Stress management—as we all know—is the name of the game. We cannot afford to allow stress to overwhelm us. Stress is much more than just an annoyance—stress is deadly. That’s right. It causes a whole host of health problems. In fact, it is estimated that stress leads to a whopping 75%-90% of all doctor visits! Translated into costs associated with health care, it means thousands of dollars every years.
This sounds ridiculous that stress could do such harm but it really does. And here’s why: when you are stressed, your body believes there is a crisis and so your endocrine system releases stress hormones such as cortisol, GH and norepinephrine. For short periods, these hormones are fine but for longer periods—like perpetual stress—it can cause the following problems:
• Stomachaches, diarrhea and other digestive problems
• An increase in appetite, which may lead to weight gain
• Lowered immune function, making you vulnerable to every little bug going around
• Depression, which may lead to sleep problems, loss of sex drive and loss of appetite
• Increased heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can lead to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke
• Increased chronic health problems such as skin conditions, asthma, or autoimmune diseases such as lupus
• Possible increased risk of developing cancer (Studies done over the past 30 years that examined the relationship between psychological factors, including stress, and cancer risk have produced conflicting results. Although the results of some studies have indicated a link between various psychological factors and an increased risk of developing cancer, a direct cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven .)
Is it worth it? Do you really want to allow your stressful lifestyle to rob you of your health? Clearly, stress MUST be managed. But how?
There are many effective stress management tools available but laughter yoga is my favorite. It is a unique and simple system that helps to reduce both physical and emotional stress through laughter “exercises” and gentle yoga breathing. It enables the mind and body get relief at the same time. And yes, it has been scientifically proven.
Dr. Lee Berk—associate director for the Center for Neuroimmunology, assistant research professor in the Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and assistant clinical professor of health promotion and education in the School of Public Health—started researching the benefits of laughter back in the late 1970s. Once he found some positive results, he and his colleague Stanley Tan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Loma Linda University, started to look further into the miracle drug of laughter.
So they extended a research invitation to William Fry, MD, then a psychiatrist at Stanford University, who had researched changes in blood pressure and heart rate related to laughter.
"Having the new tools in medicine to look at some of these stress hormones, we said [to Dr. Fry], ‘Fly down, bring your Laurel and Hardy tapes, let's sit down, we'll place an IV in your arm and we'll draw continuous blood samples while you're watching the tapes,'" Dr. Berk says.
Dr. Fry accepted the invitation.
"That was the initiation of everything," Dr. Berk adds. "We looked at the data and we fell on the floor. It was mind-blowing."
Since that time Drs. Berk and Tan have conducted controlled scientific experiments that have proven those early results that laughter does indeed lower stress hormones and give the immune system a boost among other things. Now these scientists who study laughter are known as gelotologists and they keep finding more exciting things about how laughter can help boost health.
So don't let stress get the best of you, practice laughter yoga. Laugh, breathe, connect with others and reap the amazing benefits. Cultivate a joy that lasts despite the stressors you face. You’ll be glad you did. ha ha ha ha ha!
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