By Betty Kuffel
When you lie in bed worrying about things out of your control and unable to sleep, consider the concepts of stress reduction in the book Why Zebras Don’t get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky. The acclaimed Stanford University professor of biology and neurology is a wizard at explaining how stress can make you sick and what you can do to understand and calm the physiological symptoms.
If you begin writing a list of topics that stress you, Dr. Sapolsky says to stop and think like a zebra. They survive frequent acute physical distresses and react quickly to save their lives. We, too, have the ability to adapt suddenly in emergencies, but are challenged by sustained chronic concerns about food, lodging, and money, etc. In humans, the real problem occurs with social and psychological disruptions. That is where we are right now, enclosed for safety from an encroaching disease that can be fatal and dealing with many unknowns.
In the midst of disruption of our plans, lives, jobs and writing, we need to focus on what is important, living wisely and calming our stresses. What does that mean?
We have all experienced life stresses that resolved, and balance returned. A place of balance is what we seek during this period of disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Human stressors can be anticipatory, worrying about things out of our control. When zebras are stressed, it is abrupt, they see trouble and react. They don’t stand around worrying about what might happen in the future like humans.
When the stress response spikes, heart rate surges and blood pressures rise. If stress hormones persist too long, they can make you sick. Insomnia, upset stomach, elevated blood sugar, depression, headaches and inability to focus on meaningful tasks. A chronic stress response reduces immunity, something you do not want to happen at this time in your life with the pandemic.
What are we to do? Take control and take advantage of this time to accomplish some tasks you didn’t have time for in the past and in the process, improve your health with daily exercise and keep a journal with concepts you may use in future writing.
We can take advantage of our hours at home by using habits of ultra-successful people Like Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Here are some:
- Focus on minutes not hours. There are 1,440 minutes in a day, use them wisely.
- Dedicate mornings for 1-2 hours without interruption to the most important task to help you reach your goals.
- The future is unknown. Do what you can today to accomplish your goals.
- Check your emails once or twice a day. Don’t waste time.
- Always carry a notebook. Record notes to free your mind.
- Avoid meetings at all cost. They are a waste of time. If you meet, stick to the agenda, make it short. Say no to almost everything. Delegate.
- Stay organized. Touch things only once.
Reduce stress in the face of many unknowns. Don’t dwell on things out of your control. React like a zebra.