When Things Get Tough, Take Yourself Lightly

by Roz Trieber, MS, CHES

Are you laughing 9-5 or are you stressed from the minute you get up until you go to bed?   If that’s been your lifestyle, it’s time to take Leo Buscaglia’s (author of “Art of Being Fully Human”) advice   “When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot, hang on and swing!”   And that’s just what I’m going to tell you how to do.   How to laugh at life.  Escape the “treadmill” cycle, get creative when things get tough and stay Healthy and Operative.   You need to Lighten Up – have an epileptic giggle fit and sit right in your grandmothers’ lap! Rediscover your sense of humor and willingness to be silly.

What Is Humor?

What is this thing called Humor?   Do you think your turning on the shopping channel, and buying a book of riddles or a bag of chuckles gets you a sense of humor?  You think a sense of humor is just a bunch of jokes and that’s it?  NOT AT ALL!  Norman Cousins says, “True humor is a sort of train wreck of the mind. You’re going along a track and there’s a sudden collapse of logic, the cars go off the track, and then they pile up and build into laughter.” According to C.W. Metcalf, author of “Lighten Up-Survival Skills for People Under Pressure,” humor is a way of being, seeing, and interacting with the world.  Humor is action.

How do you see the world?  Some say if you have a sense of humor, you live to a ripe old age.  That’s not necessarily true.  Have you ever been in line at the grocery store or any checkout counter and most of the folks in line are complaining about things that happened to them 10 or 20 years ago and they don’t even know you? Yes, you can live to be a ripe old age carrying around years of resentment, anger, rage, misery, and upset.  It’s not a journey recommended by the Happy Go-Laughing Klan!

When you understand what humor is you can stay fluid through difficulties.  A sense of humor is deeper than laughter, more satisfying than comedy and delivers more rewards than merely being entertaining.  A sense of humor sees the fun in everyday experiences.  It is social criticism.  It reassures the insecure.  Humor is the reaction to tragedy, surprise, ambivalence, incongruity, the weapon of the underdog, and release.  As Lily Tomlin so aptly put it “Instead of working for the survival of the fittest, we should be working for the survival of the wittiest, then we can all die laughing.”

And speaking of surviving, when you’re caught up in that fight or flight response, the stress alarm goes off no matter what it is, you just won the lottery, or your boss told you to cut the budget 25 percent.  Your heart rate increases, your digestion stops, your blood pressure goes up, your blood sugar goes up and your cholesterol goes along for the ride – right up to the top!  Your body goes into the resistance phase and begins to adapt and return to normal.  But if there is no “catch up” time, your body goes into the exhaustion phase and that’s when you become dead serious.  You know your face has a blank look on it, no emotion, it turns a little white, and people ask “what’s wrong?” and in a monotone voice you say “nothing, I’m fine.”  As the day progresses, you get even more serious, phones ringing, contracts to sign, wife has to work late, babysitter has to leave early, and you still have two more meetings to attend!  You are now approaching “Terminal Professionalism,” the condition that precedes mental and physical illness.

You Aren’t Your Job

When it comes to work, you are not your job, take yourself lightly and the job seriously.  It is now time for you to prepare yourself to take yourself lightly. Don’t forget work is what you do, it is not who you are.   You have to take care of yourself, your perspective is the only thing you have any control of. You want to make your desk and work environment a place that makes you smile and laugh at tiny little things all day long.

Accumulate Fun Things

You can easily accumulate fun things as well as you can accumulate things that stress you.  Draw the line before you go home from work.  Do something that says you are not at work.  Try hanging up all of your problems on the coat rack.  Now go out and play, hug and kiss your family without bringing your aggravations home for dinner!  You might even have fewer aggravations waiting for you the next day!

Count On Humor

Find your Komic Vision

Make a list of your favorite comedy TV, movie and radio shows.  Identify your favorite comedians, and authors.  Build a humor library and engage in a comedy hour daily. You will soon find your mood, outlook, and life take on a completely different perspective.

“Laughing at ourselves brings us closer to enlightenment than anything else.  Take time. Listen to quiet. Light a candle or better yet, set your life on fire by enjoying the humor within.  You too, may find happiness.”
- Carol Gardner aka almost Zen Master Zelda


Roz Trieber works with organizations to reduce stress and increase productivity using humor and improvisation. For more information on Roz ’s speaking programs, books, cd's and learning programs contact HUMORFUSION at 410.998.9585 or Roz@humorfusion.com. (www.humorfusion.com)

© 2004 Copyright by Roz Trieber and Trieber Associates, Inc.

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