Years ago, I read what I consider the best book out there on how stress affects our health, psyche and spirit. It’s Stanford professor and researcher Robert Sapolsky’s, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. He’s a biologist specializing in neuro-endocrinology. I just watched a older National Geographic Special, Stress, Portrait of a Killer, on Netflix. Robert Sapolsky is a great story teller. He makes science fun and interesting. He knows how to explain stress in language that’s easy to understand. He makes it clear that unlike Zebras, we human beings can’t seem to find our “off” switch when it comes to stress.
In the American culture we seem to revere stress and being busy. Many of us certainly don’t understand how stress seriously impacts our health. Stress overload does mental and physical damage. Some of the most common health problems, caused or worsened by stress are:
- Cardiovascular disease and Hypertension
- Depression and anxiety
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fertility in women, irregular cycles
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Frequent colds
- Sleeplessness and fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory loss
- Changes in appetite
Robert Sapolsky has studied Baboons for over 30 years because he says that they are a good model for our Western culture. Like human beings, Baboons live in a hierarchical society. They have troops varying from between five to 250 animals. His research over the years has indicated that by conducting blood tests, the baboons at the top of the rung has less stress that those below. The dominant, aggressive male baboons have less stress chemicals in their bodies. He found that the most stress occurred in the Baboons at the lower end of the hierarchy.
What’s even more fascinating in the documentary is that they also did research on measuring stress with people in the British Civil Service and the same thing held true. There was less stress higher up and more at the bottom. I highly recommend the Documentary. You can see a short clip of it here.
Robert Sapolsky certainly has a sense of humor because he says that he’s a type A personality and is stressed out from working 80 hours a week. And, he says that we need to find ways to release stress overload on a daily basis. Whether it’s meditating, exercising, or doing EFT, we need to have an ongoing positive habit for reducing stress. It’s essential for our health and well-being.