Chapter 1: Why Don’t Zebras Get Ulcers?
This book is focused on stress, stress-related disease, and the mechanisms of coping with stress.
Our personalities, thoughts and feelings reflect and influence our bodies. Stress can make us sick: many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made worse by stress.
Stress for us vs stress for zebras:
- For us: deadlines, traffic, money worries, relationships… We can generate all sorts of stressful events purely in our heads.
- Zebras: serious physical injuries, predators, starvation… For animals, the most upsetting things in life are acute physical crises.
For the vast majority of beings on this planet, stress is about short-term crisis. It is only damaging once it’s provoked chronically.
Stressor and stress response:
- For zebras: A stressor is anything in the outside world that knocks you out of homeostatic balance, and the stress response is what your body does to reestablish homeostasis
- For us: A stressor can also be just the anticipation of something that would knock us out of our homeostatic balance
Hans Selye: through research with rats, he came to the conclusion that if stressors go on for too long, they can make you sick.
- He developed a three-part view of how the stress-response worked:
- Initial (alarm) stage: a stressor is noted
- Adaptation, or resistance: comes with the successful mobilization of the stress-response system and the retainment of allostatic balance
- “Exhaustion”: where stress-related diseases emerge
Allostasis: the modified, modernized version of the homeostasis concept:
- While homeostasis states that there is a single optimal level, number, amount for any given measure in the body, allostasis recognizes that this optimal level changes through situations.
- Example: the ideal blood pressure when you’re sleeping is likely to be different than when you’re ski jumping.
- Homeostasis implies that you reach that ideal set point through some local regulatory mechanism, whereas allostasis recognizes that any given set point can be
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