Using Laughter to Deal with Stress and Situations that Make You Angry

Ok guys, come on now. You’ve been there. So mad you were ready to rip off the head of the closest thing that so much as rolled their eye your way. But reality is all that angst isn’t good for the digestive system and tends to produce wrinkles from all that furrowing of the brow. I knew that would get your attention ladies.

Now often we get to the breaking point because of a build up of stress. Ever heard the saying “the straw that broke the camel’s back” ? There is a reason that saying is popular. How many times have you said as a parent “If I tell you ONE MORE TIME?”. Yup, there is your build up. The problem is most of us are so busy trying to get through the daily grind of living our lives that we feel we don’t have the time to stop and deal with every little problem that comes our way. That advice your high school counselor gave you about stopping to work out every problem is great advice, don’t get me wrong. This article is not going to promote avoidance of your issues. But, the reality is there is a right place and time to deal with your issues and in the middle of traffic, your kid’s play, or the boardroom evaluation meeting just isn’t the right time. So if we can’t take the time to stop and deal with our anger at the co-worker who took our bottle of Evian for the 100th time, what do we do? Well, for future reference I would suggest bringing a cooler which will help you avoid the problem, but that is beside the point. This article will give you some tips on balancing that anger with a healthy dose of the chuckles each day.

Do you know how you are supposed to “eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away”. Ok, well I don’t know if that works since I eat plenty of apples and see the doctor all too frequently, but I do know that a day full of laughter makes you slow to sizzle when you hit the small bumps in life. I am going to give you some preventative and intervention techniques all using humor as the medicine. What I mean is that there are things you can do to expose yourself to smiley moments and even bales of laughter throughout the day, and a few tricks to cool your jets quick when tempers flare.

First, we’ll discuss the preventative art of laughter. Too many of us lead depressing lives. I don’t say this to depress you more, but seriously, think about your life for a minute. Most of our day is spent under pressure. We are thinking about bills, responsibilities, obligations, appointments, work load, duties, debts, and problems we have to solve. No wonder we are all depressed. Ugh! Top a day of this stuff off with the violence and drama of the evening news and no wonder you are snapping like a rotted band of elastic when your kid tells you the mash potatoes taste funny. So, first things first, replace this stuff with something a little happier. Now, I am not saying you have to stop facing the reality of life or that you should never watch the evening news. I am not advocating escape, just balance. But, let’s be real. If you made a list of the times you thought about something that made you happy and a list of the things you thought about that upset you each day, the scale would be tipped onto the negative side so far the scale wouldn’t even stand upright anymore. Now, we all know those disgusting little Suzy Sunshine’s, who never seem to have a care in the world and walk around with a perpetual smile. You know, the one who says in her chipper little voice “And how are You today”, before you even have your second cup of morning coffee. But, those people are not the norm, you are, so buck up and chuckle it up. I promise, even Ms. Suzy Sunshine will seem less abrasive.

So know you want to know. “Ok, Ms. Smarty Pants, exactly how am I supposed to spend my day laughing when my life is filled with stress, drama, tragedy, and problems?” Now, granted if your dog really did just die this morning, this really isn’t going to work, but if all your troubles are the normal junk life dumps on you, you can combat it with things that make you laugh. Now, for everyone the actual intervention is different. Your going to have a to do a little work here and think about what makes you laugh. Maybe you enjoy reading the comics, or an old fashion knock-knock joke makes you smile. I can’t give you all the answers of what you think is funny, but I will give you some ideas to get you started. Then you just have to implement them into your daily life.

Here are some ‘make me smile’ gems:

1.Paste cute pictures drawn by the children in your life (this includes nieces, nephews, amp; neighbors) around the space you work in. Pick the really silly and colorful ones that bring a smile to your face and a memory of a more carefree time.

2.Join a joke a day email list or if your work allows it, even post a joke a day or share it with your co-workers.

3.Decide on some internal visual place that makes you laugh, like antics at the local swimming pool or your little brother squirting milk out of his nose. Bring this image into your mind a few times a day and have a private chuckle.

4.Ditch the news a few times a week and take the time to sit and watch a stand-up or raunchy comedy (if you’re only with grown-ups) or a nice family friendly silly-thon if you are with the kids. The key is to spend time watching something that amuses you; this does not include episodes of serious dramas, crime shows, or talk shows about marriages dissolving. I realize these shows might be your favorite, but often too much of this kind of television will only depress you more.

5.Better yet, shut the t.v. off and do something outrageous. I mean something really out there. Have a water balloon fight, play catch the pumpkin in the back yard (watch out when it breaks), jump on the trampoline with the kids, finger-paint, or put your bathing suit on and play in the sprinklers. The more child-like the more amusement you will have. I know, I know, you are entirely too grown up for these activities. But, let me ask you, consider the ratio of happy children to depressed children and compare it with the ratio of happy adults to depressed adults. Being old is depressing, lighten up and have some fun.

6.If you’re an internet geek you know where to look for the silly clips, those that will really get you rolling. If not search for ‘funny’ and ‘clip’ and you will be taken to a host of make you laugh stunts and bloopers.

7.Speaking of bloopers, if you are having a really rough day, do some of your own. Have an unconventional dinner, like waffles and ice cream. Then top this off by playing Operation or something equally silly. You don’t need kids, just get out the old gameboard and have fun.

