THE BLOG
04/23/2014 05:26 pm ET | Updated Jun 23, 2014

Stressed? Laugh It Away

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it. -- George Burns

Almost everyone I meet lately talks about how stressed they feel and how anxious and tense they are, and at times I catch myself nodding in agreement. How do we deal with the escalating demands on our time, energy and resources without a growing sense of tension and overwhelm? Laugh it away.

Hah, you say. "Easy for you. I have good reasons to be stressed. You just don't understand." Well, I do. I've been there more than once. A deadline is coming up, and my work is not completed due to something out of my control: My Internet connection breaks down and/or my computer system goes AWOL. Or I'm in a heated discussion and I'm feeling completely not understood. Stressed? Yes, with a capital "S." What to do then? Find something funny about the situation and have a good laugh. Engage the other party in the humor if appropriate. Laughter interrupts the pressure and gives you a chance to take a step back to see possible ways of resolving the stress.

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities. -- Jean Houston

Laughter has been shown to be powerful medicine for mental and physical health and healing. From Norman Cousin's laughter helping him recover from an autoimmune disease in the 1970s onward, we have had many documented cases of people getting physical healing from laughter. And with stress being one of the main causes of disease now, it's important for us to remember to laugh when we are stressed. But how?

When we are stretched taut with tension, it's hard to think of anything funny. As the old saying goes, "It's hard to remember you are there to drain the swamp when you are wrestling with alligators." Fortunately in our world, the alligators are usually only in our minds, so it is possible for us to step back, take a deep breath and wonder how this crisis would look to us five or ten years from now. That can help us put the issue in perspective and that it's not end of the world after all, and we can even laugh about how wound up we've become over it.

Then you can use the tools I've written about before in my HuffPost blog, "How to Survive and Thrive Through Life's Changes." PAGDE: Pause, Assess, Gather information, come to consensus and Decide, and then Execute. And of course, laugh heartily along the way!

1. Pause -- Take a deep breath, then another and then another. Repeat until you feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins begin to slow down. If you have to remove yourself from the immediate surroundings temporarily to regain composure, do so if at all possible. Whatever the impending change, it will benefit from your taking a mini time out so that you can gain some perspective before you say or do something you may regret.

2. Assess: What are the true dimensions of the issue? Who, what, when and how? Whether you are initiating the process or not, ask the same questions with no judgment and with an open mind.

3. Gather: Why did this happen, is this a natural life process, or is this something that was precipitated by outside circumstance? What are the possible solutions and the consequences of the various options and action steps? Involve all relevant parties as much as possible.

4. Come to consensus and Decide: Based on the above information; determine the appropriate next steps to resolve the issue and to prevent new ones if applicable. Always keep your life purpose and ultimate mission in mind in your consideration -- how does this line up with what you most value?

5. Execute -- Resolve the challenge with commitment and the comfort that together you have assessed, analyzed and come up with the best solution for all concerned. Repeat any of the above steps as needed as you proceed; the situation can change and you have to be prepared to adjust to the circumstances. Give thanks for the lessons; each big change is a step in our life journey and also an occasion for growth and increased capacity for joy and compassion.

Laugh and find the humor in what's making you tense. Hidden in every situation is something ironic and funny that can help shift your perspective and allow for more creativity and resolution. Indeed, laughter is the cure for stress and for what ails us.

[Humanity] has unquestionably one really effective weapon -- laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution -- these can lift at a colossal humbug -- push it a little -- weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. -- Mark Twain

Marilyn Tam grew up as an abused and neglected child in Hong Kong. She found her life purpose at age 11 when she found out as bad as her life was; she was much better off than her classmate, Rebecca. Wanting to help others and to right the wrongs, she left home as a teen to come to America alone to study. She became a business leader (CEO Of Aveda, President of Reebok and Vice President of Nike) and a global humanitarian. She shares in her latest book, "The Happiness Choice" how you can live a life of happiness, health and success. It's her way of giving back to the world for all the blessings she's received. The Happiness Choice http://www.marilyntam.com/books.html tells the stories and insights from Marilyn and many experts, including, Jack Canfield, Joan Borysenko, Harville Hendrix, Arielle Ford and others on how to live the life of your dreams. The book was #3 top business book, and won the Silver Medal in the Global eBook Awards 2013.
Her radio show, The Happiness Choice on FMG Network is broadcast globally to over 30 million listeners. Marilyn is a regular blogger on Huffington Post.

Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. www.MarilynTam.com