5 Ways to Find Humor in Stressful Situations

5 Ways to Find Humor in Stressful Situations

I find it quite funny that April happens to be recognized as both Humor Month and Stress Awareness Month around the globe. And just by finding it funny, my brain shifts into a more optimal state for the day ahead. Let me explain…
 

Stress is what happens when the demands on our time and energy exceed our perceived capacity. When we have what we need to adapt effectively, this stimulus for change leads to growth. It’s what we call tame or tolerable stress, and it’s actually beneficial to the development of our brain and body. When we don’t have or don’t think we have the resources we need to meet the expectations or tasks of our day, our brains shift into survival mode, which hijacks our energy and attention to focus only on what’s seems most important in the moment. Unfortunately, without intention this usually means we’re stuck in a fear state, pumping out stress hormones that we don’t actually use, building up toxic inflammation in our body that breaks us down over time and ironically blocks our ability to problem solve effectively.

What’s funny about that?
 

I think it’s hysterical. What was designed to help us survive danger is now actually the cause of danger. Maybe not funny in a “ha, ha” kind of way, but the kind of humor that makes you go hmm. Here’s the good news. If you can find the funny in a situation like that, allow your brain to see the comedic irony and just pause to reflect for a moment, you will actually begin to release the grasp of stress and shift into a better state of mind. This doesn’t mean we ignore what’s negative in life, but we also allow ourselves to slow down enough to embrace the adventure of it all.

A powerful shift for stress reduction
 

Studies have shown that finding things funny reduces the production of stress hormones, decreases inflammation in the body, improves memory and cognitive capacity, allowing us to problem solve more creatively over time. And it turns out that seeing funny is a skill that can be developed; just like any other mental muscle you train over time. If you’re constantly looking for what’s wrong in your life, you are guaranteed to see it more often. But regularly seek out things you find funny, curious or interesting and you’ll notice life becomes much more amazing and amusing every day.

Build your mirth muscle
 

Humor can be divided into three types of experience: the physical expression of humor is laughter, the mental navigation that occurs when we recognize humor may be referred to as wit, and the emotional delight we feel is called mirth. When we allow ourselves to fully feel the internal giggle of something funny, there are hundreds of chemical changes that occur — shifting our state from surviving to thriving. All measures of cognitive performance improve, as our neurons are nudge towards expressing creativity, insight and innovation and turning down the noise of the stress response. Try it for yourself right now. Check out this baby laughing, and see if you notice a shift in your state of mind, and body.

By using humor strategically, actually planning time to experience things you find funny on a regular basis, you build a mental muscle that is more in tune to the humor of your day. Just like anything else you pay attention to, you experience more of what you focus your mind to see. So if you want to have more fun, play, and laughter in your life be proactive about putting things in your path that will shift you in that direction. Here are a few quick techniques to try:

  1. Share a funny image with a friend every day via text message.
  2. Add a funny cartoon to your email signature.
  3. Create a funny playlist with videos you enjoy to watch during your morning and afternoon recharge break.
  4. Go on a walk and look for things to find funny.
  5. Find a funny podcast or YouTube channel to listen to each evening to reset your brain to relax.
     

The best way to create a new habit is to enlist the support of a friend, so ask someone to be your humor buddy and commit to share things you find funny as often as you can. Each time you receive your humor nudge you’ll be reminded to stop and reflect, and when you share you’ll not only find funny yourself you’ll know that you’re contributing to help recharge someone you care about. The more we commit to shift our stress for good, the more positive and calm our world will become. Little neural nudges can make a big difference when we’re all practicing together. And the more we can all see funny, the better we can collaborate to solve the stress of the world.

Heidi Hanna
Human Performance
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Dr. Heidi Hanna has been featured at many national and global conferences, including the Fortune Magazine Most Powerful Women in Business Summit, ESPN Women’s Leadership Sum ... Click for full bio

What's an Investor to Do When History Doesn't Repeat Itself?

What's an Investor to Do When History Doesn't Repeat Itself?

We’re in an era of extremes. It seems a day doesn’t go by without the word “historical” popping up in the financial news.

The equities market and consumer debt are at historical highs. Interest rates and high-yield credit spreads are at historical lows. We haven’t seen even a 5% pull-back in the market this year—for the first time since 1995—and the DJIA is exhibiting its narrowest trading range in history. These are indeed historical times. And whether this fact has you filled with extreme optimism or extreme pessimism, you have some important decisions to make going forward.

There are theories about how we landed in this particular era of extremes, and most are rooted in the significant changes that have impacted both how we live and how we invest. At the top of the list are globalization, automation, and the largest aging population in history (yet another “historical” to add to the list). It’s said that the most dangerous words in investing are, “it’s different this time,” yet one has to wonder if, in fact, it really is different this time. Not just because of the historical market highs. After all, there always has been and always will be a new market high waiting around the corner. What’s different today is the sheer number and confluence of these extreme highs and lows—and their duration. It’s a situation no investor has experienced before, which can make these waters feel pretty daunting. History repeats itself, and investment strategies are largely built on that conviction. But what do we do when it doesn’t? When history fails to repeat itself, how can investors plan for tomorrow with confidence that they are positioned to protect their assets and gain a reasonable level of yield?

The first step is to recognize that, at least in many ways, the investment landscape really is different this time around. All you have to do is look at the numbers to be sure of that fact. And the catalysts I mentioned before—globalization, automation, and the aging population—aren’t going anywhere. If anything, the impact of each will only grow as time moves on. What that means is that there’s no way to predict what’s coming next. The only thing we know for certain is that predictability is a thing of the past (if it ever really existed at all). The result: you need to approach your portfolio differently than you ever have before.

Your goal, of course, is to find return given a risk tolerance. Current yield is an important part of total return and getting it is an elusive proposition in today’s market. If, like many people, you’re less than confident that the four major sectors that currently drive the equities market—healthcare, discretionary, tech, and financial—are poised to continue to rise at even close to recent rates, it may be wise to seek out alternatives to help drive yield without adding more risk to the equation.

But if alternatives are the wise path forward, which alternatives are the best options?

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Business Development Companies (BDCs), and energy stocks, traditionally the favored “non-correlated alternatives,” defied expectations when the stock market crashed in 2008, inconveniently revealing high correlations just as the equities market began its freefall. Anyone who was invested in these alternatives at the time knows all too well the devastating impact “non-correlated investments” can have on a portfolio, especially when they fail to do their job when it matters most.

Luckily, there is one alternative that can be counted on to remain uncorrelated to the traditional financial markets and, ultimately, deliver that precious yield: life insurance-based investments. And because this asset is literally built on one of the irreversible catalysts of change, the aging Baby Boomer population, owning life insurance may in fact be the ideal alternative to help investors generate non-correlated returns, regardless of where the market turns next. Even better, these investments typically deliver those returns with very low volatility.

Related: 3 Reasons Alternative Investments May Be Your New Key to Success in Changing Times

What makes life insurance different is that, unlike typical alternative vehicles, secondary life insurance returns aren’t based on the economy. Instead, they are inherently non-correlated because returns are based solely on the longevity of the individual insureds.

As much as we would all love for the bull market to continue on its merry way, one thing history does tell us even today is that a bear market will come. It’s only a matter of when. As you strive to hedge your portfolios and prepare for the inevitable, life insurance-based investments are one tool that can help you achieve the three things you need most: diversification, low volatility, and yield.

Bill Acheson
Investing in Life
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Bill Acheson is the Chief Financial Officer of GWG Holdings, Inc. Mr. Acheson has over 25 years of sophisticated financial services expertise. Mr. Acheson has extensive experi ... Click for full bio