Laughter As Stress Relief

Let’s start with Stress:

Someone said, “It’s better to burn out than rust out!” I don’t believe we have to live at either end of the spectrum. Both extremes can be stressful.

What are the warning signs of excessive stress in YOUR life?

  • tension in your neck and shoulders

  • drumming your fingers or pacing

  • snapping at people when you’re irritable or depressed

  • smoking more or the use of alcohol or drugs to cope

  • sleeping and eating less OR sleeping and eating more

  • loss of focus, apathy, social withdrawal or loss of interest in life

  • Professionals will tell you to begin stress management with your physical well-being. Diet and exercise are at the top of the list.

Activities which promote physical relaxation can help…but, we often need more than exercise. Look at the big picture of your life. Better organization at home or the office may help reduce some stressors. Improving personal habits and attitudes can promote a more relaxed approach to life. Better communication skills can help you feel more satisfied and reduce stress which accompanies misunderstandings. A vacation away or taking mental “mini-vacations” can help you cope.

Better time management can usually help relieve some stress. Consider these suggestions:

  • Create a balanced schedule

  • Don’t over-commit

  • Try to leave early for appointments so you don’t have to rush

  • Eliminate or change self-defeating behaviors

  • Resist perfectionism

  • Organize your life to feel less overwhelmed

  • Flip your negative thinking and think more positively about your life

  • Avoid negative-thinking people

  • Pat yourself on the back for small accomplishments

That all sounds pretty serious! Where does LAUGHTER fit into this?

Laughter triggers healthy physical changes in the body. It is a natural stress reliever. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from some of the damaging effects of stress. To be more specific:

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies.

  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood and oxygen flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

  • Best of all, laughter is fun, free, and easy to use. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.

SO, how can you put laughter to work as part of your personal approach to stress management? Try turning negative situations into positives by laughing about them. Don’t cry over spilled milk! Next time, laugh when you make a mistake, do something foolish, or even spill something. Laugh your way through the stressful moments. You’ll be more relaxed. Your body will thank you. And, those around you may benefit from your pleasant approach to life almost as much as you benefit from it. Keep laughing!!

From experience and materials gathered by Danny Mize– Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator at Hospice Care of the Southwest.

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BSA Hospice of the Southwest

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