legs, purring as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. Cats have stress in their lives too, though on a whole different level to what we experience. Strange smells, loud noises and strangers can give them stress, but they tend to handle it better than we do.
So wouldn’t it be great if instead of just stroking your cat and listening to his purrs, you could actually get pointers from him about how he gets rid of your own stress? Sound ridiculous? Not so.
By simply observing your cat, you might be surprised by the relaxing things he does that you take for granted. It’s the very things we regard as “merely” cat behavior that can help us relieve our stress.
Every cat lover knows how much their feline loves to sleeps, draped over the furniture, curled up in a ball or even stretched out across the carpet. But look closely…he’s actually napping. Your cat takes naps whenever and wherever he feels like it. He’s not bothered if he has company, or by what’s showing on television. In fact, your feline is famous for his naps – that’s where the word “catnap” comes from.
Naps are good for you too. “Afternoon naps as short as ten minutes can enhance alertness, mood and mental performance,” says Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. That’s probably why your cat is able to wake up and run straight to his food bowl at the mere sound of a can opener.
The silent treatment
If you feel a nap calls for too much down time, try sitting or lying down in silence for a while. Turn off the music and go somewhere quiet in the house, away from the kids fighting or your spouse who has lost something for the hundredth time. There you may find your cat sitting quietly on a windowsill looking out as though in command of a ship at sea.
During this silent time, concentrate on breathing deeply. This reduces your blood pressure and heart rate and clears your mind. “People show lower blood pressure, higher mental functioning, enhanced creativity, and a more positive mental outlook,” confirms Ester Buchholz, PhD, developmental psychologist at New York University and author of The Call of Solitude.
Stretch that body
After your down time, try stretching. Quite frequently you’ll see your cat stand, arch his back, then stretch out his front paws. He will even roll around stretching on the floor.
You can start off with some simple stretch-ing to limber up your muscles. If you want, try some yoga positions for relaxation. According to studies carried out by Dr. Ian Shrier, a “15 to 30-second stretch per muscle group is sufficient for most people.” Observe the amount of time your cat stretches per day. “Three to five stretches of 30 seconds are optimal,” says Lynn Millar of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
A massage please
When was the last time you rubbed your cat’s furry stomach, back or around his neck?
Recently, I bet! Even if you haven’t, your cat will give him-self a body massage during his daily grooming routine. All that licking does more than clean him; it also helps ease his tension. Just look at his face when he’s grooming…it’s quite soothing.
A massage for yourself will also have a soothing effect, relax tense muscles, stimulate blood circulation and calm the nervous system. According to massage therapist Lainies Simmons, a simple massage can offer many benefits:
- Enhances athletic performance
- Increases flexibility
- Provides emotional stress relief
- Promotes feeling of well-being
- Relieves tension and pain
- Reduces formation of scar tissue
- Reduces levels of anxiety
- Allows more oxygen and nutrients to reach tissues and cells
- Speeds removal of metabolic waste products
- Stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers
Put you first!
Cats have a mind of their own. They certainly don’t do things on command, nor do they really bother with anyone else unless there’s something in it for them. So how does this help you with easing your own stress? By putting yourself first, too.
When the kids start pulling you in different directions, you get too many holiday invitations, or the boss decides he has to discuss something with you before Monday – take the phone off the hook, give the kids a game, and go put your needs first. It could be watching a favorite movie, going to the hairdresser, or anything else you want to do. If this seems selfish, remember: if you don’t look after yourself first, you can’t look after others.
Even though our pampered felines have the run of the house and us at their beck and call, they can really help teach us to let go and relax, not just during the holidays, but all year round.