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The Best Medicine: Laughing to Cope

15 Feb. 2017 Posted by aadams

Aimee Hoffmann, FEI EAP Counselor

No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s hard to deny tensions run high and deep with the recent election. So high, in fact, friends and families are finding themselves at extreme odds. You can hear this in conversations at home, at work, on the news and saturating social media.

There have been disturbing statistics reporting an uptick in call volume to various hotlines. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported that, between 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. on the Wednesday before the 2016 election outcome was certain, the phone rang 660 times—2.5 times the average. At the Crisis Text Line, requests for help more than doubled in the first 24 hours following the election results. Over 2,000 people contacted the text hotline, with the words “election” and “scared” being the most commonly used.

During times of uncertainty, it’s important to look for ways to cope. One coping mechanism that may get downplayed is humor.

There is a great deal of research supporting the multiple benefits of humor. Humor helps diffuse conflict and makes people feel more connected to one another. At work, it can improve productivity and increase employee engagement while reducing status differentials between managers and employees.

A dose of humor releases serotonin in the brain and increases overall brain power. Not only can humor relieve stress, there is evidence supporting physical benefits too. Mayo Clinic outlines the following short-term and long-term health benefits of a good laugh:

Short-term Benefits:

  • Laughter helps to increase the intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles. It also increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Laughing will fire up and then cool down the stress response. It can increase heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in a feeling of relaxation.
  • The physical symptoms of stress can be reduced by laughing, which stimulates circulation and helps muscles relax.

Long-term Effects:

  • Negative thoughts can create chemical reactions that stress the body and lower immunity, while positive thoughts release neuropeptides that help fight stress and aid in warding off serious illnesses.
  • Laughing can cause the body to produce its own natural painkillers and reduce pain, make it easier to manage difficult situations and connect people with one another.
  • Laughter can decrease depression and anxiety, and may improve overall mood.

We all could use more humor and connectedness these days. Your employee assistance program (EAP) is always a good avenue to consider if you are having difficulty coping in these
uncertain times.

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