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Stress - Part Three: "Laughiní at wesef"
By Barrington H. Brennen

PART 1    PART 2    PART 3    PART 4

Question: Dear Sir: I understand that stress can be good or bad. However you mentioned that to avoid the negative results of stress on the body requires proper stress management. What are the best ways to manage stress?

Answer: Laughter is one of the best ways for handling stress. If there is one thing Bahamians must do to release some national stress is "laugh at wesef." As one enthusiastic comedian expressed, "The best laugher, for me, is from the heart. It is when my friends and family laugh together. We often laugh so hard that tears come to our eyes. Our side hurts from over working our "laughing muscles," then our faces are stiff, while our jaws hurt, and best of all no matter how hard we try, we just cannot stop laughing." Laughter occurs when energy is built-up, tension rises, then the situation changes, and there is no longer a need for the tension, and finally laughter results as a release of the pent-up energy. With this release of energy, it is easy to see how therapy uses laughter to heal, and aid the mind and body.

Laughter is not only a physical motion of the facial muscles, but also the emission of noise (some really funny noises at times), sometimes loud and boisterous; while other times quiet and snickering. Some laughter specialists describe the different types of laughter as sweet laughter, triumphant laughter, and devilish laughter (Gregory, 94). Whatever type of laughter you experience, it is good to laugh on a regular basis. Medical research has determined that hearty laughter is good for your heart. Laughter lowers pulse rate and blood pressure. When you laugh, you breathe more deeply thereby sending oxygen throughout the body. Laughing stimulates the brain and the body. Endorphins, which are positive pleasure making chemicals, are released in the brain. This usually gives a temporary relief of pain and negative emotions which are directly related to illness. Our body will certainly appreciate laughing. It gives us a good workout. It strengthens the heart and improves our breathing.

If you cannot laugh, you are in trouble. The problem with many people is that they take themselves and life too seriously. They must be able to stand off and laugh at themselves. As James Catalyn, a Bahamian leading actor, writer, and comedian always expresses: we must "laugh at wesef." The joy of laughing brings relaxation, conquers stress, and reduces pain. Laughter creates positive thinking. When we walk around with long faces, unable to smile and laugh we are doing an injustice to our own lives and even to those around us. Dr. Michael Murphy, clinical psychologist, states that "if you canít laugh, a part of yourself is buried somewhere. Being able to laugh is just an essential part of being human." Some research also shows that people who laugh more live longer. When humor researcher Norman Cousins was diagnosed with arthritis in the 1970s, he was given a one in 500 chances of living. But he decided he would try to beat his illness with strong, positive attitude. So when the pain got too bad, he would sit down and watch old comedies like, "The Three Stooges" and "The Marx Brother." What he found was that if he could laugh one big, belly laugh for 10 minutes, he could sleep for two hours without any pain. (Burkdoll, 1996)

Not long ago humorist Ross Shafer appeared on "Home and Family" to discus some unique ways to rid stress by using humor. Here are some of his suggestions: 1) Keep a phone list with you of funny people that you know, and of people you know who can make you feel better. 2) Keep somethings around your desk or house for stress emergencies, such as: happy pictures, vacation pictures, cartoons, wind up toys, squeeze toys, and humor books. 3) Those who work in offices can get creative with office memos by making them funny and a little spicy. 4) Be a great joke teller. It is important to know what is appropriate. You have to be very careful to make sure a joke is not offensive. Most importantly, remember the punch line! (Shafer, 1997).

Laughter certainly can reduce stress. However, there are other lifestyle solutions to stress we need to look at. Exercise is another excellent means to reducing stress, whether it be biological stress (sustaining massive burns, having cancer); sociological stress (changing jobs, loosing spouse); psychological stress (uncertainty, worry, loss of self esteem); and spiritual stress (guilt or feelings of sinfulness. Exercise can help in managing stress in two ways: 1) strengthen the body to better resist stressors of any kind, and 2) help the body handle the by-product of the stress reaction. Exercise can be relaxing, even when you are tired after work. Exercise stimulates the circular system and the immune system. When we exercise, we stimulate the body to produce more white blood cells which help in fighting off diseases. One of the best exercises is walking. If you walk four to five times a week for about one hour each time, at a consistent, normal pace it will certainly help in stress management. Regular exercise will increase the muscle cellsí ability to use oxygen more rapidly because the energy factories increase in size and number.

Sleep is another facet to strengthening an individual to deal with what is causing stress. Adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night. When we regularly cheat ourselves of sleep, it is very difficult to handle stress. Sleep is a time for the body to get back in shape for the next day. The rebuilding and repairing of cells take place during sleep. Sleep also appears to reestablish an appropriate balance of excitability among the various portions of the nervous system.

Relaxation is also a good way to manage stress. It is important to learn how to relax. Listening to quiet, beautiful music is one way to relax. Regae, calypso, rock and roll and rap are not good relaxing music. In fact they can do more to irritate the nervous system than relaxing it. You can relax best by lying on your back with your hands on the side. While in that position, focus your mind on relaxing your muscles. While the music is playing softly in your ears meditate on something positive and relaxing; perhaps the goodness of God in your life, or green rolling hills with beautiful flowers and butterflies.

I have found that sleeping on the job is one of the best ways to handling stress. Yes! You read right. Learn how to take short five-minute breaks when your feel tensed and frazzled out. During this time go to a place where no one will disturb you, close the door and lay down on the floor, desk or bed. It is not important to fall asleep at this time as it is to relax and let go of the tension. Your boss will be happy to know (if he or she finds you asleep on the bathroom floor) that your relaxation program is actually helping in the overall production of the company. Many times, right in my office, I would lean my head forward and rest on my arms on top of the desk and sleep for about five to ten minutes. I have found that I gain my composure and produce much more than if I just sat at my desk "diving conch" (half a sleep and nodding) not taking a break all afternoon.

Proper diet, the abstinence of all alcoholic beverages, no smoking or using illegal drugs are all important to handling stress. No one wants to depend on a smoke and a puff to soothe the nerves when one is stressed out. Eating a rich high protein and carbohydrate breakfast is also important. For more than one hundred years, the American goverment and other research organizations have been studying a unique group of people called Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) because they teach healthy positive lifestyle habits as a part of their Christian beliefs. Rev. George H. Malkmus, in his book "Why Christians Get sick" mentions Seventh-day Adventists as a people that have very strict teachings on diet and care of the body. "For instance, they teach against the use of coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages. One of the more interesting teachings is that they are to eat no park and that it is best to eat no meat at all. Though the followers of this religion have not followed these dietary teachings, statistics show that SDAs have less diseases" (Malkmus, 1995). More than 50% of all Seventh-day Adventists around the world are vegetarians. In United States Adventists are listed as having the longest life span and fewer diseases. For example, SDAs have 72% less breast cancer; 65% less digestive tract cancer; 62% less leukemia; 53% less strokes, and 42% less peptic ulcers. A lifestyle can make a difference. Most dedicated Olympians commit themselves to a vigorous health lifestyle to reduce stress on the body and to obtain optimum strength for the task assigned.

Successful stress management is not just an avoidance of harmful substances or going to sleep on time, it is a total lifestyle change to minimize the damage of negative stress on the human mind and body. Letís get moving Bahamas.   Go to Stress Part Four


Send your comments or questions to Barrington H. Brennen, P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; or call 1-242 327 1980  or email  question@soencouragement.org   Also join us on FACEBOOK



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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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