Stressed out? You're not alone. According to recent statistics more than one-third of adults reported an increase in stress last year; stats aren't yet in for this year. But job pressures, financial difficulties, caregiving responsibilities and more take their toll on parents, especially during the holidays when there are so many expectations … and you don't want to let the kids down. Find calm in the storm by becoming more mindful and putting your life's challenges into perspective. Stress impacts the body in many ways. Symptoms include headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, appetite changes, sleep disturbances and low energy. Over time, stress may weaken your immune system. "Once a person feels overwhelmed and helpless — when symptoms are affecting work, daily activities and relationships — it may be time to seek professional help," says Jennifer Ferrell-Hanington, a licensed psychologist. If you feel you may need therapy, getting started may take a little time and your doctor's referral. So what can help in the meantime? Laughter. And that's no joke.
Research Bears It Out
Laughter is the best medicine. You've heard the saying, but did you know it actually has scientific backing? A 2010 study published in Alternative Therapies, "The Therapeutic Value of Laughter in Medicine," found that laughter shows physiological, psychological, social, spiritual and quality of life benefits. Laughter is also a powerful endorphin releaser in social situations (think about the pleasure of a big group laugh), according to research published last year in The Journal of Neuroscience. Laughing with others releases endorphins in the brain through opioid receptors. The more of these receptors a person has, the more powerful the effect. Maybe one of the most striking benefits of laughing is that research shows it actually protects your heart. According to work conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter has an anti-inflammatory effect that protects blood vessels and heart muscles from damaging effects of cardiovascular disease. The truth is, regular, hearty laughter is good for everyone.
Yuck It Up & Laugh More on Purpose
Even if something's got you down enough not to feel like laughing, a major antidote to stress is to literally seek out ways to laugh. Bring a little laughter into your home by seeking out good old yuk yuks on purpose. Discover funny gems on YouTube (be sure you check them out before sitting down together with the kids). Some of the top funny family-friendly YouTube channels of 2018 include NigaHiga; Smosh; Good Mythical Morning; and Jenna Marbles. Ask your family for YouTube suggestions, too. Plenty of kids know their way around the funniest aspects of YouTube videos. Other ways of purposefully finding ways to laugh include spending more time enjoying your kids and pets; people watching; not taking anything too seriously; and acting like a kid again.