I don’t now about you, but the heat seems to be producing more stress. And when the heat seems unrelenting, the stress builds and we can feel so stressed that we are less able to connect our thoughts, complete tasks, stabilize or maintain composure. We think that if we can get out of the heat, things will return to normal. But the heat is just showing us that our stress response needs some attention. A heat wave is not our house burning down or our being caught in a forest fire.
Scientists and researchers know that stress affects a number of bodily functions and systems. It was great for saving our ancestors by the immediate production of energy to fight or flee for their lives. But the kind of chronic stress we experience as modern, computer-literate multi-taskers in a failing economy, can disrupt the functioning of the our organs, particularly the liver, brain, pancreas and immune response.
Being an advocate of longevity, I am committed to reducing chronic stress and I recommend this strategy for anyone who wants to live fully into their nineties and beyond. The above referenced article makes several great suggestions: laugh more, meditate, eat healthy food, spend time with family and friends, think positive thoughts, get plenty of rest and relaxation time.
Living Long with Stress
One thing I’d like to add to the list is listening to the advice of centenarians. They are not scientists, but they have actually lived long lives. They have seen many stressful times, including the passing of their loved ones. As a result, everybody from young reporters to old friends has been asking them for at least twenty years, “What’s your secret to living so long?” And the centenarians have had many opportunities to consider what they did that fostered their success at living. This inquiry has helped them develop wisdom about aging, coping, letting go and determining what really matters.
The beauty of their wisdom is more than being proven beyond a doubt. This proof was established long before they reached the age of 100. They were young once! They tried many things, were exposed to many things and made a lot of mistakes, yet they didn’t get overly stressed about it. It isn’t the proof you need, but I love the example of George Burns, who died at age 100 and the recently passed Phyllis Diller, who died at 95. Did they have stressful lives? Yes. But they didn’t let the stress run their lives.
If you’d like to explore the experiences and advice of more centenarians, here’s a couple of my favorite sources.
The National Centenarian Awareness Project blog
The Georgia Centenarian Study Documentary from the UGA Institute of Gerontology
Hugh Downs covered this angle of the Georgia Centenarian Study for 20/20
If this doesn’t inspire you, perhaps living to 100 isn’t your cup of tea.
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