Lawyers can sometimes be a pretty stressed-out bunch, and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping, by Robert M. Sapolsky, is a great way to better understand this issue. Everyone knows that stress is bad for you, and can take a physical toll, but this book does a brilliant job of explaining the science behind it.
While it is essentially pop-science — the title is a bit of a giveaway — it doesn’t oversimplify the scientific concepts involved. For those curious about the title, this is Robert Sapolsky’s thesis: Our bodies are designed to deal with short bursts of extreme stress (such as that faced by a zebra when it is being chased by a lion), but were never meant to cope with the continuous stress that many of us experience. This is backed up with biological and physiological explanations, which prevents this book from falling into the self-help genre.
It is also immensely entertaining, and Sapolsky has a knack for using uncanny but funny parallels to explain concepts. I am currently recommending this book to many people I know, because I think it’s good to be aware of the dangers that stress poses, and also because this book offers some good advice on ways to cope with it and prevent it taking too much of a toll. I think it is essential that we consider stress-related diseases a serious workplace threat. This book really helped me better understand why stress is such a major threat, and — more importantly — what steps I can take to ensure that its impact on my organisation is reduced. It’s also a good book to gift. Especially to your boss, if you want him to get the message that you need a break!
Rajiv K. Luthra is founder and managing partner, Luthra & Luthra.
(Co-ordinated by Shloka Nath)