mMost people say stress is nothing to laugh about. I would like to convince you otherwise.
Research has shown that the impact of stress on people in the workplace is huge and has widespread effects across nearly every area of their lives including their health and their work performance. The financial costs to companies due to stressed-out employees is considerable.
In the U.S the estimated cost of stress in the workplace is around $300 billion dollars annually and across the pan-European area, the financial costs range from over $220 million to $187 billion annually.
These figures were before the COVID19 pandemic. It is safe to conclude that upcoming research figures will show an increase. That said, stress is no laughing matter and that needs to change, immediately.
Stress in the workplace should be taken seriously and addressed with comprehensive strategies to eliminate unnecessary stress and help employees become more resilient in dealing with the stressors which are an inevitable part of working environments which are ever-changing, dynamic and often have a high degree of uncertainty. And while that is happening at a macro-level, there is a simple measure that we can implement at the individual level that helps relieve stress quickly, laugh more.
Maybe you are thinking “I’m not good at making people laugh” and you don’t have to be. Just make the most of the opportunities to laugh as they come up.
Here’s one that often comes up for me. It usually happens about four minutes into a conversation. A few pleasantries are exchanged. The short bios are recited. I say that I have lived in Berlin for ages and then, they pop the question!
No, not that one. The one I have been waiting for. The one that is part of my funny-Schpiel.
With great anticipation, they ask, “So, how did you get from the United States to Berlin, Germany?”
Before they can bat an eye, I respond, with too much glee to be dignified, “On an airplane!” If you could see inside me at that moment, you would see the little hands of my inner child clapping with delight.
This always, always, always get a laugh – albeit sometimes only from me.
You see, I really enjoy making people laugh. Unfortunately, although I have a good sense of humor, I am not that great at telling jokes. Somewhere along the way, I decided not to let that stop me and discovered that that is perfectly fine.
People like to laugh. It makes them (and us) feel good, so they are gracious and laugh. Within seconds of laughing we relax, our shoulders sink just a little and within minutes that initial stress of assessing this stranger subsides, we feel at ease with someone we have never met before.
What some people don’t realize is how much good it does for our health when we laugh.
What effect does laughing have on stress? I’m glad you asked.
According to research by the Mayo Clinic, laughing has both short-term and long-term positive effects physically as well as mentally and emotionally, which help alleviate the negative impact of stress.
Laughing immediately causes you to take in more oxygen, stimulating your internal organs, including your heart and lungs, and it causes your brain to produce the stress-relieving “happy” substances, such as serotonin. It also relaxes your muscles which alleviates physical symptoms of stress, such as tension backaches, and headaches.
Over the long-term, when you laugh regularly and often, it improves your immune system, which in turn increases your resilience and stress-resistance. It can help relieve pain because your body produces its own pain relievers, it boosts your mood (your coworkers will thank you) and it increases overall personal satisfaction.
In that regard, laughing has a lot in common with aerobic sports, so you can either run a marathon or join a laugh-a-thon. I prefer the latter. In fact, it was only days after I ran the Berlin marathon that I discovered my passion for laughing and bringing humor into the world. Seriously, if you see me running, you can be fairly sure that I am either being chased, or my skirt is caught in the door of a moving car. But I digress.
Now that you know that laughing helps reduce stress, here are some simple ways to expose yourself to more humor and more opportunities to laugh as often as possible:
- Get yourself a funny calendar or a joke app for your e-devices.
- Subscribe to a funny channel on YouTube or find one video that makes you laugh every time you watch it. One of my personal favorites is “Baby Micah laughs” It is literally an internet classic, that has stood the test of time. The link is at the bottom of this post.
- Buy a book of one-liners or funny short stories and the moment you sit down at your desk, before you start working, get your five-minute funny-fix. I cried big fat funny tears while reading “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, just saying.
- Everyone has that one friend or family member, who always makes them laugh. Put your funny friend (sounds odd) on speed-dial!
- Stop hanging out with the Dan and Debbie Downers! Invite people who make you laugh out to lunch and join them for those short breaks in the office kitchen. If you are working from home, get creative and adapt this to a virtual format. Grab your favorite lunch and laptop and host your virtual lunch from your backyard or balcony.
- Try to add some appropriate humor to your presentations and business storytelling.
- You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, just don’t take things too seriously, especially not yourself.
- Play remember when… whether at home or in the office, we usually have a few shared funny stories that can bring down the house with laughter, just by saying, “Hey, remember when….”.
Stress can have harmful and enduring effects on your health, the health of your people and the overall health and performance of your organization. It’s serious, so start laughing today.
And, if all else fails, give me a ring for some of my, let’s call it “special” humor. Don’t say, you weren’t warned.
Just click on the link to schedule a time to talk directly in my calendar.
Baby Micah Laughs (link to video) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP4abiHdQpc
#stress #stressmanagement #resilience #laughterismedicine
Photo credit: Lydia Nada, Unsplash