Saturday, December 31, 2016

Humor as a coping mechanism for stress

Laughter, in addition to being the “best medicine,” can also be a great tool.  Several studies have shown that maintaining a sense of humor can be an effective technique for stress relief.  If you are someone who is naturally funny or is close with someone who has a great sense of humor, this probably rings true when you read it; you’ve likely seen many situations firsthand where a well-timed laugh can diffuse the stress of a situation and allow everyone to make an internal shift and focus on solutions rather than fear, for example.
  Or you’ve been able to palpably feel it when just the right shared joke can help the stress seem to melt away.  If you’re not someone who has a natural sense of humor, you can always develop your sense of humor to a greater degree and take advantage of this great stress relief tool.
When using humor, however, there are different types of “funny” that can help you, and some that can even hurt you and create more stress in your life.  According to research, here are some things to keep in mind.

Use Humor To Connect

Laughter can bring people together, and social support can lower stress levels and raise resilience in many ways.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that research has found that those who use humor to connect with others and strengthen relationships tend to be more emotionally intelligent, and tend to fare better when facing stress.  This means it’s a great idea to share a laugh with a friend, a partner, or anyone you’re close to when you’re feeling stressed, and you can likely lighten the load for both of you.

Use Humor To Cope

“Laugh, and the world laughs with you,” the phrase goes, but you can also laugh on your own.  The thing to remember is that finding the humor as a coping strategy in itself is also emotionally intelligent, and can help you in most of the stressful situations you face in life, even if nobody else is there to share the joke.
  Look at the absurdity of the situation, have an inside joke with yourself, do what you need to in order to maintain a positive perspective, just know that it does help.  It can even be helpful to watch comedies and re-runs of movies and shows that always make you laugh, to get yourself into a laughing mood.

Don’t Hurt Others With Your Jokes

We all know some jokes can be biting, and that isn’t always a good thing.  If you find yourself saying “oh come on, it’s just a joke!” or “you don’t have a sense of humor” to people who don’t enjoy your teasing, it’s possible that you’re the one who doesn’t “get it”—research finds that jokes made at the expense of others are related to lower levels of emotional intelligence, and can create stress in relationships, which contributes to overall stress in your life.  (This is the opposite of what we’re going for, right?)  If you have someone in your life who teases you in ways that don’t feel entirely friendly, or that feel more like masked hostility, it’s possible that you can learn to lighten up a little more, but it’s also likely that maintaining boundaries with this person can reduce your stress levels.
  Do what feels best for you, and what relieves the most stress.

Don’t Hurt Yourself, Either

Laughing at yourself can sometimes be a effective way to disarm bullies or put others at ease, but it can also take a toll on your self-esteem and stress levels, and is actually found more often in those with lower levels of emotional intelligence as well (or in those who feel they have low levels of emotional intelligence, which could also mean low self-esteem).  If you find yourself always putting yourself down, even in a joking way, consider whether this is really helping you, or if it’s hurting you in some ways.  Don’t forget to focus on your strengths and “own” your greatness, too.  And also remember to use humor in more beneficial ways: by connecting with others and by shifting your perspective.  While laughter in itself is great for stress relief, it helps to know what has the most positive impact!
See the resources below for more on how laughter can work as a coping technique.
Dr. Pierre Milot, Ph.D., Ph.D. (tc)
Therapeutic Counsellor - Author
Online - Phone - One-on-one consultations
Info or free evaluation: 613.703.9237

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