For the most part, stress isn’t something outside of us…it’s internal. And, that means we can usually do something about it.
Humor can be a viable coping mechanism in times of stress. In fact, it can be a means of stress reduction. Humor has psychological, social, communicative, physiological, and cardiovascular effects…just to name a few.
Psychologically, humor acts as a coping mechanism by relieving anxiety and tension. It also serves as an outlet for hostility and anger, an adaptive escape from reality, and lightens the heaviness often associated by critical issues in life.
Socially, humor helps to establish a rapport with others and decreases the social stratification between individuals. This aspect of humor can help people feel as though they are part of the group, but it can just as easily ostracize others.
Communicatively, humor conveys information and a point-of-view. It effectively breaks down barriers by allowing comment on sensitive subjects while providing a quick out of “I was only joking.”
Physiologically, humor’s effects are associated with humor and laughter. Laughter increases respiratory activity and oxygen exchange.
Cardiovascularly, laughter stimulates the heart rate and blood pressure then quickly moves into a relaxation phase which allows the heart rate and blood pressure. This type of cardiovascular workout helps both relaxation and cardiovascular health.
It is important to remember as your adolescent dabbles in humor as a stress reduction technique that what appeals to one person’s sense of humor may very well be offensive to another. Because everyone’s sense of humor is unique, it is important to help your teen understand the difference between destructive and constructive humor. Destructive humor is the type that ultimately lowers someone’s self-esteem, belittles others, excludes others, creates tension or divisiveness, promotes laughter at someone, and or perpetuates stereotypes. Constructive humor, on the other hand, raises self-esteem, tends to be supportive, includes rather than excludes people, reduces tension, confronts stereotypical constructs, relaxes people, and creates a positive atmosphere. Obviously, when using humor as a stress management tool, it should be constructive humor not destructive.