The book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert M. Sapolsky has a hyperbolic, attention-grabbing title and thus I was expecting a typical pop-sci theory based loosely on facts and mostly on supposition. What I got was an interesting read that actually was backed with quite a bit of research and medical studies.

As you know, I read a lot about health and fitness so was definitely intrigued. I love the fact that Sapolsky focuses on stress. As someone who spends a lot of time telling folks, “relax. don’t worry about it. It’s not that big of a deal,” it was great to see some scientific backing for these beliefs. Although he spends the bulk of the book telling you how harmful stress can be in terms of handling disease and other infirmities, he does not say it is the cause. It does however, greatly reduce recovery when something is going wrong. It reminds me of the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

The book does get “in the weeds” about the science behind studies of stress and tosses out terms like “glucocorticoids” but does a great job of explaining this and the myriad other terms he uses throughout. It feels very scientific and I guess it might be difficult for some to follow but Sapolsky’s writing style keeps it light and entertaining while still mixing in a health dose of terms  like “epinephrine” and “norepinephrine,”

If you are worrier then this might not be a good read as worrying about worrying is likely to hurt your health. If you are optimist, you just might walk away feeling better about yourself.

by Chris Doelle