What’s the difference between "Being prepared" and "Worrying?"

Last week was a “high” for me, as I got to speak at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s annual fund-raising wine dinner.  Seated at a table with the Brittany Thelemann, the new Miss Minnesota, I learned about how to taste (swirl, sniff, chew, etc.) wine.  Unfortunately, all of the eating (and drinking) was to precede my talk, so I had to be very careful about my selections, for fear of making a fool of myself when I finally stood up to speak!

Polls show that public speaking is the #1 stressful event for most people, and while I am experienced, and love being on a stage, there’s no doubt that I have a few qualms before doing my bit.

On this occasion, a friend who was managing the event remarked that last year the crowd  – possibly influenced by all the wine – got more than a little noisy and conversational during the speaking, I began to wonder what to expect.
Read more

How Can You Laugh When Your World Isn't Funny?

“What do the simple folk do, to help them escape when they’re blue”, sang the King in the Broadway musical, Camelot.  He felt someone had the secret, but he did not.

It’s difficult to force yourself to laugh, and annoying if someone else urges you to do so when you don’t feel like it.  But developing strategies to bring genuine laughter into your life can be an important part of  stress management.  Not only do your feelings improve; you health does, too, and your problem-solving abilities take a big step forward.

When we feel good, we laugh easily, so we associate laughing with something you only do when you feel good.  But laughter has healing powers, as Norman Cousins discovered when, faced with debilitating illness in 1964, he checked into a hotel room and watched Marx Brothers movies, laughing himself well.  He later described his experience in “Anatomy of an Illness.”

Since then, research in psychchoneuroimmunology (the field that studies the relationship between the mind and the body) supports what he found: laughter can heal illness that has already commenced.  It can also prevent illness.

Researchers claim that the average person laughs between 14 and 17 times per day.

Chronically ill patients, such as cardiac patients, on the other hand, laugh much less than that.

It isn’t always appropriate to laugh.  If you’ve had a severe blow or loss,  it may be important to take the time to reflect and explore the pain.  But when the sharp pain dulls, that’s definitely the time to find laughter.  Sometimes dullness of spirit isn’t preceded by sharp pain; it just develops slowly.  This dullness can be the result of an overly-long winter or an anxiety-laden workload that seems to go on and on without a relaxing break.

It’s important to have methods to lighten up when the world goes gray.

My favorite remedy is a raggedy folder of clippings I have been collecting for almost two decades. Filled with clippings, it contains single cartoons, entire comic strips, written jokes, and short humorous essays that have delighted me over the years.   Humorous Birthday and Christmas cards that people have sent me over the years are included.

When I open the file, I find that the first few items I pick up make me smile. As I continue leafing through the file, being bombarded by widely different humorous items, I may start to giggle.  If I keep looking, I usually reach a point where I am laughing so hard that tears start to roll down my cheeks.

Some of my favorite excerpts from student papers that I file in the  “Mangled History” section are as follows:

“Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire at night”

“Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks.””

“The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple;
the seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.”

Two pages of this stuff (I didn’t make it up) can lead to hysteria – the good kind.

The best “cure” for “lack of laughing” seems to be something that is readily available and that doesn’t take a great deal of concentration or time commitment.  That’s why my humor file works so well: I can pull it out and leaf through for as long as I like.  If I’m interrupted, I can open it again at any point, without having to ask myself, “Now, where was I?”

Here are some other ways to get a laugh.  You’ve always known about these sources, but have you bookmarked them in some way so that they are easily available when your spirits need a lift?

Music: choose some music that is upbeat and has funny lyrics. Choosing music that has a beat that makes you want to dance is even better.

Videos:  You don’t need a file of Marx Brothers films; you can find a multitude on YouTube. Here’s one of my favorites.  It has the same characteristics as my humor file, consisting of short clips of people being funny doing unplanned tricks on trampolines.  A few animals participate, too.   You can watch as much or as little as you want at one time.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AvRTS7Kt-k

Try some of these methods, and laugh to your heart’s content.

Question:  What is your strategy for laughing, or at least lightening up, when you feel dull?  Is there a particular film, song, book you turn to?  Do you have a favorite pun or joke? Share your “Wit Wisdom” with me.  I’ll include it in my blog so that we all can benefit.





Watch How You Tell Your Story!

The last few days have been filled with warmth and joy; a wedding party that brought optimism and fun, a May Day celebration that went forward despite unseasonably cold weather, tulips and daffodils suddenly poking out of the earth, and my phone ringing constantly with warm people eager to connect with me.

In contrast, about a month or so ago I had a week that verified everything Murphy ever said about things going wrong: computers broke, printers refused to respond, telephones developed strange disorders, and the internet went crazy (so did I)

When I tried to rush to the post office to get something important in the mail, I found the garage door frozen shut.  And, oh, did I mention that the toilet exploded?
Read more

Where Stress Comes From – The Real Story

As a Stress Expert, I am often backed into a corner at a party by an earnest person who asks, urgently, “So, how do you handle stress?”

I try not to burble incoherently, but it’s hard.  They want a one-second answer to a complex problem.

I thought I’d start by describing what we are up against, as a preface to providing simple stress solutions to specific challenges  in the upcoming posts.

So today, you are going to hear about:

The Real Story of Stress

(Anthropologists: don’t read any further)

Millions of years ago, our ancestors lived in a dangerous world, filled with fierce creatures , such as saber-toothed tigers, from which they had to defend themselves.

They also had to go out with clubs and put themselves in danger to bring down their dinner, such as, say, a mastodon.
Read more

Holiday Hints for Heart-wise Women

The holidays are a particular challenge for those of us who know we must be vigilant every day to maintain our health through good eating. Here are some of the challenges, and how to meet them.

The holiday party, with its buffet of delectable treats, many of them high-fat- cheese plates, crackers, cookies made with real butter, rich drinks such as egg nog, -can be faced and handled by using some of the following tricks:
Read more

Helping Heart-Wise Women

Heart—wise women are women who:

  • Have had a cardiac event of any kind, or
  • Know they have significant risk factors for cardiac disease.or
  • Are intelligent enough to know their stress-filled lives can kill them

Harried women are:

  • Overly-busy women who  can’t seem to find enough time to  exercise, meditate, and do all the things they know are good for them
  • Working women, women entrepreneurs, women with families, women being caretakers……
  • Just about every woman we know!

As a Certified Life Coach and teacher, I work with overly-busy women who are concerned about their hearts and who can’t find the time to relax or meditate because they believe they have “delegated everything they can delegate and let go of everything possible”.  I help them to shift their perspectives, identify hidden time-wasters, change habitual thoughts and actions that rob them of time, energy, and power,   and discover time for life-enhancing activities.
Read more