It's currently "crunch time" at schools and universities around Australia, which means plenty of students are starting to have exam-induced freak outs. If you or your son/daughter are in the midst of a study cram, there is a simple, science-proven remedy that will help to bring stress levels down. It involves whiskers. And fur.
Dog picture from Shutterstock
As part of its Campus Cup initiative, Dropbox shared a range of tips and tricks with us help students keep on top of their exams. While some of the advice is pretty obvious (study with a partner, change up your study space, etc.) we were intrigued by the suggestion of spending more down time with your pet.
Recently, a review of 69 studies by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation indicated that human-animal interactions was linked to improvements in mood and lower levels of stress and anxiety. This is thought to be due to activating the hormone oxytocin:
One study found that pets can be more effective in reducing stress with human support, with the presence of pets being associated with lower perceived and actual responses to stress. Another study (Barker et Al, 2010) found that dog owners showed reduced cardiovascular stress reactivity, which was consistent in previous studies (Allen, Shykoff and Izzo 2001; Allen, Blascovich and Mendes 2002). It also found that pets appear to buffer the impact of stressful events, supporting older research conducted on this topic (Siegel 1990).
Interacting with a pet was linked to a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, as well as lower levels of anxiety, blood pressure and overall heart rate. This was particularly noticeable directly after stressful activities, such as intensive study/cramming.
In addition, some pets encourage exercise. According to the research, this promotes brain activity and increases blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain, which in turn can improve study outcomes. Pets have also been linked to reducing isolation, loneliness and anxiety as well as increasing self-esteem.
So the next time you need to take a break from the books, have a play-wrestle with the nearest critter in your household. If anyone asks, you're not procrastinating -- tell them you're managing your stress levels.