These are only a few examples of the things you can consciously choose to do each day to counterbalance all the rough stuff life throws your way. Once you get on the right track, you’ll be coming up with plenty more on your own. So, are you getting the hint here? The key is, whatever event you choose to bring some chuckles into your day, from watching America’s Funniest Home Video’s to making a play-doh meal, the key is stop taking life so seriously. Yes, we all have bills, we are all going to die, and our problems will all be there when we are done, but healthy doses of laughter help us deal with these problems better. Reality is, you don’t have forever on this Earth, and why waste the time you have by worrying every minute. Take a risk. Have some fun. If you make a conscious effort to do this each day, before you know it will come naturally and you’ll have a whole new perspective on life. The road rage will diminish, you’ll actually be able to smile at your spouse again, and when your boss gives you grief you can literally ‘grin and bear it’.

Now on to laughter intervention. I am going to give you some scenarios and ways to use laughter to diffuse them when your in the most precarious of anger inducing positions.

Scenario: Your boss is telling you for the 1,001 time today that you need to include a cover sheet with your fax. Now if your boss is a woman picture her bald. If your boss is a man then picture him in the fairy dress your friend’s daughter wore to that recital. The key is to find something completely alien to what they normally look like and garb them in it while they are talking. It is entirely impossible to be anger while doing this, try it some time and you’ll see. Now, just be careful not to smirk too much. Your boss might decide you aren’t taking their drama seriously and decide to fire you. Ouch!! You’ll need a much stronger intervention for that. They key is to use some subtle humor only you know to keep you from focusing on how much the person is upsetting you.

Scenario: You worked all day, your beat, your feet hurt and your head aches, you just ran over the kids bike and you walk in the front door with your only desire to sink into some kind of black oblivion and your spouse says. “Dear, what do you want for dinner?” Now, this is one of those straws and the dominoes fall. This innocent question is met with snide or sarcastic remark, which elicits a hurt and defensive answer and the fight ensues. SO, this is what you do. When your spouse asks you this question, look them dead in the face and say. I was thinking I’d like worms and dirtballs for dinner actually. Your spouse is going to think you quite lost your mind, but the laughter that erupts from you both will diffuse your tension and help your spouse see just how close to the edge you are. After you stop laughing, either offer a suggestion for dinner, or gently hug your spouse and tell them if you make one more decision today your brain will melt and you would really appreciate if they would just surprise you.

Scenario: You have worked very hard all day cleaning the house, your youngest child (or your dog for that matter) spills grape juice (or pees, that’s always terrible) right in the middle of the carpet, and you have guests arriving in 15 minutes. Now, don’t explode. This situation is easily fixable by some quick carpet cleaner, deodorizer, and a rug. BUT, before you can even get to that you have to stop. Just stop. Look at this from the viewpoint of Real Problems. Yes, you have one more mess to clean up, but this very fixable. However, if you feel like you really are going blow your top, first let yourself let off some steam. Try this – Stand in the middle of the room, stand on one leg, and recite this “A flea and a fly in a flue, Said the fly ‘Oh what should we do’, Said the flea ‘Let us fly’, Said the fly ‘Let us flee’, So they flew through a flaw in the flue” Can you even picture yourself doing this? Trust me the gales of laughter that erupt from your kids (or the strange looks from your dog) are infinitely more satisfying than counting to ten. Now, go get that rag and rug. Take a breathe, and while your at it. Sick that tickle monster on that kid (or the dog-though be sure your dog doesn’t bite tickle monsters).

Scenario: Your sitting in traffic, you are late for a meeting, and you are getting more and more desperate by the minute. Your road rage is reaching dangerous levels. So, let’s see what is the worst that can happen. No, I am not talking about that therapeutic catastrophizing, but the REALLY outrageous stuff. The more unlikely the better. “So your in traffic, and your going to miss your meeting. Obviously that means you have lost this deal and your job. Now you can’t take that trip to the Bermuda Triangle like you wanted so you can lose the spouse and kids, you certainly can’t hire that Swiss masseuse to whip your hot chocolate to a perfect texture. So, you certainly have to lead a life of crime now. That’s it you’re going to be the Panty Bandit. You’ll wear panties on your head, sneak in unsuspecting people’s homes while they are sleeping, and raid every pair of underwear they have. Then you can sell them on the black panty market. Eventually, you’ll get caught of course and you’ll end up doing community service for the rest of your life by digging out all those feminine products that people actually flush down the septic system instead of using the little trash cans. You’ll only take so much of this and eventually blow up the world using your teenage chemistry set.” Ok, is this going to fix your problem with that meeting? No. You’ll have to call your boss, explain and reschedule. And in the case of worst case scenario, put your resume back out. But, the moral of the story is that there are many things that will happen in life that you have NO CONTROL over. Obsessing about it won’t change that fact. So, all you can do is work through it. In reality, we all tend to catastrophize in small amounts and things are seldom as bad as we think. Not that many people lose their jobs due to being stuck in traffic. And if the catastrophizing doesn’t stop you from worrying it will atleast keep you busy while your in traffic and stop you from doing something stupid to the car behind you that keeps honking its horn for absolutely no reason.

I think you get the picture. In the end, just give yourself a daily reality check. Lots of people deal with bad stuff, everyone has bad days, and if can induce a health dose of laughter into your day everyday your going to deal with these moments much better. Now a word of caution, if you have gotten yourself into a true funk, or your problems seem so overwhelming that nothing could ever be funny again, you are becoming physical with your children when angry, or you are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else you need to seek some professional help to deal with your problems. Often people have a chemical imbalance that no amount of laughter can help and you really should seek some outside intervention before it’s too late. But, if like me you just get up to your ear in dealing with the drama everyday, take that apple and carve a pumpkin face into it. The sillier the better.

Don’t forget a chuckle a day, keeps the straitjacket away.

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