Archive for the ‘stress’ Category

When is it OK to Laugh?

August 30, 2017

Sometimes, when a crisis occurs; even if it doesn’t touch us personally, we lose our desire and even our ability to laugh. With the horror of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and unkindness rolling out before our eyes via broadcasts and social media outlets, it seems unthinkable and disrespectful to find anything funny. That’s the way we sometimes feel but in reality, laughter is a valuable survival tool.

Obviously, our psychological recovery from a disaster depends on how close we are to it …physically and emotionally and of course, time is also a factor. After every disastrous event, we see heroes appear on the scene, in the form of first responders and also regular people coming to the aid of victims; working together to help put the world back together again. We feel helpless and shaken as we watch the events unfold and eventually, as there begins to be some distance from the horror, the stress lessens and we begin to laugh again. Then we can begin to heal.

Laughter is a release of emotions that we need to express but aren’t sure how to do it. We sometimes feel guilty for laughing in times of trouble, but it’s important to realize that we aren’t laughing at the event; we are detaching from the fear and anger we have been feeling. Laughter is an emotional catharsis and is necessary for keeping us from falling into the pit of negativity; it is our link to sanity.

We should never feel guilty for finding a thread of relief through laughter, as a matter of fact, we should embrace it. People who have been in the most terrifying and unimaginable situations will often share stories of how they tried to find a little humor in their dismal experiences in order to keep themselves from breaking down completely.

Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor wrote, “What helps people survive awful circumstances is their ability to detach and get beyond themselves. This is seen in heroism and humor.”

During the Vietnam War, Gerald Coffee was shot down and imprisoned in the “Hanoi Hilton” for over seven years. He explained that “Laughter sets the spirit free to move through even the most tragic circumstances. It helps us shake our heads clear, get our feet back under us and restore our sense of balance and purpose. Humor is integral to our peace of mind and ability to go beyond survival.”

Laughter and tears are closely related; they are two sides of the same coin. It is much like a snake eating its own tail…we cry until we laugh and we laugh until we cry.

Some of the most famous comedy teams emerged from the time of the Great Depression and WWII. Why? Because the nation needed some relief; we needed to laugh. Many of the stories portrayed on M*A*S*H were based on stories told by actual surgeons who used humor to escape the horror of their experiences in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals during the Korean War.

Laughter is a gift. In times of stress, it is a pressure valve which allows us to maintain an even keel. It saves lives and it allows us to step back for a moment and perhaps even find a little peace and hope. And speaking of hope, here is a quote from Bob Hope on the subject:

“I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform the most unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

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Is Kindness Being Kicked to the Curb?

February 3, 2017

Okay….so the world seems to be in an uproar. People are getting nastier. Conversations about life’s joys have given away to social and political arguments. You don’t like what you see going on. You are afraid. You are coming into contact with more and more people who are hostile toward anyone who does not share their opinion. You have three ways to deal with the situation:

  1. You can lose all hope, ring your hands while crying “Oh woe is me!” and join the prestigious yet highly overrated Victim Club. (Not a good idea.)
  2. You can let your anger grow to a fever pitch and allow it to define who you are. If you lose all of your rational thinking abilities and scream at people who make you angry, you can feel justified in your rage while accomplishing nothing. You can also let your life be dictated by the actions of others, and develop anger-induced vein bulges…those are attractive. (Nope…not this one either.)
  3. You can take a stand for a cause in which you believe… without being a troll. When people are nasty, don’t jump right into the bubbling cauldron of snarkiness with them because all that will accomplish is an overcrowded snark pot! Try to let your voice be heard on a higher level, speak up for your beliefs, and lighten up your corner of the world by spreading kindness; even to those who don’t really seem to deserve it. (Choose this one!)

Here is the deal: there are some things over which we have control and others about which we can do nothing. We CAN’T always make others think the way we do. We CAN take a stand against bullying, injustice, abuse, discrimination, and unkindness. We CAN control our attitudes and actions and we can do more to create positive change by staying focused on it rather than just spewing angry rhetoric. In a war of angry words, nobody hears each other.

