Even looking at this photo relieves stress, right? Source: Christi Gain.

“A little pawing at my arm to remind me to take a break and relax!”
- Sydney Holt, freelance copywriter, on her dog Fritz

With at least 20 million Americans chronically stressed -- and millions more experiencing day-to-day stress of work and life -- we all come up with different ways to relax and unwind.

A new report from Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 47% of stressed Americans find relief with pets and 57% from going outdoors (another happy side effect of having pets you need to walk).

Freelancers certainly agree; last year, we asked our members to send us photos of their pets and let us know if their pet helped their business. We got dozens of responses, and nearly every one of them discussed the benefits of taking a break to pet, walk, or play with their animals.

“Whenever I come back into the 'office' I am greeted with a lovely 'woo-woo!',” Mel Larsen, freelance graphic designer, told us. “My work day would be so dull without my Rita cuddle breaks.”

Rita Lee

“Sometimes if I need a break, I will stop and give her pets and attention,” said Carolyn Packard, owner of Shemp the Rabbit. “Shemp is also a great companion for late night projects, and will sit under my desk or chair.”

The report confirms earlier scientific studies which found that just a few minutes with an animal or even watching a fish swim lowers cortisol and reduces stress. Another study found that cat owners have fewer strokes.

Do you have a pet? Does he/she help you relieve stress?

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