Shake It Off

By Thad Plumley

A story I heard recently about a service dog training surprised me.

I was told after a handler took the young dog through a store for the first time with the two of them navigating aisles and being around the hustle and bustle of hurrying customers, the dog began showing signs it was growing nervous and tense.

The handler knew instantly it was time to leave and headed for the exit. As soon as the two got outside, the dog stopped and shook its entire body from head to tail. It was as if the dog was practicing its jump from a bathtub filled with water and soapy bubbles.

It was explained to me at this time that dogs actually shake off their stress. Two things immediately popped into my head: Wow! And oh, to be a dog.

Obviously, stressful days are a part of life. I think we can also all agree they’ve become a regular part for more than a year now. When a pandemic ravaging the planet is followed by concerns of trying to fill your workforce and deal with decimating supply-chain issues, you’re going to reach for the Tums on occasion.

However, let’s actually look to our four-legged friends. We shouldn’t just chuckle at a dog’s way of handling its stress. There is something to be said for shaking it off and going on.

Stress is your body’s way of handling a demand or threat. When your body’s stress response works properly, it’s helpful. You focus, remain alert, and get things done. Picture those times when you’re on a worksite late in the day, tired, but grinding through because the job has to be done.

Stress can go from helpful to harmful, causing damage to your health, productivity, and quality of life.

However, called upon too often and going past a certain point, stress can go from helpful to harmful, causing damage to your health, productivity, and quality of life. Not dealing properly with too much stress is a legitimate health issue.

So how do you not let it get to that point?

You have to know your stress triggers. What are the situations that always get adrenaline rushing through your veins? You can’t solve problems if you don’t know them.

Once you know the triggers, try to create a plan for them. Stand back and look at the issues before you’re in them and try to think of ways you could approach them differently the next time.

One answer will be time management—it always is for everyone. Look for ways to save time. Another answer for everyone is help. If someone’s aid is possible with the situation you’re trying to tackle, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

And finally, keep perspective. If that sort of sounds like the approach of our dogs, it’s supposed to. Take a break sometimes. Stop working and focus your mind on something else. Above all, take care of yourself.

And sure, if you think it will work, stop, take a few deep breaths, and literally shake it off.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.