How the Best Handle Stress – A First Aid Kit
By Dr. Ron Rubenzer, EdD, MA, MPH, MSE, FAIS
Chapter Three –
Make Fun of Stress & Smile
It Makes You Look Smarter
This is an article from the Fall 2020 issue of Combat Stress
This chapter will look at:
- Why it is important to have workplace humor.
- How humor lifts moods and improves relationships.
- How to inject humor into your life by knowing yourself.
- Going on a humor diet (e.g., Interfax Daily).
- Making fun of stress — Developing your sense of humor.
- Is there a place for grim humor?
- Watching the company you keep; locking it in.
- Remembering that your sense of humor is your sense of balance.
- Humor leads people to believe you have a higher IQ or “virtual intelligence,” (Mark
- How to introduce humor to your job.
- Getting in touch with the experts.
- Why is it important to have workplace humor? It works.
He who laughs… lasts. Although leading a humorless life is not fatal, it can be unhealthy psychologically. Humor serves as a balance pole on the tightrope of life. Humor is a powerful force in releasing stress’s stranglehold. In fact, humor is such a powerful antidote to stress that many corporations hire humor consultants to “lighten up” office environments.
What is the secret to dramatically improving the quality of your life? Increase your smiles per hour. Laughter is a natural mood elevator, and according to a Cornell University study, it also increases creativity and flexibility of thought. Humor gives a more balanced sense of perspective.
- How humor lifts moods / improves health and relationships.
The main mechanism of humor or laughter appears to be the release of endorphins or the brain’s natural tranquilizer into the system. Laughing results in an “endorphin high.” Furthermore, laughter stimulates internal organs making them work better through the increase of circulation that follows the vibrating massage that accompanies laughter and heightens resistive vitality against disease.
We smile because we are happy. Interestingly, it has been discovered that our smile also causes our feelings of happiness. The act of smiling elevates moods.
- How to inject humor into your life.
Find your “sore spots” and apply humor as you would a soothing salve. For example, if your daily encounter with a computer makes you sore, find cartoons that make fun of computers. (Whole books have been devoted to making light of irritations, such as 101 Uses for Your Discarded Computer). You may want to put the cartoons in a file where you can pull them out.
- Go on a humor diet.
When reading the newspaper, focus on the “funnies” first before finding out all the negative things thousands of people have done lately. Watch movies, listen to tapes or read books that are humorous. Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a very extensive list of humorous books, audiocassettes, and videocassettes. There are cable channels that feature only “light” programs. Many TV networks offer comedy serials. These can be bright spots in your weekly routine.
- Making fun of stress.
Develop your sense of humor. Humor is an art form that can be nurtured. Jeanne Swanned Robertson, a nationally renowned speaker and author, offers the how-to’s of honing your humor skills in her 1998 book, Don’t Let the Funny Stuff Get Away: Turn Everyday Experiences into Stories That Audiences Will Remember.
Robertson suggests taking “humor breaks.” Often people feel worse after listening to everyone’s complaints during breaks, so choose to be around more uplifting people. The last chapter of her book details how to collect “humor cues.” Organize a file of things that are humorous to you. Pull up these “humor cues” on a daily basis.
Children laugh at least 25 times more often per day than adults. (Adults average only 15 laughs a day, children about 400 per day.)
- Is there a place for grim humor?
Yes. The world-famous Viennese psychiatrist, Dr. Victor Frankl, who survived the atrocities of two Nazi concentration camps, recommended using a sense of humor to soften one’s own harsh situations. Dr. Frankl felt that even having a “grim sense of humor” helps to protectively detach ourselves from unavoidable suffering. Of course, limit your use of grim humor to yourself.
Never give up. Even a blind pig finds an occasional acorn.
- Watch the company you keep; locking it in.
Avoid “pity parties.” Fly with eagles, don’t flounder with turkeys. Seek out and be around people known for their uplifting jokes and/or sense of humor. “Pity parties” use sarcasm to vent complaints, but using negative humor can actually intensify negative feelings, especially if the unwilling target for sarcasm is not an exceptionally “good sport.”
Stop crucifying yourself… someone else needs the wood for a picnic bench.
Treat yourself to a humor treatment on a regular basis. Don’t let a day pass without some exposure to humor. Lock in your sense of humor by habit.
- Remember: Your sense of humor is your sense of balance.
