CHAPTER 14Hardiness and Your Health

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”

—Hippocrates (Greek philosopher and physician, father of modern medicine)

It is now well known that stress can make you sick. At the same time, stress is a necessary part of life, unavoidable for us mere humans. So, the real question is not how to avoid stress, but how to live with it and stay healthy while coping with the stressors of life. In this chapter we discuss some of the research showing that hardiness, and the coping strategies that high-hardy people use in dealing with stress, is a big part of the answer.

In his fascinating book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky outlines the many ways that stress can make us sick (Sapolsky, 2004). As we discussed in Chapter 8, the body’s stress response is healthy and adaptive when we are facing a true crisis or challenge. But it gets us into trouble when it’s not appropriate for the situation, when it goes on for too long, or when it’s triggered too often by events that don’t really call for a crisis response.

For example, if your blood pressure shoots up and you find yourself getting angry every time you’re in the slow checkout line at the grocery store, you’re probably having a stress response that is out of proportion to the situation. If this happens often enough, you’re probably putting yourself at risk for developing some stress-related ...

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