Anyone else finding things tough going at the moment?
It’s no surprise that we may be feeling weighed down right now. Keeping the balls of home schooling, team management and business expectations in the air whilst lacking full control of our circumstances is tiring and stressful.
So, is there a way to get a grip of this stress? Could understanding how we respond help us master it?
in his seminal 1994 book “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” Stamford University Biologist Robert Sapolsky, beautifully describes the essence of the problem.
The Zebra grazing in the Serengeti is entirely present in the moment, munching away without a care.
The instant a Lion appears, the Zebra’s brain switches to threat mode, its body floods with stress hormones and it runs for its life. There follow 3 or so minutes of the most intense stress imaginable during which time the Zebra lives or dies.
If it lives, it returns to grazing peacefully. Like nothing happened. If only life were so simple for Humans!
Many of us exist within a continuous state of what Sapolsky calls ‘Anticipatory Stress’, thinking about being knocked off balance, ruminating about things outside of our control over long stretches of time.
We have similar survival hormones to the Zebra but because we worry too much, our stress response is extended over time even in the absence of a true threat, making us feel uncomfortable and eventually ill.
So how can we be more Zebra? More in the moment and less taken over with anticipating difficulty? Here are some thoughts to help.
Some stress is inevitable and, at the right level pushes us to deliver our best work, but it’s up to us to engage with it, adapt, learn and grow.
Remember the Zebra, save the massive threat response for the lion leaping out of the bushes at you and take back control of the day to day.