Catching up with Karyn

When Women Laugh

Women are the world's best multi-taskers. We have to be. Look at our schedules. If we took the typical woman's day - especially if she's a member of the Sandwich Generation, caring for her children and her parents - and calculated how long it would take to complete every item on the to-do list, one item at a time, the total would be something close to 647 hours!

There's no way to cram 647 hours worth of activity into a 24 hour day. But boy, do we try. So we multi-task.

No matter what we're doing, we're also doing something else.

While we're driving the kids to school, we're also putting together a grocery list and phoning in the prescription refills we'll have to pick up at the end of the day. And coordinating who's getting picked up after soccer practice and who needs a ride to clarinet class.

While we're in the office, we're doing our jobs - and also some freelance HR, smoothing over a conflict between two cranky colleagues who have to work together; fielding a call from the...

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What's So Funny About OR Nursing?

We'd been called in for an emergency bowel obstruction. Our scrub nurse had some bad gas - don't ever trust the cafeteria's tacos! In the  middle of the procedure, the surgeon starts freaking out. "I nicked the bowel! Don't you smell that?"  He ran the bowel over and over before he was finally satisfied that it was intact, and he closed. Afterward, when I talked to the scrub nurse about it, she said, "What was I going to do - tell him I farted?!"

OR Nurses: this bookis for you! I count the years I spent as an OR nurse as some of the finest (and funniest!) of my career. Talk about the tight bond between nurses! I learned true caring, compassion, and grace-under-pressure from my colleagues behind those double doors.

There were also lots of laughs - and thank goodness for that. Laughter provides the emotional resiliency we need to operate at the top of our game in the high-stress, high-pressure OR environment. Nurses who laugh regularly enjoy considerable physical and mental...

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When Funny Turns Fatal: Are Pranks Healthy Humor?

humor is power stress Dec 13, 2012

Humor is a powerful force. For more than 20 years, I've been researching, teaching, and speaking to groups about the ways they can use humor to lower stress, live healthier lives, be more productive in the workplace and happier at home. That's why I was absolutely heartbroken to learn that Jacintha Saldanha, a British nurse, took her own life after being duped by a radio DJ's prank.

This tragic incident reinforces the fact that humor is power. We all have a responsibility to understand how our humor impacts others.  Pranks are a particularly problematic type of humor, as their entire humor value comes from someone else's pain and discomfort. Their fear, upset, or injury has become our source of amusement.

That's not healthy for us individually, and it's not healthy for us as a society. I've been very encouraged to see the discussions centering around the role of pranks in our media and culture. At a time when the problem of bullying is receiving so much attention, let's call...

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Humor and Healing: Laughing To Maintain Perspective

Humor is perhaps a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs. Christopher Morley

Whether you're dealing with a chronic health condition like diabetes or heart disease, are a caregiver for someone with those conditions, or are just trying to make it through life with less stress and more fun, humor helps. At times when we feel stressed out or overwhelmed (an exceptional set of circumstances I like to call a Typical Friday Afternoon!) it can be difficult to maintain a realistic set of proportion about what's going on in our lives. All of our problems and challenges become enlarged: all of a sudden, the fact that you've lost your phone charger is as catastrophic an event as you've ever experienced.

Rationally, you know that's not true. Losing a phone charger probably doesn't even  rate on your personal list of the 101 Most Terrible Things That Have Happened....

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What's So Funny About Diabetes: How Humor Helps Caregivers

I was on my way to speak to a group of diabetes educators at a regional hospital when I overheard two interns talking in the hallway. They were watching an elderly gentleman, who was moving slowly down the all, and trying to figure out exactly what the man's complaint might be.

“I’ll be you $5 he’s had a hemorrhoidectomy," one intern said.

The other intern did not agree. “No way. He’s suffering from arthritis.”

They both approached the man to inquire.

“Why are you moving so slowly, Sir?” asked one intern.

The old man replied, “My slippers are too large.”

Diabetes and the Family Caregiver

Being a caregiver - whether you're a health care professional or a family member or friend - can be challenging sometimes.   We like to think we know what's going on. After all, we work hard about being a good caregiver. This is especially true for people who care for someone who has diabetes. Over the years, I've spoken with...

