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The Worse Stress: Attack of a Saber-Toothed Cat? Or Social Isolation?



 I've read and heard it many times. So have you. It's a classic depiction of the human response to "fight or flight."


"When you see a saber-tooth cat coming at you, your cortisol and adrenaline kick in, your heart beats faster, your blood flows through your muscles, and your whole body is activated...

This is a typical illustration of the body's response to stress. The scenario is triggered by an unimaginably stressful event - the attack of a fearsome predator!

But there is another threat that has undoubtedly had a major impact on the evolutionary development of our response to stress and continues to affect us today. A situation that our Paleolithic ancestors feared, perhaps not as extreme as the big cat, but much more continuous. It's an element of daily life that creates stress and can rarely be ignored. A force that has played, and will continue to play, a more important role in shaping our behavior and physiological responses.

We are in danger of losing social support.

Above all, our ancestors could only hope to survive because of their attachment to their group. By contrast, for a few determined survivors, our human condition has not changed since the invention of the wheel. We are completely dependent on others for our own survival.

This is why we focus on money. We believe that money can be exchanged for food (grown by others), shelter (built by others), medical care (provided by others), safety (provided by others), and cultural enrichment (created by others).

As such, college students are consumed by their social status. It's not just that they are inexplicably immature, driven by their peers and confused by their impulses. They actually find their way in the creation of a stable group of mutually supportive peer relationships, the most important path to human existence.

For this reason, it is better to be number two, at least among baboons. Number one is under great stress and is always looking over his baboon's shoulder to make sure no one is willing to push him away (in this case I'm talking about a study of hierarchical behavior in male primates). Number two, on the other hand, is a light-hearted side-swipe that allows you to always get a reasonable amount of candy without stress.

That's why people with darker skin are not healthy. Of course, malnutrition, environmental pollution, limited access to health care, and prejudice in the medical profession also play a role. But many of the health problems of the poor (or people of color) stem from the stresses associated with lowered expectations of social support.

For this reason, social connections developed evolutionarily at a very early stage. Bacteria read the chemical signals of neighboring bacteria and, under certain circumstances, cluster together to form membranes or colonies, with different bacteria within the colony playing specialized roles. Examples can be found in all other corners of the evolutionary tree as well.

Therefore, babies who are calmed by breastfeeding soon after birth will learn to become even calmer when they hear their mother's voice in the first few weeks of life.

Poor response to a stressor is one of the main reasons for poor health. But if stress is causing the problem and you want to increase your resistance to stress, don't wear Nikes to increase your walking speed in the hopes of escaping the next saber-toothed cat that comes along. Instead, explore and improve your relationship network.