I'm a geek- I freely admit it. One of my new favorite geeky activities is iTunes U, which contains a bunch of free lectures and videos on virtually any subject under the sun. I listen to these a lot on my way into work, as they make the ride go a lot quicker. Yesterday and today, I listened to two lectures by neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, author of the book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.
Sapolsky researchers specifically the neuro-psycho-biology of the stress response- what the physiological outcomes are, and what psychological and environmental factors can mediate this response. And his research, combined with a rich background provided by other scientists, has led him to figure out a bunch of very basic tips to help us cope with stress:
- An outlet or hobby. Rats who could gnaw on a piece of wood after receiving a very mild shock didn't develop any stress-related diseases, while those with no way to "cope" with the stress did develop diseases (ulcers, high blood pressure, etc).
- Predictability. If the rats received a brief warning that the shock was going to happen, even if they couldn't avoid it, they did not develop stress-related diseases.
- Sense of control. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
- An ability to tell the important stressors from the not-so-important ones. This one came from Sapolsky's own work with baboons. If male baboons reacted to every minor threat from another male as needing a massive, aggressive response, they had higher levels of stress hormones.
- A sense that things are improving. Also pretty self-explanatory.
- Friends. This, says Sapolsky, is perhaps the most important mediator of stress. Cloning and medication and all of these advances are saving human lives, but having a friend to talk to, to share things with, to understand what it is you're going through, may be the most live-saving of all.
What do you think? Anything to add to the list?
To listen to these lectures, go to iTunes and do a search for "Robert Sapolsky". The two I listened to were "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" and "Stress and Coping: What Baboons Can Teach Us." They're an hour each but extremely entertaining.