How to See the Humor in Stressful Situations
“Humor is tragedy plus time.” – Mark Twain
Everyone gets stressed out, at their jobs and in their personal lives. It’s a fact of life. But as Mark Twain reminds, that doesn’t mean we have to allow stress and worry to overwhelm us!
As a Registered Nurse, professional speaker and a mother, I have had my share of stressful situations. And like anyone, at the time when I feel most stressed, I often wonder, “I am not so sure I see anything humorous about this!”
Here is what I find helps:
When faced with a stressful situation, I allow myself to experience that initial reaction and the emotions that go along with it – and then I remind myself that “I have a choice”.
The choice is to continue to be anxious or angry, or shift my perspective and focus on what I can control.
All We Can Control Is How We Respond
Our reaction to stress is our body’s way of reacting to a challenge or a threat. Most of our reactions are based on past experiences, not just the situation at hand. In most stressful situations, it’s really not about what happens to us; it’s about how we REACT to what happens to us.
It can be hard to shift perspective, but I always remind myself that I can’t control other people, other people’s behaviour, or what might happen to me in the course of any day.
All we can control is how we respond.
Being mindful of my emotions helps me remain in control. After that initial surge of adrenaline and resulting heightened emotion in a stressful situation, I take a few deep breaths and remind myself to see things from a different perspective.
Sometimes it takes a few days to shift!
Sometimes the shift has to be guided with a glass of chardonnay and a piece of chocolate.
Humor Is Therapeutic
Learning to shift your perspective can help you find the humor and give you a really good story to share!
For me, it is a form of therapy to talk about a problem and put a humorous spin on it. In fact, I have cultivated my career as a motivational speaker by using humor to get through challenging situations!
Sometimes, I imagine myself retelling the story as I am in the situation.
That survival tactic, combined with humor, has evolved over the years and provides content for my professional speaking so I can continue to help audiences see the humor in what stresses them out – personally and professionally.
We know that life throws the odd curve ball. We also know that if you can laugh at it, you can survive it.
Here’s How I Used Humor in a Stressful Situation
Recently, I was flying from Kalispell Montana to Vancouver for a presentation the following morning. As I was leisurely driving my rental car to the airport I suddenly realized the clocks had moved ahead an hour for Daylight Savings, at which point I transformed into a slightly crazed equivalent of a Formula One Race Car driver. I arrived for the international flight after sprinting down the entire length of the airport as passengers were about to board and I still needed to check a second carry-on bag!
The drama that ensued at check-in would have been the envy of prime time TV. Somehow I managed to talk my way on the flight and a very kind passenger, who had witnessed the scene unfolding, offered to take my second bag on for me. If I hadn’t made light of things I think I might have burst into flames. Humor pulled me through big time. I compared my pulse rate to others in the departure lounge and even made a few friends by the time the wheels pulled off the tarmac. Through deep breathing and finding some humor in a stressful situation, I kept it together!
We have to stop and remind ourselves that just about any situation “will make a great story once our resting heart rate returns to normal!”
So when the stress seems too much: take a deep breath. Hold it for four seconds – sometimes you have to count to 400. Blow it out. Then look for the humor.
The curve balls tossed our way make life all the more interesting. No one said the journey would be easy; they just promised it would be worth it.
Meg Soper is a motivational humorist speaker who can help you learn to laugh along the way of life as you take on life’s stressors. Get in touch with Meg today!
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