Time For You Features

The Ultimate Stress Management Strategy from the Dog

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BY Karen Cross
Special to

This is probably the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Thanksgiving is around the corner, then there's Hanukkah, Christmas and before we can blink an eye it’s New Year! There’s so much that needs to get done on top of everything you already have to do. And work? Well, there are just as many demands there as ever, if not more.

So, I thought this month I would introduce you to a very good friend of mine who has taught me a great deal about how to deal with stress. His name is Cecil, and he is my 3-year-old golden retriever. I’ll bet you’re asking yourself what a dog could possibly know about the challenges of balancing work and life. As a matter of fact, I think he is probably a leading expert in this area.

You see, Cecil is no ordinary dog. He is my seeing-eye dog, which means he has a high-stress and incredibly demanding job. Navigating buses, escalators, elevators, busy intersections and a multitude of sidewalk obstacles while ensuring my safety at all times are part of Cecil’s daily duties.

On the flip side though, Cecil knows how to let off steam and play. As a matter of fact, unlike most humans who experience workplace stress, Cecil incorporates play into every single day and he is very insistent about having his play time.

When Cecil came to live with me over a year ago, I was given a string of bells to hang by the door so Cecil could indicate when he needed to go outside for “business duties.” Little did I know then that he would also use this bell to demand play time but that is exactly what this bell has become. He rarely uses it for anything other than to indicate he wants to go out to play and he will keep ringing the bell until he gets his way! How many people do you know that are that insistent about having play time after a hard day at work? Are you?

What usually happens when you get stressed is you forget to do the very things that can help you alleviate that stress. Why? Because to do those things takes time away from all the incredibly important things that absolutely must-get-done time you simply don’t have.

The truth is that if you take a little time to play when you are most stressed, you will find that you have more energy to handle the things that need your attention. This means that taking time out to play has made you more able to handle work and life demands, and not actually cost you a thing!

So, take a little time out each day and play. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate. Just have a little fun and hang a string of bells by your door so you won’t forget!


Karen Cross, BSW, life and business coach, has a lifetime of experience mastering time-and-energy-management strategies and has been helping people since the early 1990s.