Stress management is the need of the hour. However hard we try to go beyond a stress situation, life seems to find new ways of stressing us out and plaguing us with anxiety attacks. Moreover, be it our anxiety, mind-body exhaustion or our erring attitudes, we tend to overlook causes of stress and the conditions triggered by those. In such unsettling moments we often forget that stressors, if not escapable, are fairly manageable and treatable.
Stress, either quick or constant, can induce risky body-mind disorders. Immediate disorders such as dizzy spells, anxiety attacks, tension, sleeplessness, nervousness and muscle cramps can all result in chronic health problems. They may also affect our immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems and lead individuals to habitual addictions, which are inter-linked with stress.
Like “stress reactions”, “relaxation responses” and stress management techniques are some of the body’s important built-in response systems. As a relaxation response the body tries to get back balance in its homeostasis. Some hormones released during the ‘fight or flight’ situation prompt the body to replace the lost carbohydrates and fats, and restore the energy level. The knotted nerves, tightened muscles and an exhausted mind crave for looseness. Unfortunately, today, we don’t get relaxing and soothing situations without asking. To be relaxed we have to strive to create such situations.
Recognizing a stressor:
It is important to recognize whether you are under stress or out of it. Many times, even if we are under the influence of a stressful condition and our body reacts to it internally as well as externally, we fail to realize that we are reacting under stress. This also happens when the causes of stress are there long enough for us to get habituated to them. The body constantly tries to tell us through symptoms such as rapid palpitation, dizzy spells, tight muscles or various body aches that something is wrong. It is important to remain attentive to such symptoms and to learn to cope with the situations.
We cope better with stressful situation, when we encounter them voluntarily. In cases of relocation, promotion or layoff, adventurous sports or having a baby, we tend to respond positively under stress. But, when we are compelled into such situations against our will or knowledge, more often than not, we wilt at the face of unknown and imagined threats. For instance, stress may mount when one is coerced into undertaking some work against one’s will.
Adopting a humorous view towards life’s situations can take the edge off everyday stressors. Not being too serious or in a constant alert mode helps maintain the equanimity of mind and promote clear thinking. Being able to laugh stress away is the smartest way to ward off its effects.
A sense of humor also allows us to perceive and appreciate the incongruities of life and provides moments of delight. The emotions we experience directly affect our immune system. The positive emotions can create neurochemical changes that buffer the immunosuppressive effects of stress.
During stress, the adrenal gland releases corticosteroids, which are converted to cortical in the blood stream. These have an immunosuppressive effect. Dr. Lee Berk and fellow researcher Dr. Stanley Tan at Loma Linda University School of Medicine have produced carefully controlled studies showing that the experience of laughter lowers serum cortical levels, increases the amount and activity of T lymphocytes—the natural killer cells. Laughter also increases the number of T cells that have suppresser receptors.
What Laughter Can Do Against Stress And Its Effects?
- Laughter lowers blood pressure and reduces hypertension.
- It provides good cardiac conditioning especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercise.
- Reduces stress hormones (studies shows, laughter induces reduction of at least four of neuroendocrine hormones—epinephrine, cortical, dopac, and growth hormone, associated with stress response).
- Laughter cleanses the lungs and body tissues of accumulated stale air as it empties more air than it takes in. It is beneficial for patients suffering from emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
- It increases muscle flexion, relaxation and fluent blood circulation in body.
- Boosts immune function by raising levels of infection-fighting T-cells, disease-fighting proteins called Gamma-interferon and disease-destroying antibodies called B-cells.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins—body’s natural painkillers.
- Produces a general sense of well-being.