Putting Humor to Work to Lower Stress
Many psychologist believe that humor is the complete opposite of stress. In makes sense then, that if we want to manage workplace stress more effectively we should practice tapping into our sense of humor on a more regular basis. By remembering the “3 R’s of Humor” – reframe, reward and relax – it’s easy to massage our funny bone and minimize our stress levels through the power of humor and laughter.
1. Reframe with Humor
When faced with a workplace stressor, we can take a page from the book of stand up comics, comic writers and humorists and mentally reframe the stressor that’s stressing us out. Remember, funnier things don’t happen to comics or humorists than to other people – they simply reframe situations to force themselves to look at every day situations from different perspectives. So if you are about to experience a bout of road rage, office rage, meeting rage or someone-ate-my-sandwich rage, look at the situation from a strange or humorous perspective to find the humor in it. How for example, would James Bond, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Bob Newhart, Jim Carey or an alien react to your situation?If you were a sitcom writer what funny seen could you imagine playing out? If you were a newspaper reporter for the National Inquirer, what wacky headline might describe the frustration you are feeling?Another form of mental re-framing is something psychologists refer to as “paradoxical therapy.” This involves wildly exaggerating your worse fears or worse case scenario about a situation that’s causing you stress. Since stress and humor are often both born out of exaggeration, this technique can help us laugh about situation by taking it to ridiculous extremes to show us that most of what we are worried about is unlikely to ever happen.Another way to humorously reframe a situation is to visualize a funny scene that your “comic alter ego” would love to see play out during this stressful scenario. Or visualize the insult you were about to hurl at a person – what, for example, would a real life “bonehead”, “pin head” or “jack-ass” look like?Since mental reframing simply involves tapping into our imagination the sky truly is the limit when it comes to finding new and humorous ways to change our perspective during a stressful event.
2. Reward With Humor
People often believe the only time we deserve a reward is when something good has happened to us. But when do we really need a shot in the arm? When can we benefit most from a laugh break or an injection of a little humour? When things go amok. When something out of our control goes wrong. When chaos intervenes despite our best laid plans. In other words, when that little thing called life happens. These are the times we need to have a little fun and shake out the cob webs. So figure out a way of linking a fun reward to some of your most common workplace stressors. When, for example, a particularly obnoxious customer calls and, despite your wonderful customer service skills, still manages to push your stress buttons, jump onto your desk and dance a jig (once the call is mover, please). Treat yourself to your favorite, most decadent chocolate treat. Take five minutes to read from your favorite humor book. Some companies even offer rewards for the “Worst Customer from Hell” or for the “Best Bad Workday Story” as a way to reward employees who really need it.
The third and final “ Humor R” is the granddaddy of them all – RELAX! by tapping into your sense of humor. The first step is to ask yourself what makes you laugh. And not just when you are in a good mood, but when you are stressed out, anxious, worried or angry. What will cut through those layers of negative emotions and still bring a smile to your face, or better yet, make you laugh out loud. It’s easier to do than you might realize.Make a silly face and look at yourself in the mirror. Have a humorous response ready every time you face a stressful situation like “I’m sure I never ordered this” or “Can I have a standing ovation please!” Or simply force yourself to laugh. Laughter Clubs are springing up throughout the world. Originating in India, laughter clubs operate on a simple premise. People gather together in public spaces, run through a ritualized series of laughs and before long the forced laughter gives way to real belly laughs and uproarious guffaws. People go away from the club gatherings feeling refreshed and distressed.Another way to tap into your sense of humor is to look around for some “Humor Aids” (“HA’s!) and stockpile your car, office or even brief case with items that will help your trigger your sense of humor. Seek out funny books, wacky photos, silly costume parts like a clown nose or funny hat or zany toys that will help you laugh in the face of stress. And lighten up your physical workplace to make it easier to access your collective sense of humor. Put up funny posters and signs or create a humor bulletin board where people can post top ten lists, jokes and funny photos.So the next time you are faced with a stressful situation – don’t get mad, get laughing! Reframe, reward and relax yourself to a healthier, more balanced and saner life.
Remember, as workplace health expert Lily Tomlin so wisely reminds us – “Even if you win the rate race, you’re still a rat!”
Michael Kerr is an international business speaker and very funny motivational speaker. He is the author of “You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work” and “Inspiring Workplaces – Creating the Kind of Workplace Where Everyone Wants to Work.” His latest book is called, “The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses are Laughing all the Way to the Bank.” www.mikekerr.com
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