When Jet Blue flight Attendant Steven Slater had a “meltdown,” grabbed two beers, deployed and slid down the airplane’s escape shoot, he struck a cord with many people nationwide. He was lauded as a hero on thousands of Facebook pages, and people on talk radio, as well, were all getting a good laugh. One commentator said if we all had an escape hatch, 80% of Americans would quit their job like that!
Yes, what he did was irresponsible…and not to be commended. Yet nevertheless, he gave Americans a chance to collectively lighten up a bit…and underscored the importance of dealing with stress before it reaches the boiling point.
Many people initially come to see me because of job stress…either from the work itself or because of the stresses of dealing with difficult people at the worksite..I tell them I don’t believe in stress…meaning stress needs to be dealt with in the beginning stages…before it becomes destructive. As an advocate of positive mental health, one of the things I emphasize is the need to lighten up. Humor is one of the best ways to do this. In the book The Psychology of Happiness by Arlene Matthews Uhl, pages 74 through 76, there are several quotes that give credibility of the effectiveness of laughter:
“When we laugh, we feel good. In fact, it is impossible to feel bad when we laugh. Even if we are in the midst of a highly stressful or sad time, laughter offers us an oasis. Research shows it can even help us recover from the extreme distress that accompanies life-changing losses…When a University of Tel Aviv researcher interviewed Holocaust survivors, humor was repeatedly mentioned as a mechanism for helping people to survive trauma. When a researcher at the university of California at Berkeley studied widows and widowers whose spouses had died six months before, he noted that those who had established the ability to laugh within weeks of their loved one’s passing displayed less stress and many more positive emotions two to four years later. Humor, it turns-out, is not only a unique human tool to facilitate survival, but also a mechanism to facilitate thriving and resilience. The more laughs we have in our life, the better able we are to handle whatever comes our way and the more we are able to take pleasure from each day…Laughter elevates natural mood-enhancing endorphins and releases the feel-good brain chemical dopamine. At the same time, laughter turns down our stress hormone spigot. Studies show it also significantly lowers the chemical cortisol, which is associated with negative stress…After exposure to humor, there is a general increase in our immune system activity.”
Scripture lists joy as the second fruit of the Spirit, and states: “a merry heart does good like medicine” …and Christ wanted His “joy to be full in them (us)”.
You can increase your joy and happiness…and lower your stress level…by learning to see the bright side, increasing your exposure to humorous videos, books, and magazines, sharing humor with fellow workers, surrounding yourself with lighthearted people, and most important praying for more of the joy of the Lord!
Other helpful hints to reduce stress are to get a good night’s sleep, have quality nutrition, participate in your favorite exercise daily, learn how to manage difficult people, have a daily dose of play (slide down the slide at a playground instead?) and take life one day at a time.
Steven Slater’s dramatic exit can serve to remind us all to lighten up on the job. Bringing in lots of joy and laughter at work and at home can go a long way towards preventing personal distress, depression, and general malaise. And those around you will be encouraged and refreshed by your cheerful attitude. Remember: “The joy of the Lord is our strength!”