Stress 101

While I was waiting for my parents to pick me at Haverford, I started reading Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert Sapolsky, a book Ani assigned to me to introduce some of the concepts we would be dealing with this summer. I haven’t gotten far yet, but the entertaining and approachable writing makes me excited about progressing through the book.

The beginning of the book had already altered the way I think about stress. Sapolsky remarks that the stress-response is the set of bodily reactions that is intended to help the body return to homeostasis after experience of or in anticipation of a stressor. Most humans have very few of the acute and chronic physical stressors that plague animals like having to hunt their food, but all animals have adapted ways to effectively cope with these stressors. Much of human stress is chronic psychological and social turmoil that never manifests physically, and this tends to lead to physical illness. The energy that is expended on the stress response cannot contribute to development and maintenance of other vital bodily functions like the immune system.

The directly relates to the population of babies that I will be working with this summer because the stress of cardiac surgery and of constant NICU stimuli effects their growth and development. Music certainly has the potential to reduce stress, and stress reduction is particularly important for babies, especially those that are at risk. And now, a lullaby rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.