As I was preparing to write this post about using humor to cope and ironically, a total shit show happened at my house which made me have to really dig deep for finding my humor in the situation.
Sound asleep at 3 am the other night, I was awakened by the sound of a gurgling toilet. It did cross my mind that maybe my rental was haunted but just like the main character in any horror movie, I had to discover what was making that awful sound.
Approaching the bathroom stealthily in the dark, (just in case) I found the object of all the noisy gurgling, I also saw the bathtub burping up sewage. Running to the next bathroom down the hall, I saw the same thing, only the toilet was oozing sewage onto my bathroom floor around the base of the toilet. From this bathroom, I could now hear the sound of rushing water below me. I headed through the kitchen (where the kitchen sink was also gurgling) and down into the basement.
A waterfall of sewage was raining down on the far end and a river of sewage was streaming across the basement. I tried getting a few big buckets to put under the waterfall spewing from the large pipe and ceiling, but in reality, it was like trying to catch a waterfall in a dixie cup. Not gonna happen.
Here we go. Another thing to cope with.
Using Humor To Cope
My family has always enjoyed a good laugh. Not unusual, I’m sure. But, at times I’ve thought that they had a weird sense of humor, sometimes laughing at things inappropriately.
My dad, a Chicago Firefighter Lieutenant, always found the funny in the tragic. He had to. He worked in the most dangerous Chicago neighborhoods, fighting real fires and witnessed a lot of death and destruction on a regular basis.
There was a time when I thought his humor was insensitive. But I finally realized that humor was the lens required for him to cope. It’s quite common actually, for firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, and EMT’s to have a sick sense of humor to help them get through the stress of their jobs.
Right now, so many people are trying to cope:
Cope with job loss, due to COVID layoffs.
Cope with strained or barely surviving businesses.
Cope with the stress of the political divide.
Cope with the stress of racial inequalities.
Dad always found the funny in any situation. He had the best laugh!
It was on dad’s bucket list to learn how to play the guitar. Here he is strumming along to some country music, pretending he could play.
Why It Helps
The next time you’re having a good belly laugh, put your hand over your heart when you stop laughing. You’ll see that your heart is racing, even after 15-20 seconds of laughter. It will remain elevated for 3-5 minutes. This has caused some to refer to laughter as “internal jogging, per the Nurseslearning.com website.
For some undergoing stress on a daily or regular basis due to a chronic health issue, financial issues, or another high-stress buildup of tension, humor can release the unexpressed emotional buildup which will essentially poison your body in the way of disease, if you don’t let that shit just GO.
When stressed, we also tend to tense up. Stiffening our muscles in our backs, shoulders, and necks. Having a good laugh is like an exhale for your muscles.
The toll that stress takes on our energy is huge. Having a good, hearty laugh will increase your energy and reduce burnout. (especially when dealing with a chronic issue)
Bonding with others over a shared experience through laughter can help us to see things in a different way. When emotions are lighter, it’s also easier to understand other’s points of view.
Feeling More In Control
Stress is “stressful” because we feel like we are out of control. We have no power over our experience or the outcome…very difficult for the human mind to deal with! But when able to look at a situation differently, with a new perspective, we now feel like we have the reigns of our destiny. Funny how that works. If even momentarily.
“If it weren’t for the brief respite we give the world with our foolishness, the world would see mass suicide in numbers that compare favorably with the death rate of lemmings.”
Here I am with two dear friends laughing over some of life’s challenges, with a glass of wine.
Tips For How To Use Humor In Stressful Situations
Effective coping with negative emotions can be done with a good sense of humor. But if you don’t seem to be able to locate it when you’re overly stressed, what can you do? So here are a few tips on cultivating your humor, so you can bring out this bad boy when needed:
Understand your own unique sense of humor.
When my husband is watching Green Acres reruns and laughing uncontrollably, I’m perplexed. It’s a cute show, but I have never found it to be belly-laugh worthy. In fact, each one of us has a different thing that we can’t keep a straight face for. Understand what makes you double over in laughter.
According to Harvard Business Review, humor is subjective. There are a few great books on how to understand and cultivate your own humor while understanding others’.
- Inside Jokes: Using Humor To Reverse-Engineer The Mind by Reginald B. Adams, Daniel C. Dennett, and Matthew M. Hurley
- The Humor Code: A Global Search For What Makes Things Funny by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner
- Buy Yourself The F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster
Cultivate A Playful Attitude
Remember when we were kids? Laughing came so easily. Then “adulting” became our new MO. But maybe we should make it a point to spend more time in situations that bring out our sense of play? I like the idea of spending more time (even on the phone or virtually) with people who like to laugh. It’s so contagious!
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” -Oscar Wilde
We may have a great sense of humor, but have a difficult time being amused in our most stressful days. I like the idea of taking a silly photo of yourself and keeping it with you always to look at. If anything, it should elicit a feeling of joy, remembering the day you took that photo.
Find Humor In The Everyday
If you pretended, every now and again, that you were your favorite comedian (Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, etc…) and everything you looked at that day, you would (from your favorite comedian’s eyes) try to imagine what remark or one-liner they would say. I dare you to try this and NOT laugh. If anything, you will be impressed with your quick wit and way to look at things with irony and humor.
The key thing to remember is that you are not really laughing at others and their misfortunes; you are laughing at the situations and unpredictable events that arise in the midst of those misfortunes. You are seizing the opportunity (and sometimes creating it) to let go of the difficult emotions that inevitably accumulate with life.
Humor is an emotional condom. It helps keep negative emotions away.”
Humor, and therefore laughing at humor has several health benefits besides being a coping mechanism. In addition to physical benefits like boosting immunity and protecting your heart, sharing laughter with someone will bring you closer to them with forming social bonds. It relieves stress and releases endorphins, similar to exercise. Using humor as a coping mechanism is a good way to normalize your experience. When you share a laugh with others, you realize that you are not alone in your experience. Humor can also spark creativity because laughing fosters brain connectivity. When you laugh and stop focusing on the perils of the situation, a part of your brain that deals with laughter, joy, and creativity open up.
Laugh More, Worry Less”