Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

The spring of 2020 has bubbled over with as much turbulence as oxygen in the air.

A global coronavirus pandemic, a stay-at-home period that undoubtedly saved lives but shattered jobs and businesses and turned parents into schoolteachers, wearing masks became as commonplace as wearing pants, a re-opening phase during which COVID-19 is spiking in some states, and a police brutality murder in Minneapolis that inflamed our streets and ignited a monumental movement to end systemic racism once and for all.

If there ever was a time for stress, this is it.

Of course, you could cope by drinking like an enormously thirsty fish or wailing like a banshee.

Granted, neither option is recommended by most medical professionals.

Fortunately, there is a better option.

A sense of humor.

OK, I realize this is not exactly the time for belly laughs. But you can start with a smile. And if that proves too difficult, start by faking a smile. Believe or not, a fake smile tends to lead to a genuine one. Which means that laughter will come more easily, and the stress will melt like a pat of butter on hot asphalt.

If you find that your face right now is frozen into a frown, you can turn that upside down by thinking of something humorous such as: You’re only young once, but you can always be immature.

A smile is the gateway to happiness, even if only for a short while. That’s because the act of smiling (real or fake) causes your body to release feel-good endorphins.

You can enhance your sense of humor by recruiting funny friends. Social support is a crucial part of stress management. Find some friends with whom you can share your fears and frustrations and find a way to laugh about them in the process. Cultivating a sense of absurdity can trigger plenty of chuckles.

Don’t forget to wear masks and stay six feet apart when meeting with your funny buddies. Or do it on Zoom, the latest rage in our New Normal. Even when you’re not chatting with your friends, you can lighten your mood by recalling the banter-filled conversations.

Watching funny TV shows and movies and reading funny books also can resuscitate your sense of humor in bleak times.

Sitcoms are popular because they often take somewhat universal situations that people find frustrating and push them a little further to show the silly side of it all. Reading humorous books or novels can help you maintain a light-hearted point-of-view and see the world in a different light.

If you sadly find that after following all these tips you still have the sense of humor of a baked potato, sit on a joy buzzer.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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