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Consumer Health Resources: Stress, Humor & the Workplace

Resources and tips for patients and health consumers

Countless health research studies and documented medical cases show the negative effects of stress on health and well-being.

Stressful situations in our workplaces are unavoidable.

If we cannot control or stop the causes of stress, we can find positive, constructive methods to maintain our health and well-being.

Humor relieves stress and helps us be positive, productive and effective.

Negative Health Effects of Stress

Stress is caused by any event or occurrence (ongoing or isolated) that threatens an individual's coping strategies or resources.

Common physical manifestations of stress:

  • disrupted sleep
  • indigestion
  • stomach ache
  • chest pains
  • high blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • back or neck pain
  • headaches

Common psychological manifestations of stress:

  • anxiety
  • frustration
  • irritability
  • depression
  • burnout

Positive Benefits of Laughter and Humor

A good "sense" of humor and laughter can trigger both short and long-term health benefits, increasing overall well-being.

“With the fearful strain that is on me night and day,
if I did not laugh, I should die.” ~ Abraham Lincoln, 1865

Immediate Benefits of Humor and Laughter

  • Increases respiration, heart rate, muscular activity
  • Triggers increased oxygenation & circulation
  • Releases endorphins in the brain
  • Eases tension, makes one feel more "relaxed"

Long-Term Benefits of Humor and Laughter

  • Boosts immune system--positive thoughts release neuropeptides (fight stress)
  • Relieves pain--reduces tension, prevents muscle spasms, releases the body's natural pain killers
  • Improves mood--hard to "dwell in darkness" when you're smiling and laughing!
  • Strengthens your relationships with others--people are attracted to happy, fun, positive people

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone." ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Remember to "Lighten Up"


Mixing humor into the workplace is a social skill.

Consider timing, audience, and intent. Be prepared to follow-up whether you "fly" or "fail"

Never use humor to gain power, bully, or tear-down

People appreciate positive, "bonding" humor over aggressive humor

Humor should bring people together or smooth the way during disagreement

Constructive criticism is delivered better with a smile than a frown

Don't take yourself too seriously....humor can keep you afloat!

Collaboration and cooperation are strengthened by shared humor and laughter

Recommended Reading

The best medicine?. (2015). Mayo Clinic Health Letter, 33(7), 7. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Cann, A., & Kuiper, N. A. (2014). Research on the role of humor in well-being and health. Europe's Journal Of Psychology, 10(3), 412-428. doi:10.5964/ejop.v10i3.818

Frey, R. J., & Cataldo, L. J. (2020). Stress. In J. L. Longe (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine (6th ed., Vol. 8, pp. 4914-4920). Gale. 

Purcell, M. (2016, May 17). The healing power of humor. Psych Central.

Romero, E.J., & Cruthirds, K.W. (2006). The use of humor in the workplace. The Academy of Management Perspectives 20(2), 58-69.

Shellenbarger, S. (2013, August 13). Secrets of effective office humor: Making colleagues laugh takes timing, self-confidence--and the ability to rebound from a blooper. Wall Street Journal.

Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke. (2021, July 29). Mayo Clinic.

Thompson, K. (2013). Funny Business at Work. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 93(3), 25. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Need Help?


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Want to contact your Nursing & Health Sciences Librarian or set up a virtual or F2F appointment with her? Email Debra Smith:

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