Stanford Prof. Robert Sapolsky on Coping with Stress
Sapolsky: Well, again if we are distinguishing between the world of "these are stressful times — I am going to wind up on the street" versus "these are stressful times in a purely psychosocial way" concentrating on the latter its turfing back to this world of few of these stressors will shorter your life expectancy, few of these stressors will lead our bones scattered on the savannah while predators pick over the leftovers. Instead they are psychosocial inventions. And there is the potential to very powerfully manipulate the psychosocial settings. Again from the same external misery, you are more likely to subjectively feel stressed, more likely to activate a stress response, more likely to get a stress-related disease if you feel like you have no control over what’s going on, if you feel like you have no predictive information - when is it coming, what’s going on, how long is it going to last, how bad is it going to be? If you are set up to interpret things as getting worse, if you lack outlets from the frustration, if I you lack somebody’s shoulder to cry on, social support. And to the extent that one has to fall back on homilies, you know, give me the wisdom to tell the difference between what I can change and what I can’t, you don’t want to try to control the uncontrollable, you don’t want to try to control something that has already occurred. But within the realm where it is realistic, little footholds of control can be enormously helpful. Understanding which outlets are most efficacious, understanding that above all else, we are a social primate, and the support derived by that - again it potentially sounds platitudinous, but these are when they are varying, when they are manipulating an order of magnitude some of the biological outcomes to these things, these are no mere platitudes.