Stress for Success

Stress for Success

The great Bill Cosby once said, "If you can find humor in something you can survive it."  But can it really help us cope with today's topsy-turvy world?How you react to stress is significantly determined by whether you see it as a threat or a challenge.  When you see it as a threat your reaction will likely be more of a defensive one driven by greater anger and/or fear resulting in a response that's aggressive (fight) or a withdrawal (flight).  Finding humor helps you to see the stressor more as a challenge, making it less threatening and leaving you feeling more in control.  All of this leads the ability of perceiving more viable options.

Humor is one of the best coping strategies of all because it:

  • Facilitates mental flexibility and creativity by blocking negative emotions allowing you to think through problems versus emotionally muddle through them.
  • Is the opposite of stress: it lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, reduces muscle tension and pain and boosts your immune system.
  • Reduces the stress hormone cortisol while increasing health enhancing hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters.
  • Strengthens your immune system by increasing antibody producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T cells.
  • Dampens pain.
  • A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, your heart, contracts the abs and other areas, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward.
  • Laughing at yourself increases your objectivity about yourself, decreasing your defensiveness.
  • Shared humor strengthens teams (not sarcasm or belittling humor, though).
  • "The shortest distance between two people is humor," said the famed comedic pianist, Victor Borge.  Humor connects people improving most communication, especially when it's potentially confrontational.
  • It's just fun.

To nourish your sense of humor you must look for and find what tickles your funny bone.

  • Do things differently: Vary your routines and become more aware of life around you.  Take a different route to work.  Change your lunch habit.  Then look for and find five things that make you smile.  Keep looking to keep finding.
  • Keep a humor file: Add humor like this odd newspaper headline, "Good Samaritans may get stun guns."  That's funny!  Cheer yourself up by reading what's in your file.
  • Develop a sense of playfulness: Play with kids and pets.
  • Laugh with others and you'll laugh more: Watch your favorite sitcoms together or go to a comedy club.
  • Be mindful (conscious) of finding humor in taxing situations.  Instead of complaining, laugh about what's stressing you; like your catastrophic images of ending up a street person due to economic losses.
  • When having a bad day, exaggerate it and have a really bad day.  Complain endlessly about how the world is falling apart (not to mention your big screen TV).
  • Imagine your favorite comedian(s) having your family arguments.

Studies show positive outcomes of smiling even when you don't mean it.  Smile more to benefit from its helpful effects and it may lead to genuine smiles and eventually even outright laughter!

About the Author

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., of InterAction Associates, is a trainer and a Stress Coach. Her new book, Let Your Body Win:  Stress Management Plain & Simple is available SOON atcwww.letyourbodywin.com.  Call her at 239-693-8111 for information about her workshops on this and other topics or to invite her to speak to your organization.