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“If you are a normal mammal stress is the three minutes of screaming terror on the savanna after which either it’s over with or you’re over with.”
The quote is by Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., the author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, and the best explanation of stress we’ve ever heard.
If you’re a human mammal, however, stress comes from something more insidious than a toothy predator: anxiety triggered by the passive-aggressive boss, the 30-year mortgage, and the job of caring for children as well as the ill parent who believes General MacArthur wants him to lead a division into Pyongyang Province.
No wildebeest would understand these fears, but the perceived threats spark the same physiological survival responses that crocodile attacks do.
In our November issue, on sale now, we’ve shown you the six places that stress bites your body and how to fight back.
Here are two:
Neck and back tension caused by mental stress, plus long days spent hunched over a computer keyboard, can trigger pain.
Try the corner stretch. Stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your elbows to shoulder height, and place your forearms, elbows, and palms against each wall. Lean in to flex your chest and back muscles. Hold for 15 seconds, breathing deeply. Do this every 2 hours or whenever you feel tight.
Increased stomach acid from stress can churn your gut and loosen your bowels. Stress can even alter the way your body processes fat, causing you to store more of it in your abdomen.
Twist yourself into a pretzel and laugh, laugh, laugh. “Laughter yoga” practitioners swear that combining yogic breathing and stretching techniques with forced laughter helps them cope better with life’s stresses. Studies have already demonstrated the ability of yoga to ease stress and lower blood pressure. And laughing appears to do the same. For example: Two reports presented at the 2009 American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting showed that people who watched comedies had more-pliable blood vessels and improved bloodflow for up to 24 hours after the chuckling commenced.