People who need humor the most, seek it the least. When you feel you no longer have the time or mood for humor, perhaps you should slow down, relax, and smile. If you can’t smile outwardly due to the situation, imagine yourself smiling. Daydream about the most humorous memory you can (e.g., even a pet’s antics can be funny). You may not feel like “jumping for joy,” but the lift you get will empower you with an increased sense of control and a more balanced perspective.
- Humor leads people to believe you have a higher IQ (or higher “virtual
intelligence” © by Mark Lewis of Denmark).
According to Carolyn Dikeman, Education Director, Midwest Center for Stress and Anxiety, Inc. (2001), an important relationship between our IQ and humor was found. She goes on to suggest if you want people to think you are smart, start smiling.
The esteemed Reverend Mark Lewis of Denmark talks of “virtual intelligence.” VIQ (virtual IQ) is a simulated form of intelligence that seems very real. Again, having a sense of humor projects this “illusion of intelligence” called “virtual intelligence.” It does not matter if you are really that smart or not. “Virtual intelligence” is a good thing to cultivate. The bottom line is that smiling persuades people to be believe you are “virtually intelligent” which is very important in any business or human relations setting. Anyone who works for a living on or with computers should make every effort to appear “virtually intelligent.” People take a mental personality “snapshot” within the first 20 seconds of meeting you, so smile for the camera.
- How to introduce humor to your job.
Hal Lancaster, of The Wall Street Journal, offers four tips for workplace humor:
- Start with a little humor.
For example, put up jokes on a bulletin board to see reactions. Don’t jeopardize your career in a totally humorless office by irritating humorless executives.
- Meaningfully connect.
Squirt gun fights are probably pushing humor too far. To mix playfulness with productivity try role reversal. Have an executive do your job for a day with you supervising. (Use caution with this approach.)
- Renew the humor.
To keep humor from getting old, bring in new approaches.
- Don’t offend.
One approach that does not work is to have comedy skits about other departments that attack personally. Be certain not to question anyone’s value or harm anyone with attempts at humor.
- Get in touch with the experts.
For humorous props and workshops, contact the Humor Potential, a corporate training organization that specializes in injecting fun into the workplace. The “Joy of Stress” workshop by the Humor Potential was a nationally televised, Emmy-nominated special, looking at the lighter side of stress.
The highly popular “Dilbert” series takes the employee’s side of stress at work. This cartoon series by Scott Adams is read by millions daily. It offers potential stress relief through a downward comparison. In other words, compared to this cartoon strip, your job may not seem so stressful.
A positive motivational series is “Herbert,” which specializes in producing large posters humanizing potentially tense situations. A classic film that pokes fun at stress is Mel Brooks’, High Anxiety. It has some content that would be more appropriate for college students, but it is generally an entertaining, yet instructional tool to learn about anxiety.
Remember, “Humor is the spoonful of sugar that helps things go down easier.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Ron Rubenzer, EdD, MA, MPH, MSE, FAIS is a Contributing Editor with The American Institute of Stress. He holds a doctorate and two master’s degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He won a doctoral fellowship to attend Columbia University’s Leadership Education Program. While serving as a school psychologist at Columbia, he won a national student research prize of the year for an article written on the brain. Dr. Rubenzer worked at the Washington DC Office of Education. Also, while at Columbia University, he wrote an article for New York Magazine on enhancing children’s development of their full potential. He has devoted his career to specializing in “reducing stressing-during testing” for better outcomes. He has worked as a stress manager for a hospital-based cardiac/stroke rehabilitation facility and their Employee Assistance Program. He also coordinated a wellness program for a large school system. He is a fellow with The American Institute of Stress and writes focus articles on “using stress to do one’s best” at home, work, and school.
He has also conducted speaking engagements for conferences and presented for a number of television shows.
His latest book is How the Best Handle Stress – Your First Aid Kit https://www.amazon.com/How-Best-Handle-Stress-First/dp/1731056508
Combat Stress Magazine
Combat Stress magazine is written with our military Service Members, Veterans, first responders, and their families in mind. We want all of our members and guests to find contentment in their lives by learning about stress management and finding what works best for each of them. Stress is unavoidable and comes in many shapes and sizes. It can even be considered a part of who we are. Being in a state of peaceful happiness may seem like a lofty goal but harnessing your stress in a positive way makes it obtainable. Serving in the military or being a police officer, firefighter or paramedic brings unique challenges and some extraordinarily bad days. The American Institute of Stress is dedicated to helping you, our Heroes and their families, cope with and heal your mind and body from the stress associated with your careers and sacrifices.
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