The Key to Stress Relief
By Katie MacDougall, LPC
My mom’s cousins know how to have a good time. When I’m around this side of my family, I’m always reminded how I tend to take things too seriously.
Tragedy: The Most Common Excuse for Seriousness
The excuse I often give for being too serious is that tragedy requires that kind of response. The more I’ve sat with people in their deepest grief, the more I’ve realized that I don’t think that’s truly the case. Let me use my mom’s cousins to explain why I think seriousness is overrated, especially in tragedy.
You see, the cousins I’m referring to haven’t had lives lacking loss or filled with perfection. I won’t go into a list of the struggles they’ve had because it would double this blog’s word count, but I will give an example of one of their most recent tragedies. One of my cousins lost a leg a few years ago in a horrific boating accident. Of course, there was (and sometimes still is) grief associated with that. However, there is still laughter. You can only imagine the conversation I heard happening at the first family gathering after my cousin lost her leg. She and some of my other cousins realized that my legless cousin had a new-found Halloween costume opportunity. After hours of laughing from all sides, I think they landed on a pirate with a peg leg for the following Halloween. Despite big losses, the family was able to laugh.
A family gathering after losing a leg isn’t perfect. My cousin was still experiencing phantom pain and learning how to walk again. Many surgeries were on the horizon along with many more moments of grief and loss. Though tears, hugs, and talking through the pain was essential, laughter was a key ingredient to stress relief and eventual healing.
How to Laugh During Everyday Stress
While the story about my cousin’s tragedy may seem unrelatable, the feelings of being overwhelmed by change, tasks, and loss are universal.
In order to laugh during everyday stress, start by letting go of your expectations. Here are a few examples:
Not quite there yet? Me either. Join me in asking God to help you receive this gift a little better this holiday season. I believe laughter is a gift from God. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).
My cousin's laughter hasn't come without effort. Joy requires strength and discipline, but the art of letting go can produce soul healing. May we use laughter as part of that “good medicine” rather than dwelling in the brokenness that “saps [our] strength.”