1-Sentence-Summary: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers explores the leading causes of stress and how to keep it under control, as well as the biological science behind stress, which can be a catalyst for performance in the short term, but a potential threat in the long run.
Read in: 4 minutes
Favorite quote from the author:
Our brain is a remarkable organ. It is responsible for all cognitive processes and functions our body undertakes on a daily basis. In other words, it helps us survive. However, unlike some animals, like zebras, for example, the human brain goes through multiple complex processes every day. However, these processes can sometimes do more harm than good, if we allow them.
Overthinking, stressing over what we cannot fix, becoming anxious over future events, are all a result of a restless brain. The problem is that the stress our brain produces reflects negatively on our body as well. It increases our cortisol levels and makes our cardiovascular system work poorly. It also messes with our insulin production, and generally with our overall health.
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky steps in to help everyone dealing with stress to find ways of alleviating it and keeping it under control. When this negative state of mind takes over, it can be challenging to take charge of our thoughts. But with a few practical tips and tricks, everything becomes more manageable.
Here are my three favorite lessons from the book:
- In times of crisis, our brain gets stressed, but sometimes we create imaginary crises and induce it ourselves.
- Control your autonomic nervous system by learning how it works.
- Being a responsible person and providing support for your people can help you deal with stress better.
Now it’s time for us to go in depth with all these lessons, so let’s start exploring them one by one!
Lesson 1: Stress is a natural response to a crisis situation, but make sure not to create one out of thin air
The human body is remarkable in many ways. Everything that makes up our mind is wired in a way that connects everything within us and with the outside world. So if one part of us feels as if something dangerous or uncomfortable is happening, our brain will perceive it as a stressful situation. That’s because we are programmed to survive in every circumstance.
Just like animals, we perceive stress as a response to a crisis situation, and it helps us act and react to the threats around us. However, our brain can self-induce a crisis situation if we perceive it that way, even though there is no threat around. This can be very harmful for our body. We are not made to survive the constant pressure of stress and the state of alert caused by danger.
Since our biggest source of stress is psychological, we have to learn how to deal with it better. As such, try to not perceive life situations like being stuck in traffic, having a close deadline, fighting with a loved one, like a crisis and a stressful situation. Instead, think of them like occurrences that will pass soon and don’t let your emotions run your thoughts for you. Take charge of them and minimize your brain’s response to cut down on your stress levels.
Lesson 2: The autonomic nervous system works in a remarkable way
The autonomic nervous system is another outstanding function in our body which helps us respond and recover from stress. Let’s see how! First thing first, this system has two parts, which work on opposite functions. The first part is called the sympathetic nervous system. It is responsible for triggering stress during real, or imaginary, situations of crisis.
This system alarms us that a threat is hovering on us. Or that something arousal or something that will make us become very active and awake is happening. Therefore, this system tells us that we should act accordingly by inducing a little bit of stress. Most commonly, this system triggers stress during flight, fright, fight, and during sex.
On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the calm and the vegetative activities. This system promotes the digestive function, growth, energy storage, and other similar functions. Both of these systems activates very quickly to ensure survival.
When they are awake, the brain sends signals to the entire body through blood vessels, reaching every organ, muscle and gland. Moreover, it releases specific hormones, which have long term effects on the body. Therefore, it’s better if you keep your stress levels low and prevent these hormones from reaching abnormally high levels.
Lesson 3: Taking responsibility for your actions and giving back to your community improves stress levels
Those who offer gifts and help feel better than those who receive it. And it looks like studies are here to back this information up. Married couples who give constant support to each other are generally healthier and happier than single people. As well as people working as judges, in hospitality, or other similar jobs.
Research on elderly people in nursing homes shows that active involvement in decisions can increase one’s life span. For example, by allowing elders to choose their meal, solve certain tasks, or simply take decisions, staff noticed how they became happier and more active. That is because the feeling that comes with being responsible for your actions and taking charge of your life benefits the brain.
However, it’s important to recognize what type of stress you can solve, and what you cannot. Don’t stress over situations from the future, scenarios in your head, or even things that are hardly in your control. Instead, use that energy to prepare in advance or store it for the situation itself.
The Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Review
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers taps into the subject of stress and teaches its readers how to keep it under control and manage it effectively by taking charge of your thoughts and stopping the overthinking process. The book talks about the harmful effects of stress on the human body and how by having high levels of cortisol and other stress-related hormones, we subject our body to disastrous effects. The author then explores ways to deal with stress and keep it under control with effective life practices that one can implement right away, like taking responsibility for their actions, or simply giving more.
Who would I recommend the Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers summary to?
The 40-year-old employee who works too much and is close to burnout, the 35-year-old person who suffers from chronic stress and wants to learn to treat it effectively, or the 27-year-old person trying to balance career and their personal life, but feels like they’re way behind their peers and suffers from high stress levels.
Last Updated on October 5, 2022