You’ve probably heard that a dog is man’s best friend, but did you know that Fido — or Fluffy — can help you and your kids recover from the stresses of divorce?
“Scientific research shows that people who own pets can live healthier, happier lives,” says Maryellen Elcock, MPH, Ph.D., vice president of programs for the Delta Society, the leading international resource for the human-animal bond. “Studies have shown that pets can improve psychological well-being, decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation, and reduce stress and depression. There is also a body of literature that demonstrates specific physiologic changes as a result of interacting with animals; among these are reducing blood pressure, pulse rate, and cholesterol levels.”
During separation and divorce, she adds, a companion animal can provide a feeling of safety as well as the experience of intimacy. “The non-judgmental presence of an animal may have healing effects on all family members during a time of crisis. There is no question that the human-animal bond can influence physiologic responses and this in turn may translate into improved health and well-being.”
If you’re a pet owner, you already know how good your four-legged friend can make you feel. And now, science has proved what we’ve always known. Here are just a few examples:
- Unconditional Love. A pet will “listen” to your hopes and fears, provide loving attention, and its playfulness can serve as a welcome distraction from divorce-related worries.
— Drs. Tanja Hoff and Reinhold Bergler, Institute for Psychology at the University of Bonn, Germany
- Lower Blood Pressure. In one study, people with hypertension who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did those who did not own a pet.
— Dr. Karen Allen, SUNY Buffalo
- Stress Reduction. Walking your pet provides exercise and helps to sooth nerves. Pet owners, especially males, handle stressful situations better than those who don’t own a pet.
— Josephine M. Wills, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, United Kingdom
The experience of divorce is traumatic enough to disrupt anyone’s sleep. If you’re not sleeping well at night, you can’t be fully alert — let alone vibrant — during the day. Emotional stress can be a major sleep-stealer: feelings of sadness or worry make it particularly hard to fall or stay asleep.
Even if you manage to fall asleep, you may not be experiencing the “right kind” of sleep — the kind that refreshes and invigorates you. Here are a few tips to help you get a good night’s sleep:
- Lighten up! During the winter months, try light therapy to help reset your body’s rhythm. If you’re a night-owl, sit under high-intensity lights for a couple of hours immediately after getting up. If you wake up at 4 a.m. — even though your alarm is set for 7 a.m. — sit under the light in the evening, from 8–10 p.m.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Following a regular schedule helps to regulate your body clock, so go to bed and get up at the same time every day — including weekends.
- Work it out. Regular physical exercise promotes sleep. The best time to exercise is four to six hours before bedtime; exercising too close to bedtime can inhibit sleep because it can leave the body temperature too high.
- Soak your cares away. A warm bath raises body temperature, which then falls, causing drowsiness.
- Eat, drink, and be merry — but stop at least six hours before bedtime. Alcohol might put you under, but it causes fragmented, non-restful sleep, and caffeine after early afternoon is right out.
- Relax! Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. You can listen to audiotapes that guide you through the relaxation process, or ones with soothing music and/or sounds of nature.
- The write stuff. If you’re a late-night worrier, take time to write down your problems and some possible solutions during the day — preferably several hours before bedtime.
- Create a good sleeping environment. Block external light and noise, using thick curtains or an eye mask and earplugs, if necessary. Your bedroom should also be cool, so turn down the thermostat and put a fluffy comforter on your bed.
- Bed is where you sleep. Period. Don’t work, read, or watch TV in bed, and if you’re still tossing and turning after an hour, get up and move to another room. (If you’ve found a new partner, then bed is for sleeping and sex. Period.)
- Try herbal remedies (such as chamomile, passion flower, valerian root, or hops) for particularly stressful evenings. Before taking any medication — and this includes herbal medicines — discuss it with your family doctor.
Can’t sleep, can’t stay awake, can’t eat, eating all the time, can’t remember anything? Feeling anxious, irritable, clumsy, tired, or overwhelmed by stuff you used to be able to handle with your eyes closed? Experiencing unexplained headaches, muscle aches, hair loss, weight gain/loss? If any of this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from stress. Except for the death of a spouse or child, divorce produces more stress than any other life event, so it’s not surprising if you’re feeling a bit (or a lot) “over the edge” right now.
Divorce-related stress is unavoidable, but you can learn to manage your stress so that it doesn’t seriously damage your body and spirit. After working with more than 2,000 women in a stress-reduction program, Dr. Vern Cherewatenko (M.D.) has created a breakthrough program for treating the disease of stressful living. He shares his findings in The Stress Cure: A Simple 7-Step Plan to Balance Mood, Improve Memory, and Restore Energy (HarperResource, 2003).
The first part of The Stress Cure includes a detailed self-assessment; Part II shows you how to implement Dr. Cherewatenko’s “De-STRESS” program. Designed to revive the body’s ability to heal itself, the program focuses on making changes in seven distinct areas:
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Supplementing with this stress-fighting hormone “helps your body withstand and respond appropriately to stress.”
- Supplemental Nutrition. Stress robs your body of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes; replenishing them is an “important key to overcoming stress.”
- Taming the Tiger. “Time spent in meditation, yoga, reading, and even taking warm baths can help reduce the stress in your life,” writes Dr. Cherewatenko.
- Rekindling Relationships. The book offers some new approaches to regaining closeness in your important relationships.
- Effective Exercising. Exercise is good for “just about every aspect of our health,” he notes.
- Sensible Eating. Stress drives many to the refrigerator; this program offers “dietary and behavioral methods of keeping your emotions from ruling your palate.”
- Sound Sleep. Sleep allows our bodies to heal themselves, and also to balance the hormones that keep us emotionally stable. The book shows you how to get the sleep “you need and deserve.”
And you won’t have to wait long to see the results: “Within days of starting The Stress Cure, [participants] felt as though a mysterious veil of gloom had been lifted,” says Cherewatenko. One patient said that: “It was like the world had color again.”
The Stress Cure is available at online and retail bookstores everywhere; for more information, go to www.HarperCollins.com.
Remember when your mother told you to “Stop making that face or it will get stuck like that”? Well, it turns out Mom wasn’t completely wrong after all. The researchers at Vichy Laboratoires have identified a new type of aging: called “Myo-aging,” it’s caused by the natural and repeated movements made by facial expressions. When you frown, for instance, folds form in the skin. These folds smooth out when you stop frowning, but as you age, your skin loses its ability to relax and the folds become permanent. These “dermo-contractions” trigger the appearance of wrinkles, determining their shape, location, and number.
To combat this, Vichy has created Myokine, a cream that claims to visibly reduce the wrinkles caused by skin contractions. The cream combines Magnesium and Adenosine — both of which inhibit cellular contraction — with Adenoxine, a patented dermo-decontractor. Myokine promises visible results in as little as six days: your skin will be more radiant and toned, and fine lines will have been smoothed out. After 21 days, deeper wrinkles will be smoothed; after three months, you could experience a 36% reduction in the length and number of wrinkles.
Now that you’ve taken a few years off your face, why not take a few more? Lancome Paris has created Renergie Lift Makeup, a combination of skincare and foundation designed to reduce and conceal wrinkles. The new Micro-liftª technology “irons-out” and lifts the skin — like wearing an ultra-fine, supple veil. Plant extracts help the skin combat aging while glycol and tri-ceramides help it to retain water. The flexible micro-bubbles maintain the foundation in suspension above the skin’s surface, shading out wrinkles and letting the skin breathe. The makeup also offers UVA and UVB protection, as well as Vitamin E to help fight free-radical damage. You can combine this foundation with the whole Renergie line, or use it alone.
Put your best face forward — without the wrinkles!