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Is Trying To Be Happy Stressing You Out?

There's an important article by Brock Bastian, just now appearing in The Conversation, entitled "Is the promotion of happiness making us sad?" If you're living with diabetes, heart disease, or any other chronic condition, I'd really encourage you to take a look at it.

What you'll find there is an examination of the pursuit of happiness. Could anything be more American? We've even enshrined the words in our Declaration of Independence. We're a people that wants to be happy.If we're not happy, there's a tendency to pathologize that state - treating negative emotions as something that needs to be addressed with medication or therapy. Tremendous social pressure is placed on individuals to act as if they were happy, even if they're not. We're told to smile, and the whole world smiles with you.

Yet it turns out that the unrelenting pursuit of happiness, to an extent that it crowds out any other emotional state, such as sorrow or anxiety, can be counterproductive. Bastian's research...

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What's So Funny About Diabetes: Keeping Perspective

"Diabetes screening may not lower overall death rate!" the headline screams, reporting the latest insights from a 10-year British study.  This is the type of headline that highlights the value of humor. It's way too easy to get depressed when all the messaging you hear is negative and down-beat. This takes a toll on your emotional health, obviously, and it can be bad news for your physical well-being.

Feelings of despair, hopelessness, fear, and frustration can manifest as cardiac problems. Sustained emotional stress has long been identified as a factor in cardiac disease. As you know, as a person with diabetes, you're already at higher risk for heart disease, and more serious heart disease, than a person who doesn't have diabetes.  (You may have heard the term Diabetic Heart Disease. You can learn more about that here.)

Humor and Healing: Understanding Sarcasm and Dark  Humor

You can use humor to help counter the feelings of depression and anxiety that can arise...

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Humor & Healing: Time & Taboos

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." George Bernard Shaw

You know what day it is today.  You know it, despite the fact that it's been 11 years.  You know it, despite the fact that the New York Times and the New York Post aren't treating the anniversary as a front page story this year.  You know what day it is today.

Is it a day to laugh?

One of the questions that comes up often in discussions about therapeutic humor - leveraging the healing power of laughter to help us cope better and more effectively with trauma and stress - is if there are any topics that are off-limits, where laughter is taboo.  It's a question that comes up especially at this time of year, when people are confronted, once again, with the memories of a uniquely painful event.

Humor & Healing: What's The Relationship

Before we talk about whether or not it's appropriate to laugh about the events of a particular day, it...

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What's So Funny About Healthcare?

It might be hard to find an answer to that question.  The healthcare community is facing a plethora of perplexing problems.  There’s a continual pressure to do more with less.  All we have to do is see more patients, cure more conditions, and increase customer satisfaction with fewer staff, in less time, with fewer resources every day.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to laugh about.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Healthcare needs humor.  Humor has incredible benefits for our patients, our health care providers, and for the health care organizations and systems.

The strategic use of humor can transform the health care experience for everyone. Here’s how humor can help:

  • Improve the patient experience, opening the doors to effective communication and alleviating anxiety
  • Create a positive work place environment. Combat the problem of nursing hostility and staff tension
  • Provide staff with an effective, low cost way to reduce...
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The Legacy of Laughter: Creating Bonds that Last

In the New York Times today, Ellen Lupton has a column on how to lose a legacy.  Lupton examines our relationship with physical things: how keeping a set of dishes within a family for generations provokes feelings on continuity and connectedness – or, loosely paraphrased, how her non-hunting husband wound up with a doe’s head hanging proudly in their suburban living room.

These items can be wonderful, meaningful additions to our lives, Lupton asserts—but they can also be a burden. Storing, moving, and caring for the souvenirs of days gone by can be a challenge – as anyone who has ever tried to decorate for the holidays and move cross country in the same year can tell you!

Even if you want to retain every memento, from your children’s macaroni masterpiece through the dessert menu from the last time you went to Olive Garden, there’s always a risk of loss.  Natural disasters, housekeeping concerns, and plain old entropy are conspiring...

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