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Stressed? Distract, Reframe and Refuel—with Humor (Part 1: Distract)

It was a dark and stormy night…(really) and I was waiting to board a flight along with around 200 fellow passengers. We were already delayed an hour and a half and the mood was as dark inside the terminal as it was outside.

We were finally cleared to board, and folks—while anxious about the delay—were relieved to finally be moving out of the gate area and onto the plane. The flight attendant sprinted through her safety routine while I and others nervously calculated if there was any way we were going to make our connections. We rolled onto the tarmac and the pilot announced we were #17 in the lineup—seems there were a LOT of folks trying to get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge that night.

Slowly we taxied closer to the runway. #15…#12…#8—the pilot periodically would announce our progress. But the next time we heard his voice, it was anything but progress.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. While we were waiting for clearance, another band of storms has moved into the area. There’s a high degree of lightning and we’re grounded until further notice. We can’t go back to the gate so we’ll have to sit it out here on the tarmac. We’ll be dimming the lights. Please remain in your seats. We’ll keep you posted.”

A cacophony of curses and groans filled the plane. My stomach sank. My shoulders tightened. A stream of worst-case-scenarios flashed through my mind. Would I be stuck here overnight? Would I miss my speaking engagement tomorrow? Would the client be able to find another speaker? The more I thought about it, the sicker I felt.

I pulled out my phone to review my itinerary. And then it occurred to me that I had downloaded an audio of one of my favorite funny authors onto my phone. I fumbled for my headphones and turned on “David Sedaris Live at Carnegie Hall.”

I scrunched back in my seat (exit row, aisle: everybody follow me if the plane goes down!) and listened as Sedaris read hysterical yet poignant stories of his life. I began to smile. Then he got to one story that has become a traditional favorite in our house (Santa and The 6-8 Black Men—the story is so far from what you’re probably thinking—please, just go listen to it here). I began to laugh.

As the story became more outrageous, I began to laugh harder. Then he came to the climax of the story and I began to guffaw—now totally unaware of the people and circumstances that surrounded me. I laughed so hard tears ran down my cheeks. As the flight attendant walked down the dimly lit aisle, she misconstrued my belly laughter for uncontrollable sobbing. She knelt beside me and tried to console me. When I realized what she was doing, the absurdity of the situation combined with the cleansing release of laughter created the ultimate catharsis—and I lost it. I laughed so hard, tears ran down my leg.

Did the distraction of the funny audio change my situation? No. But it did distract me from focusing on circumstances that were beyond my control. It provided a brief respite in the midst of a stressful trip. I could sit in my seat and worry about what might happen, or I could sit in my seat and be amused. It would be the same amount of time either way.

I keep a number of humorous distractions within reach at all times. I suggest you do the same. You’ll enjoy the journey a lot more.

 You have a choice. Choose humor.

©2018 Karyn Buxman.  All rights reserved

Karyn Buxman is a TEDx speaker, ForbesBooks author, and neurohumorist (she lives at the intersection of humor and the brain.) A pioneer in the emerging science of applied humor, Karyn helps high performers expand their influence, strengthen their relationships, and boost their resilience. From the Mayo Clinic to the Million Dollar Round Table, organizations around the world hire Karyn to educate, inspire, and entertain their audiences again and again. She’s one of 194 people (and only 43 women) in the world to be inducted into the National Speakers Association's Speaker Hall of Fame. Her latest book, Funny Means Money will be published by Forbes in 2019. Karyn is serious about humor!

She can also be reached via:

[email protected]
Twitter: @KarynBuxman
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