Stressed Squirrels

While observing the squirrels in my front yard, I noticed that one of them was particularly high-strung while the others seemed to be laid-back and casual as they browsed for seeds and nuts. Whenever a car or pickup passed by on the street, the high-strung squirrel was the first one to scamper up a tree with the others following close behind. After each vehicle had departed, most of the squirrels resumed their browsing, while the high-strung critter took more time to do so or remained perched on a tree branch. With the arrival of people walking their dogs, all of the squirrels immediately took refuge in trees. They also started scolding the dogs. Meantime, the dog owners needed to take extra measures to control their pets.

It occurred to me that non-human species experience stress differently than we humans do. The squirrels react to threats as they happen in real time and eventually relax after several minutes when the threats are gone. Humans can do the same, yet it takes much longer for us to relax afterwards, plus we tend to mull over our scenarios for hours, days, and sometimes years afterwards.

We also react stressfully to communicated threats via the printed word and electronic media. We seem to be the only species that feels stress due to thinking about abstract mental concepts and ideas. Absurdly, we are the only species that harms and kills one another and other species because of the way we think about ideas that differ from each other’s ideas.

Non-human creatures threaten or harm other members of their own species when territorial “boundaries” are breached or when they intrude upon other individuals territories. There is no evidence that there are right-wing squirrels intent upon infringing upon the rights of left-wing squirrels. Climate change denial squirrels don’t intellectually engage with climate change institutional scientist squirrels. Yet humans engage in wars of words every day.

Certainly, our human existence is much more complex and nuanced than that of squirrels, but it is somewhat enlightening to view stress from other perspectives. When overwhelmed with unhelpful stress, it’s good to take a breather and consider the big picture for awhile. Soon enough we can return to problem-solving mode with a lighter attitude.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Robert Sapolsky. “Well, much of my research over the years has been on stress, and the adverse effects of stress on the health of the central nervous system. All things considered, I’ve been astonishingly unhelped by my own research.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Health, Meanderings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stressed Squirrels

  1. Great observations, squirrels are very interesting creatures. I agree with you when you mention how humans may be the only animals that stress about things that are not necessarily “life or death”. I talk about this in some of my articles. I think this may be why many humans find solace in nature. When embracing nature, we are brought back to only the most basic stressor, “life or death”.

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