Jeanine Davis, RN, BAAS, CMCN

Clinical Liaison

How to Deal With Stress Through Laughter

healing power of laughterI was very fortunate to attend CMSA’s 2017 Annual Conference in Austin a few weeks back.  I enjoyed every session I attended and took many notes.  I had a chance to meet several case managers from a in a wide-range of health care settings.  From each of them, I learned a bit more about case management and came away enriched with each personal connection, especially after meeting the Case Manager of the Year, Ellen Aliberti.

But one session stood out, the main keynote on Wednesday by Dr. Stuart Robertshaw or “Dr. Humor.”.  He reminded us that, “Laughter is the best medicine.” This expression has been echoed for decades, but nobody demonstrates it like Dr. Robertshaw.Throughout his standup comedy routine, The Healing Power of Humor, Dr. Robertshaw masterfully weaves his message about laughter’s physical and mental benefits. But while a comedy routine may seem like fun and games, he cites numerous studies and empirical evidence showing that laughter can:

  • Boost your immune system
  • Exercise the lungs
  • Increase oxygen flow to the blood
  • Protect against depression
  • Improve Blood Pressure
  • Aid in dealing with stresses
  • Increase pain tolerance
  • Improve diabetes control
  • Lower the risk for heart attack
  •  Enhance Memory

A pill with all these benefits would send everyone running for a prescription, money in hand. However, Dr. Robertshaw’s prescription is free, has only positive side effects, and is available to everyone. For those unfortunate individuals who cannot experience the healing power of humor, Dr. Robertshaw founded the National Association for the Humor Impaired, which now has thousands of lifetime members. His book, Dear Dr. Humor, illustrates real-life anecdotes of actual events that happen to regular people. Dr. Robertshaw states that “the real stories that have been sent to me over the years are funnier than any jokes I could have made up.”

During the presentation, Dr. Robertshaw stated that ”humor is a gift to be shared” and recommended case managers collect cases they find funny in a file that can be used as an emergency source of humor. According to Dr. Robertshaw, this practice “will help you keep life in balance” and provide some much needed perspective. These days, clinicians and lay persons alike are all aware of the physical tolls that stress, anxiety, and tension can take on the body and mind.

After Dr. Robertshaw warmed up the audience with his standup routine, he ended the presentation by guiding the group through several laughter exercises and introducing “Laughter Yoga.” Yes, this is a thing, and it is really fun.

Dr. Robertshaw’s professes claims about “10 seconds of vigorous laughter being the equivalent of 5 minutes of jogging,” but it seemed to be true. I left his presentation feeling fantastic with a mild sense of euphoria as well as a huge dose of “don’t take yourself so seriously” as a gentle remember to keep life in balance. As a parting gift, Dr. Robertshaw claims that gratitude is also a key ingredient and reiterated that humor and laughter can have a lasting and positive impact in both our personal and professional lives.