We live in a culture of fear. There has never been a time when people have been afraid of so much. Three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today than they did twenty years ago. The media would have us believe that we need to be afraid of everything: the weather, the economy, terrorism, threats to our health. We get warnings via e-mail, text and social media. Surely, Armageddon is just around the corner.
Fear is a normal response to a threatening stimulus or situation. Without the fear response, neither cats nor humans would survive. Fear prepares us for fight or flight. While our domesticated cats don’t often deal with fear of survival in their environment, some of these fears may be hardwired. The good news is that, with proper support from their guardians, cats can get over their fears. Allegra used to be terrified of bad weather, but has come a long way in the past year in overcoming her fears.
But what happens when fear becomes a part of our daily lives?
Nature did not design the fear response to be a non-stop occurrence. When it kicks in, higher levels of adrenalin and cortisol are released into our system. This leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate and delivers increased oxygen and energy to muscles. While this is necessary in a real fear situation, it is ultimately a stress response, and we know that prolonged periods of stress lead to illness – in ourselves, and in our cats.
It’s hard not to buy into this culture of fear, but there are ways to cope:
Don’t watch the news. This is the single most effective step I know of toward better mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. You are discerning about what you put into your body – why not use that same judgment about what you allow to enter into your mind? If you must watch the news, don’t watch first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed.
Consider the source. In this age of fake news, it’s getting harder to find trustworthy news sources. Do your research. Don’t fall for click-bait headlines.
Turn off alerts. Every time you get one of these alerts, your body’s stress response kicks in.
Meditate. Meditation, or any other form of a structured spiritual practice, will help you shift your mindset from one of fear to one of love and connection with something greater than you.
Pet your cats. Studies have shown that petting a cat can lower your blood pressure and reduce your heart rate. It’s impossible to be fearful when you watch a sleeping cat.
Don’t let your fears run your life. Instead, create a world for yourself where you are in charge of how you feel. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your cats. Cats are sensitive creatures who pick up on their humans’ emotions. If you live in a constant state of fear and stress, so will your cats.
Photo of Obi by Jodi Ziskin