Practice Safe Stress: Using Humor to Build Resiliency

For the Sep 27th “Wellness Summit” in Indianapolis sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Conference and the Indiana Wellness Council, I’ve been asked to write a brief promotional article about my upcoming Keynote — “Practice Safe Stress: Using Humor to Build Resiliency.” They’re expecting at least 500 people. It should be a blast!

I think my piece conveys the anticipated thought-provoking energy, spirit and FUN. Enjoy!

Practice Safe Stress: Using Humor to Build Resiliency

Practice Safe Stress…Just what does it mean? The short answer is it’s an attitude and a way of grappling with a challenging and uncertain world by appreciating and actively engaging with life’s demands, disappointments and disruptions. At the same time, a “Safe Stress” practitioner achieves some detached involvement by artfully playing with prevailing rigidities, negativities and absurdities. No less an authority than the inimitable film pioneer, Charlie Chaplin, saw an essential duality of human existence and adaptation: “The paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy!” (Alas, for a “Motivational Psychohumorist” ™ it may be a bit too late. I let the audience decide where the emphasis on that last word should go.”)

My goal is to help an audience become more FIT by making a program Fun, Interactive & Thought-Provoking. And to achieve this I have my Triple “A” method: we’ll grapple with some Anxiety, act out a little Aggression (I bet some folks are getting excited) and, finally, engage life’s slings and arrows with some playful yet purposeful Absurdity. I can imagine some brows furrowing and minds wondering: “Just what is ‘playful yet purposeful absurdity?’” The best way, perhaps, to capture its essence is by shedding some light on my geographic diversity and destiny: I’m originally from Brooklyn and Queens; then in my mid-twenties I moved to New Orleans to study at Tulane University School of Social Work. Not surprisingly, I became enchanted with “The Big Easy” and stayed for sixteen (my “American in Cajun Paris”) years – first, burning out on a doctoral dissertation, and then becoming an expert on stress and burnout (hey, I’m no dummy). I did university teaching and broke into radio and TV and became known as the “Stress Doc” ™. Anyway, returning to our geography lesson…after sixteen years, there were no more mountains to climb in the bayou and I now had this urge to move to Washington, D.C. I didn’t understand it till I got there, but soon realized if NYC and N’Awlins had a baby it would look like Washington, DC. (I still haven’t quite decided if it’s a love child.)

Safe Stress in Action

So how do you put Playful/Purposeful Absurdity into action with an audience? Here’s one “warm-up” example: I like to start with my small group, “Three ‘B’ Stress Barometer” Exercise: “How does your Brain, Body and Behavior let you know when you are under more stress than usual?” Each group generates their own list and a few groups share their compilation of stress smoke signals. Naturally, I can’t resist bantering with the groups. For example, when someone mentions overeating, I counter that it can go both ways, asking the audience, “How many people tend to eat more when under stress to numb those anxious feelings?” A sea of hands invariably goes up. Then, “How many folks lose their appetite and eat less when there’s a gnawing knot in the stomach?” A few hands wave feebly. Of course, my immediate reply: “And we hate those people, don’t we,” invariably followed by a roomful of knowing laughter. Acknowledging and laughing at our own flaws and foibles is the foundation for self-acceptance, empathizing with others (not just walking in another’s shoes, but feeling their bunions), and even taking problem-solving steps.

Of course, we discuss the “b”-word when it comes to stress…though, I suppose, there can be several “b”-words that come to mind. But my focus is that “erosive spiral” – burnout. Sample this definition: Burnout’s a gradual process by which a person detaches from work and other significant roles and relationships in response to excessive and prolonged stress and mental, physical and emotional strain. The result is lowered productivity, cynicism, confusion, a feeling of being drained having nothing more to give. Doesn’t sound like fun!

But we will have fun by helping you recognize or break out of the burnout stages/cycle, provide key steps for dealing with loss and change, and share some outrageous laughs while defusing self-defeating power struggles. And finally, we’ll put it all together (or let it all blow apart) with a closing stress relieving, resiliency building, laugh producing and creativity, camaraderie and community generating 3 “D” – Team Discussion-Drawing-Diversity – Exercise. People really are more open to a serious message when it’s gift-wrapped with humor.

So seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor: May the Farce Be with You!

Don’t miss your appointment with the Stress Doc!

Mark Gorkin, the Stress Doc ™, www.stressdoc.com, acclaimed Keynote and Kickoff Speaker, Webinar Presenter, Retreat Leader and Motivational Humorist, is the author of Practice Safe Stress and The Four Faces of Anger. A former Stress & Violence Prevention consultant for the US Postal Service, the Doc leads highly interactive, innovative and inspiring programs for corporations and government agencies, including the US Military, on stress resiliency/burnout prevention through humor, change and conflict management, generational communication, and 3 “R” — Responsible, Resilient & Risk-Taking — leadership-partnership team building. Email [email protected] for his popular free newsletter & info on speaking programs.

Stress Doc Mantra: Think out of the box, perform outside the curve (the Bell Curve) and be out-rage-ous!

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply