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Pet Ways to Ease Stress
with Jessica Loftus, Ph.D. & Jack Murray

An Apple a Day Keeps the Stress Away

If it’s true that stress kills, nature throws the simple apple our way as a real lifesaver from the waves of despair. Holding a shiny, red apple before feeding it to my horse, Jackson, I ponder the purity of this timeless snack and remember back to my days growing up on a farm.

Engaging the Senses

Whenever I’m stressed out from my job or thinking about my bills piling up, I grab two fresh apples for me and Jackson and ponder one with all my senses. Weighing its solid heft in the palm of my hand, I gently feel the smooth texture of the skin covering the fleshy fruit like nature’s own candy wrap. My eyes feast in its bright red color, dappled with swirls of yellow. Before biting into it, I relish the mild aroma, which can only be described as the odor of an apple. Sinking my teeth into this crunchy ball of nutrients, I savor the tangy, sweet flavor of its juices playing upon my tongue. I mindfully take in each bite while all my stressors disappear one by one.

My Horse of Course

Even more than partaking of the sweetness of a just-ripe apple, nothing eases my stress more than riding Jackson, especially feeding him and grooming him after a nice, long trot in the woods.

Before saddling him up in his stable, I enjoy observing how Jackson eases any of his equine stress. He teaches me valuable lessons about how to reduce my own stress that I emulate. He eats a healthy diet and gets plenty of rest and exercise. Horses need only three to four hours of sleep each 24-hour period. So, I, too, strive to eat a diet that’s low in carbs, bad fats and sugar, and high in protein and good fats.

My carefree rides astride Jackson sooth both of our stress because we both get plenty of exercise and fresh air together on the riding trails. Few activities relieve stress as much as a good workout. Horseback riding burns lots of calories for both man and horse.

De-stressed after a good ride, it’s now time to feed Jackson and brush him down while he eats. He munches away on the hay, grass, corn and oats I feed him, saving his special treat for last. Jackson likes nothing better than the apple I feed him for dessert. As I watch Jackson devour his apple, I munch on my own crispy, red, delicious one. Any lingering stress I feel dissolves with each bite in Jackson’s company

Apple Americana

Relishing the humble fruit of the apple inspires me to reflect on a simpler time down on the farm – when we kids did our chores, read the Sunday funny pages, watched Saturday morning cartoons and played outside with ours friends. We saddled up the few horses that we raised and rode them in the paddock or on the trails behind the pasture. We often trotted to the apple orchard to pick ripe apples fresh off the trees.

It was a more wholesome time when the farm community counted. People filled the ranks of civic organizations. Mom enjoyed her sewing bee, Dad had his Grange meetings and we kids joined 4-H, Little League, Scouting and church youth groups.

Neighborhoods in town flourished; playgrounds hummed with the chatter of children. We patronized ice cream parlors and drive-in movie theaters. Families went to church together, sat on the front porch chatting together and ate big Sunday dinners together. An apple pie baking in the oven for dessert perfumed the house with its inviting aroma. After dinner, the family watched TV or listened to the radio together. The sound of music filled the radio airwaves on Sunday drives. These were “Happy Days,” the high point of the American Dream in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

There’s no doubt, our pets, or other animal companions like my horse Jackson ease our stress — if we are only open to let them do so. In my own case, a juicy, just-ripe apple a day also helps do the trick. Life can be so good; why not take a bite?


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An Apple a Day Keeps the Stress Away

Jessica Loftus

Jessica Loftus has worked as a licensed clinical psychologist and national certified career counselor for more than 20 years. She currently offers counseling sessions via telehealth in Illinois. Her website,, outlines steps for making a career decision. details. See her retired blog, "Pet Ways to Ease Stress,"

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APA Reference
Loftus, J. (2018). An Apple a Day Keeps the Stress Away. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Nov 2018
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