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A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Disease, and Coping

by Robert M. Sapolsky

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-7167-2391-3

Entertaining explanation of how stress affects the body and what we can do to counteract its effects. Sapolsky (a MacArthur Fellow who divides his time between teaching biological sciences and neuroscience at Stanford and conducting stress research on baboons in Kenya) makes a much- discussed topic seem fresh and new. Using humor, unexpected analogies, and offbeat examples (to illustrate how the brain sends messages to other parts of the body, he slips in a steamy passage from Lady Chatterley's Lover), Sapolsky covers how the stress response affects the cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems; the body's perception of pain; growth; and the aging process. He concludes with some words on how to cope with psychological stress—the type of stress that humans (unlike zebras) experience most often. He also cautions against the oversimplification of stress-reduction manuals, asserting that many suggested strategies—such as developing a sense of control, finding an outlet for your frustrations, and building a system of social support—can backfire. As a first line of defense against stress-related disease, Sapolsky recommends prevention—learning to recognize the signs of the stress response and to identify the situations that trigger it. His lucid text and not-to-be-overlooked footnotes are filled with delightful twists and turns, personal anecdotes, and nuggets of odd information—for instance, on voodoo death, Peter Pan, and the hunting skills of hyenas. Possessed of a lively intelligence, wide-ranging curiosity, and love of science, Sapolsky writes as though his readers share these traits. First-rate science for the nonscientist that's certain to reduce stress—at least during the time spent reading it. (Forty- two illustrations—not seen)