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Learn why zebras don't get ulcers in this 1-minute book review.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping – by Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky

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The book does kick off with a section that didn’t age well—he talks of the stress induced globally by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and how that kind of thing just doesn’t happen any more. Today, we have much less existentially dangerous stressors!

However, the fact we went and had another pandemic really only adds weight to the general arguments of the book, rather than detracting.

We are consistently beset by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Shakespeare would put it, and there’s a reason (or twenty) why many people go grocery-shopping with the cortisol levels of someone being hunted for sport.

So, why don’t zebras get ulcers, as they actually are hunted for food?

They don’t have rent to pay or a mortgage, they don’t have taxes, or traffic, or a broken washing machine, or a project due in the morning. Their problems come one at a time. They have a useful stress response to a stressful situation (say, being chased by lions), and when the danger is over, they go back to grazing. They have time to recover.

For us, we are (usually) not being chased by lions. But we have everything else, constantly, around the clock. So, how to fix that?

Dr. Sapolsky comprehensively describes our physiological responses to stress in quite different terms than many. By reframing stress responses as part of the homeostatic system—trying to get the body back into balance—we find a solution, or rather: ways to help our bodies recover.

The style is “pop-science” and is very accessible for the lay reader while still clearly coming from a top-level academic who is neck-deep in neuroendocrinological research. Best of both worlds!

Bottom line: if you try to take very day at a time, but sometimes several days gang up on you at once, and you’d like to learn more about what happens inside you as a result and how to fix that, this book is for you!

Click here to check out “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” and give yourself a break!

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