Does this mean that if there is a mean spirited action or injustice being perpetrated, we should just smile and sing Kumbaya? No, it is about being smart with our thoughts and actions and it’s about being focused and taking positive action with a plan. Of course we should stand for what is right, but while we are fighting against what is wrong, we can’t lose sight of the importance of expressing kindness and respect in our everyday lives, lest we become so embroiled in negativity that we lose sight of the goodness in the world. Along with fighting what is harmful, dangerous, and unjust, we must, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

There are those who will say that this is no time to laugh, express joy, or be kind. I have been told that I am being childish and/or ineffective by refusing to be drawn into negative screaming matches or angry social media posts. I’ve also been told that by showing respect and kindness to people with whom I disagree, I appear weak and risk becoming a doormat. Hmmm. I have looked at myself in the mirror and can’t find the word WELCOME stamped anywhere on my body. I believe that there is strength in standing up for what is right without becoming rabid! And I will always believe that kindness is a part of humanity that must be preserved. Showing compassion to someone does not mean that you necessarily agree with their views or lifestyle. It simply means that you respect another person’s right to exist on this planet.

Being kind does not make you weak, finding joy in life does not mean that you don’t care about what’s going on in the world, and focusing on the positive doesn’t mean that you are sticking your head in the sand. We are stronger when we are balanced in mind, body, and spirit. Let your anger at inequities and injustices impel you to work toward making things better. Let your compassion, hope, joy, and kindness be your weapons in the battle.

I offer one-on-one and group coaching. Check out http://www.lindahenley-smith.com or e-mail me at linda@lindahenley-smith.com

What to Do When the World is Hurting

June 16, 2016

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Sometimes it feels as if the world has gone mad! The tragedies of this past week have taken most of us to the brink of tears, if not pushed us over the edge! We are filled with confusion about how such things can happen, and grief for those directly affected by the horrific events. With the constant reminders of the evil that has caused these things, our anger grows and begins to manifest itself in physical and emotional exhaustion and even depression.

Tragic events create a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, even for those of us who watch and hear about it on our televisions and other news sources. When we witness others experiencing unspeakable horrors, we feel it as well because we are all connected as human beings. We find ourselves in a tsunami of emotions, and often fear and anger emerge as the prominent ones.

So how do we keep from being dragged into a negative whirlpool? How do we heal? How can we help to make things better? Here are some things I have found to be helpful:

Even if the tragedy hasn’t directly affected you or a loved one, you may need to go through the steps of dealing with loss. The key is to realize that you can certainly feel compassion for others without staying permanently in a state of mourning.

• If you are overwhelmed, limit your media exposure relating to the disastrous event. This is difficult, because we are exposed to constant replaying of tragedies. Some people feel empowered by continually watching the coverage of the aftermath and recovery, but if it upsets you, turn it off. Choosing not to relive it over and over doesn’t mean you don’t feel compassion for the victims.

• Channel your anger. Of course we should all feel offended by the hatred that causes such horrible events, but we need to use it as an impetus for doing something positive. Volunteer, donate, express support for victims, or participate in any positive activity that will keep you from feeling helpless and frightened.

• Don’t forget joy. It seems counterintuitive to feel a sense of joy when others are experiencing such pain. But joy doesn’t mean that you are skipping around and pretending nothing happened, nor is it always about being carefree. Joy is a part of who we are as human beings; it is a starting point for healing. To find joy is to find that place in your heart which defies hopelessness!

• Become proactive in spreading kindness. Although our first reaction is often to make our point with violence and rage; standing up for what we believe is sometimes more effectively communicated with an attitude of confident kindness. Perpetuating hatred does nothing but spawn more vitriolic talk and actions.

Linda Henley-Smith is a speaker and life mentor. www.lindahenley-smith.com