Our guest this week is PBS star, author and humorist Loretta LaRoche. Believe it or not, Loretta does live (and taped) stand-up comedy about stress management. Her 1-hour PBS specials have raised millions of dollars for PBS stations across the country. She is the author of four books including Relax You May Only Have a Few Minutes Left, Lighten Up! and Juicy Living Juicy Aging. Loretta sees the humor in every stressful event that happens. All it takes is a little perspective. As Loretta likes to say; "You are a joke but you just don't get it."
Humor is such a great way to deal with stress because it's the opposite of stress. Stress is rigid, humor is loose. Stress is serious, humor is funny. Stress is heavy, humor is light. And stress will never get the upper hand as long as you can find something about it to laugh at. And you almost always can. Studies show, even soldiers in battle are less likely to suffer from PTSD when they can maintain a sense of humor -even relying on gallows humor - when dangerous situations seem like they are getting out of hand.
Ronald Reagan famously joked all the way to hospital when he was shot in the chest by John Hinckley, Jr. As the doctors were putting Reagan on the gurney in the ER, he apparently he quipped, "I hope you guys aren't democrats!" Reagan recovered quickly from the shooting and never mentioned it in public afterwards. Think about this for a moment. Wouldn't you be a little afraid to go out after somebody came very close to killing you? It didn't seem to phase Reagan one bit.
Humor acts like a shield against a sea of troubles. Whether you use it to defuse a stressful situation, or warm up an audience, or make light of your own short-comings, humor can be strategically used in a whole host of different situations. And you don't have to be a stand-up comic either. Just remembering a funny scene from a recent TV show or movie is really all it takes to get people laughing.
But nothing works quite as well as finding the humor in a stressful situation. Dr. Steve Allen, Jr., son of comedian Steve Allen, talks about the misery index. It's a measure of how quickly you can go from experiencing a stressful event to telling funny anecdotes about it. Sometimes something stressful happens to you on the way to work. If you are telling funny stories about that incident by the time you arrive, that's a very short misery index. Making fun of your stress is positively therapeutic.
And Loretta has mastered this art. Whether it's using a mask for wearing in traffic jams (she recommends Groucho Marx nose and glasses) or words of wisdom you can share with whiny people ahead of you in line at the grocery store. ("I think the manager sees us coming and calls everyone he knows just to get in line in front of us.") Loretta doesn't pull any punches when it comes to directing her humor at worthy targets, including herself. "I'm low on estrogen and I have gun," she likes to say.
Loretta knows stress management too. She has studied with Dr. Albert Ellis, Dr. Martin Seligman and Dr. Herbert Benson. So while she's making your sides ache from laughter she's also weaving in the latest findings from these world renowned experts on stress. Loretta truly is one of a kind.
Watch a five minute sample of LAUGHING AT STRESS with Loretta LaRoche. This 20-minute training video was designed to help people learn how to use humor at work.