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Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers

As we close the book on this term and look to a fast finishing 2019, exams and assignments are at the forefront of many ATC minds. With the realisation of final grades for year 12’s, transitions for year 6, our year 9’s lapping the tide for senior school and the year 11’s venturing into QCAA’s new system, the mental wellbeing and health of all can be a concern. So today I am here to tell you, we need to be like the Zebra. Why the Zebra you may ask….. Well it’s simple. Zebra’s don’t get ulcers.


When Zebra’s are standing around, having a chew on the grass they aren’t thinking too much. Maybe… ‘wow the grass is pretty good.’ or possibly ‘I like how you look in the stripes.. slimming’. There’s not too much going on. They are simply doing their job, not over complicating it with three course degustation or the on trend deconstructed grass tufts.

When the pride of Lions come around, they don’t stress. They understand there is only one of two things that happens. They either run and get away. Or they get eaten. So they run. When they get clear, what do they do. They go back to their job and eat the grass. They don’t stand around thinking, ‘Barry, poor Barry, they got him’, ‘Arrgh I can’t look away. His heads off now!!’ And there certainly isn’t a zebra standing off to the side saying ‘Why didn’t the lions go for me? They never go for me anymore. What’s wrong with me? Am I getting too old for them?’

In a world of over-complication, the Zebra understands that there is only so much you can do. This is why, they don’t get ulcers. (Paraphrased from Why Zebra’s don’t get Ulcers, by Dr Robert Sapolsky.) This over-complication can be the antecedent to stress, a real physiological and psychological event that stops us from doing our best.

So, like the Zebra, we need to understand that to do our best, to allay stress, we need to simply do our job. Make a good study plan to follow, find a good space to study (quiet space/pasture) keep distractions to a minimum (phones/lions) and combine this with physical exercise. (gym/escaping lions)

The word balance is one that is bandied around when we talk of diet, exercise and work/life equilibrium. The main stressor when it comes to study is imbalance. Two hours on your phone is not balance nor is binge-watching a season of Brooklyn 99 a balance. Leaving everything until the last moment is definitely not balanced.

Like the Zebra, keep it SIMPLE. Here are 8 ways to be a dedicated, balanced student:

1: Create a study plan and stick to it
2: Create a study area; one that is free of distractions (remember the phone/lions!)
3: Work at one thing at a time
4: Break down your large assignments into smaller tasks
5: Start straight away
6: Seek and act on feedback
7: Sleep (Don’t underestimate the importance of rebooting your brain for study and stress relief)

Don’t Over-complicate It

Lastly can I remind all students to be like the Zebra and just do your job. Study. Act on feedback. Eat some grass and go for a run. Good luck to all students with their exams.

Paul Towner
Head of Munster House