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Stress kills, say Holmes and Rahe, the psychologists who study such things, and they created a stress scale for comparing people’s stress. I once had a lady friend who maxed out on many the various subcomponents of stress on that chart. She was a wonderful person whom I really enjoyed being with, and I conversed with her daily for years. She was a graduate student in psychology and we discussed many things, even the stress chart and her very poor life expectancy score using that chart’s method. I don’t think she ever made the slightest attempt to reduce her stress and it caught up with her in her forties, which is an early age for death of an otherwise healthy American woman.

In the news is a story of the world’s oldest man, and the third oldest verified man ever, dying at the age of 114. Walter Breuning, a career-long railroad worker, living most of his life in Montana.

Here’s this man’s secret to a long life:

• Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. (“Every change is good.”)

• Eat two meals a day (“That’s all you need.”)

• Work as long as you can (“That money’s going to come in handy.”)

• Help others (“The more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”)

• We’re going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you’re born to die.

He didn’t mention choosing his parents very, very carefully, as most of them lived to be very old. He doesn’t talk about stress using that term. Stress doesn’t seem to enter his world view, and inevitable things like death are just part of being here in the first place, so why worry about that. Other smaller things will come along but if you don’t worry about the big ones, why should you worry about the smaller ones?

People seem to think I live a stress-free life, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. I just identify things that are stressful and do what I can to correct the stress and live with whatever is left over. Noise bothers me more than most people, and so I carry tan-colored napkin tissues with me all the time, and when there is some unavoidable noise, I make ear plugs. It only takes a few seconds, and in a noisy environment these soft tissues actually seem to make conversation more discernible. Perhaps it is because the tissues filter out the high pitched squeakie and hissy sounds. The commercial foam ear plugs don’t work nearly as well for conversation because they filter out all the sounds.

As I get older there seems to be less need to be where the outrageous activities are happening. Quite the opposite, if there is going to be trouble somewhere that is a good time to be somewhere else. With seven billion people on this planet there are always going to be problems somewhere, and generally speaking it is always easy to anticipate. Big problems cast a long shadow before them and leave a trail of sorrow in their wake. Most people forget what their brain is for, and because of that forgetfulness they get into trouble.

The function of the brain is to enhance your life expectancy.

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