I mean, seriously… is the cover not adorable on Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, or what? Dancing zebras… in a circle… holding hands? C’mon… c’mon…
Robert M. Sapolsky is a … let me get my bearings… neuroendocrinologist … which is a fancy way of saying neuroendocrinologist. There is no easier way of saying it.
So yes, he’s a scientist… but someone whimsical designed this wonderful cover that not only got my attention but persuaded me to buy the book. The thing is… it’s a really neat book, too. It’s a guide to stress-related diseases and ways to cope with them. And even though Sapolsky is a smarty-pants from Harvard who teaches at Stanford… and researches all over the world… and has awards… and is an incredibly interesting person to read about… phew!… his book is surprisingly easy to read.
It’s also a highly scientific book filled with more information than I could ever write about here. There are diagrams, photographs and data.
What does stress effect? Try… everything. Your heart, metabolism, stomach, colon, hormones, sex, immunity and anything/everything psychological. It’s HUGE.
Be forewarned… the first 2/3 of the book is what Sapolsky calls “bad news”… and even though it’s written well … it is depressing. The last third is the “hope” section. And it’s mostly about resiliency and the ability to be flexible. Being able to adapt is touched on in so many of my books and blog posts… most recently, HERE.
The answer to the question the title poses is incredibly simple and also complicated.
People like me, with anxiety, really get it because we “live” in a place of “fight-or-flight” hyper-responsiveness all the time.
People who are pissed by anything and everything feel it, too.
Many people with perfectly fine lives feel it way more often than they’d like.
Zebras feel it when they’re being chased as a potential meal.
Once they escape, that feeling is gone. Once they’re eaten, same thing, except different reason.
For us? Not so fast. Unless, perhaps we’re actually talking about a life-or-death situation. Otherwise, the danger is subjective… like…
“Why is my coffee cold?”… “Get the eff out of my lane, idiot”… “Who used my pen?”…
We humans hang onto the response… the Fight-or-Flight REMAINS a part of us. That’s what stress is like. It’s hyperarousal, or the acute stress response… ALL. THE. TIME.
Zebras, they know a thing or two. Let go… let go… and dance, holding hands, in a circle.