The Art of Slowing Down: A Lesson Taught by a Dog


If you have a dog, then you know you can spend quite a bit of time training it.

You spend what seems like countless hours trying to make him or her the most perfect, well-behaved companion. You frequently teach it lessons from house training as a puppy, to walking on a leash, to sit, stay, lie down, and maybe even to roll over or play dead. However, if you pay close enough attention, you can actually learn a trick or two from your four-legged friend.

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The handsome guy pictured here is Winston. Winston is a soon to be 5-year-old husky-mix we rescued when he was a puppy.

Winston’s mother was part of a large animal abuse case, and Winston was born in the chaotic animal shelter. So it is no wonder, with trauma already passed to him in his genes and being born in a loud and scary environment, that Winston is a 60 pound ball of stress and anxiety covered in fur.

Because of Winston’s anxiety, my wife and I have had spend even more beyond those countless pet-focused hours helping our little buddy cope with even the small things that trigger his stress (e.g. rain showers, going outside when we leave the house). But during the time we’ve spent training Winston, he has taught us a lesson too. The art of “slowing down.”

Do you ever find yourself stressed out and in a hurry? I do. And when I’m stressed, I find myself rushing around the house and often forgetting some of things I need to take with me when I leave my home.

Sound familiar?

Do you ever forget things when you are in a hurry? Sometimes I feel like I’m living out the lyrics of the Alabama song In A Hurry: “I’m in a hurry to get things done. I rush and rush until life’s no fun.” Do you ever feel this way? It wouldn’t be surprising if most people did. Often, when stressed or in a hurry, we can also experience physical symptoms that play out as a result of stressors, such as headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, etc. This is where the lesson from Winston comes in.

The thing about Winston is he has to be walked…a lot! If he doesn’t get walked, Winston has a tendency to start being mischievous and start chewing on shoes, ripping mail apart, etc. When I have multiple meetings throughout the day or several projects to work on, it may not always be ideal to have to stop what I’m doing and wrestle away the water bill from Winston; it’s definitely not ideal to drop everything, leash up the dog and go to the park either. But we know that if we want to get through the day, we have to walk Winston. Even if it’s just a quick one, Winston gets his walk.

Luckily, we live near a park. While we’re at the park walking Winston, we often find ourselves wanting to rush and get back home. We think about work, our meetings, projects, and the deadlines. And, as you can guess, we try to rush Winston along so we can get back to the stress of work.

But what does Winston do? He stops.

We’re in a hurry to get back, and the dog just stops walking! Winston stops walking and just takes in his environment. He takes in a deep breath and looks out over the lake. And of course this just makes my wife and I angry because we don’t have time for this. So, we try giving him commands and pull on his leash.

What does Winston do? He closes his eyes and throws his head back. He feels the warmth of the sun on his face. He listens to the sounds of the bird singing. He sniffs in the smells of the nearby family picnic. Winston slows down.

And that’s one of the best lesson’s Winston has taught us. Slow down.

When we slow down, it lowers our stress and blood pressure. The art of slowing down helps improve our decision-making capabilities and other cognitive functions. When we are stressed, in a hurry and rushing, we are releasing cortisol and adrenaline to our brain and body. After extended exposure to adrenaline and cortisol, our bodies get in a chronic state of rush, stress, and anxiety. The art of slowing down helps restore us to an emotional equilibrium or balance. When we slow down and become mindful of experiencing the present, we become more aware of what is happening around and within us. Slowing down helps us think more clearly, make better decisions, and get things done more efficiently.

Over time, my wife and I began to join Winston in this much-needed pause. It’s like the dog knows when we are stressed and reminds us to slow down. So, when we are walking and he stops and takes it all in, we have started to follow his example. We take deep breaths of fresh air, listen to the birds, watch the ducks swim on the lake, and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin.

Once we started doing this, we noticed we were more relaxed when we returned to our work. We were able to think more clearly and make better decisions. All of this simply by not rushing and practicing the art of slowing down.

Are you stressed and feel the constant need to rush in order to get things done or meet your goals? Do you need help slowing down? Or maybe you are currently trying to practice slowing down, but need more strategies to utilize in your tool box. Tri-Star Counseling would love to help! Call us at 423-430-9687 or visit our website to schedule an appointment. We would consider it a privilege to journey along with you and provide insight and strategies to sort through your life’s stress and anxiety.

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