Our guest blogger and school counselor, Christa Marvenko-Athas, has some useful insight for parents coping with this stressful time. Take a look at her suggestions of how laughter can help.
There is not much that seems funny these days. We are continuously living in a state of stress and trying to cope the best we can. As you scroll through social media platforms, or watch recaps of popular comedians and talk-show hosts, you will see many people trying to use humor as a way to cope.
As you comb through research on the impact of laughter on mental and physical health you will find laughter has many short, and long-term, mental and physical health benefits. For example, an article from the Mayo Clinic states that laughter can relieve the stress response; increasing and then decreasing heart rate and blood pressure leaves you with a relaxed feeling. Laughter can also increase blood circulation and relax muscles, both of which can help reduce some physical symptoms of stress.
I believe this to be true through my own experience; a deep belly laugh always makes me feel relaxed, re-regulated, and just plain good. During this ongoing pandemic experience I have been trying to create moments of laughter with family and friends.
We really need anything that helps decrease the stress response, although these days you may find it hard to laugh. I have actually practiced finding ways to experience laughter during this time and I highly recommend it.
Here are some things I have tried and been successful with:
- Watching favorite stand-up comedy acts
- Playing charades and Pictionary with family
- Playing silly card games with family
- Watching favorite, funny movies
- Making silly videos and challenging others to make some
- Looking at one-another in our ragged appearance and state of unkemptness and bursting out laughing
- Watching favorite comedian talk-show hosts
- Reading funny stories and books, comics, and memes
Interestingly, the Mayo Clinic article talks about practicing laughter even though at first it can seem forced; the article suggests practicing turning the corners of your mouth up and just forcing a laugh. Try this with someone else in your house or even in a video conference with family or a friend. The infectiousness of laughter can make it turn genuine.
I have also found that when I laugh hard it can also bring other feelings to surface such as grief and sadness. A good laugh can bring on a good cry, which I find brings some relief from stress as well. If you research the positive effects of crying you will find articles that explain how crying reduces blood pressure and the stress response too. More importantly, crying honors the feelings we are experiencing when tears arise. We all need to honor our feelings, whatever they are, especially now.
Christa Marvenko-Athas is the school counselor at the Waldorf School of Baltimore. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing psychotherapy and counseling services to adults, adolescents, children, couples, families, and groups for more than 25 years. To learn more about Christa, visit her website: https://christamarvenkoathas.com/