By: Donna Byrne
Stress impacts our relationships, often more than we are aware of or acknowledge. I have been covering stress and how it has become such a normal part of daily life that partners become immune to the symptoms and warning signs. Ignoring stress only makes it worse. Stress is so contagious. Because of stress, partners often become unable to relax and enjoy each other. Stress shows up in our actions, our behavior, and in both verbal and non-verbal communications. Stress has to affect both partners and their relationship. Stressed-out couples quarrel and fight more often and may withdraw from each other. They may feel sad, frustrated and angry and not even realize the cause. It can become easy to blame the partner for the discomfort even if the stress is more related to work or concerns about the children or fatigue.
Try to recognize the symptoms. Stress is difficult to deal with if you don’t know you are stressed. If Stress makes your stomach upset but there is no awareness at a cognitive level that you are stressed how can you deal with it? Couples often become so used to unchecked stress that they barely recognize and often overlook the destructive ramifications. How do you know when your partner (or you) is stressed? A few things to watch for are if one or both partners are snappy, cranky, withdrawn, moody, pouty, teary, ornery, angry, restless, hyper, agitated, overly excited. Another alert is if one or both partners are self-medicating with drugs, alcohol and /or food.
“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
One way to lower our stress levels is with humor. It’s no joke according to the Mayo Clinic. “When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered.” A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do. It has some short term benefits. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. A good belly laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
Laughter isn’t just a quick fix though. It’s also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.
The moral of the story is to think about what makes you laugh and go for it. It might be a Mr. Bean movie. I just think about him and I laugh. Maybe other types of comedy make you chuckle or really laugh out loud (LOL) as seen on face book everywhere. Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — funny bone? No problem. Humor can be learned. Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy CD’S on hand for when you need an added humor boost. “Laugh and the world laughs with you.” Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good. Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you. Knock-knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library’s selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you’ve had your chuckle, take stock of how you’re feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That’s the natural wonder of laughing.
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