This is a guest post by Ashley Hardway

Ever since I can remember, I have been using humor to alleviate anxieties in relationships and in life situations that would otherwise be overwhelming to me. Some people, like my own mother, do not understand how I can make light of things that should be making me cry.

I found that sharing heartaches with friends helped. But I also realized that you cannot always show up with bad news or you will find that none but your closest friends will remain.

I realized if I had anxiety issues I needed to share, I could tell the story with just a touch of embellishment and make it like a scene out of a Marx Brothers movie. I could make people laugh and still reap the benefits of getting it off of my chest.

For example, one summer I wanted to take the kids on a family vacation. This particular year we did not have a lot of money, but I had worked it all out. I proposed this plan to my spouse and received a quick response of “not going to happen.” I told my spouse I wanted to go and the kids wanted to go and if I could scrape the money up by saving grocery money, etc., I and the kids were going.

I worked hard to get that vacation together. My spouse would have nothing to do with it, did not help with anything including the packing. But the day before, when everything was all packed up and ready to go, my spouse came and told me he had a change of heart and was going to go!

The next day I was scheduled to work half a day and then we were taking off. When I got to work I began to share over coffee how hard I had struggled and what had gone on to get to this point. I told the whole story as if it was something I had watched on a sitcom; the kind when total chaos ensues and they make it hilarious.

Before I was done, the coffee room was full and people were laughing so hard some were actually crying. I got it off my chest and by the time we left I felt much better and the anxiety associated with the situation had greatly been reduced.

I did this many times at work when I was going through a particularly rough time in my marriage. I had one co-worker ask how I came up with the material and suggested I go on stage. They did not believe it came from my life. I suppose many comedians get their material the same way.

Now, I understand this technique would not work for everyone. Individual personality has a great deal to do with it. But there are many circumstances in everybody’s life when humor can be used to lighten the burden and lift the spirits—situations with spouses, children, and in the many relationships we encounter in life.

I also run into many people who seem to be overcome with anxiety—the cashier in the grocery store, a co-worker, a family member, or a neighbor—and sometimes all it takes is a smile and a bit of humor to lift the burden off their shoulders. Laughter is a wonderful medication.

An irritable child can take a turn for the better with a bit of humor. I am not talking about the humor that makes fun of an individual—sharing something funny that happened to you that day or using an anecdote from a funny television show can do the trick.

I realize humor can be out of place in many situations. But often we get into petty arguments and the anxiety level goes up and in those cases the use of humor can bring the situation back into a healthy perspective. Sometimes what we are angry over has nothing to do with the current situation and is something else altogether. A little levity, delivered with care, can help.

You may have seen the commercials where the kids are cooking in the kitchen and make a terrible mess or start shooting each other with soda pop, etc. Then the mom comes in looking angry but joins in on the food fight. There are situations we happen upon with our children that sometimes cause overwhelm, but that need not be so. If you have to clean it up anyway (or they do) then sometimes it’s okay to find the humor in the situation.

I ran into a man the other day I recognized. He works in the grocery store in the dairy department. I remembered him from his prior job at the dollar store and he told me the hours were bad and they expected too much for way too little and he was so happy to be working in the dairy department even though his hands were freezing. I asked for his name and he said, “I’m Larry, in the dairy, without too much hairy!” (He’s balding.) It made me laugh and he laughed and we parted smiling.

Life is way too short to let the smaller things throw you out of balance and cause you great anxiety. Look for the humor in life and where you can lighten things up. You will find yourself and everyone else around you smiling and leaving with a new outlook for even just a little while.

Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in the Houston, Texas, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.

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