Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Archive for November, 2012

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. It might not even be in the top 1,001! But when we’re highly stressed and overwhelmed, it’s easy to forget that. Our emotional resources are already so overtaxed that one more stressor is enough to tip us right over the edge. If you’ve ever found yourself sobbing over a lost phone charger the way you’d cry during Bambi, you know what I’m talking about.

What do you do in those situations?

Step one is to try and recognize the moment where things get out of whack. Practicing mindfulness and awareness of our emotional state is an essential technique in the holistic management of chronic illness. When you feel your emotions escalating way more than they need to, given the circumstances (and YOU are the only valid judge of this criteria!) it’s time to stop what you are doing and take a five minute humor break.

During that five minutes, do something that makes you laugh – or at least smile.  Check out your favorite funny websites. Call a humor hotline. Practice some laughter yoga techniques. Spend five minutes enjoying humor. You’ll feel better!

At the end of those five minutes, your phone charger will still be lost – but you’ll find that you’re much better prepared to deal with searching for it. Laughter restores and promotes emotional balance, in part by creating physical changes within our bodies. The act of laughing lowers blood pressure, increases circulation, and even helps minimize blood sugar spikes. Enjoying humor is a great, all-natural way to bring perspective back into your day and put your body back in balance.

PS: Still looking for your phone charger? Try your jacket pocket. That’s almost always where I find mine! What’s the strangest place you’ve ever found your phone charger?


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A Day in the Life of Diabetes

It’s time to show the world what Diabetes looks like! I’m really excited about the American Diabetes Association’s project, A Day in the Life of Diabetes, to demonstrate the increasing impact diabetes has on our families and communities nationwide.  Successfully managing diabetes can be a herculean task, making what might seem like an otherwise ordinary life rather extraordinary.

You are invitedto share a personal image, on the Association’s Facebook page, representing what “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to them. The image can be a picture of themselves, someone they care about, or otherwise represent how the disease impacts their lives.  The image will then make up a larger mosaic image that will embody the message of “A Day in the Life of Diabetes.”

To encourage individuals to share photos of A Day in the Life of Diabetes on Facebook, CVS/pharmacy® will donate $1 to the American Diabetes Association for every photo/image uploaded, up to $25,000.

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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 family caregivers who could put the average endocrinologist to shame when it comes to diabetes knowledge – especially when their loved one is concerned! These folks knew everything there was to know about how their loved one managed their diabetes. They could predict blood sugar spikes to the minute. No meters for these folks – they could tell with a single glance if their loved one was about to crash.

But diabetes is a tricky disease. You can do everything right, and have your blood sugar numbers come out all wrong. The medication routine that had been working wonderfully for years can suddenly stop working entirely. Bad things happen – and there’s really nothing that the family caregiver can do about it.

How Humor Helps Caregivers

As a caregiver, it’s important to understand that feelings of frustration and stress are incredibly normal. You may feel tension building up inside you around testing time, for example. So  much hinges on your loved one’s sugars staying in the appropriate range. When everything turns out to be okay, some of that tension melts away – but not all of it. We can accumulate stress and tension, building up layers of fear and anxiety. This isn’t good for your physical or mental health.

Laughter, particularly hearty sustained laughter, dissipates that tension. The stress level drops. The old residue of fear and anxiety is forgotten in the face of mirth and amusement.Take the time to laugh every day.  It’s the best thing you can do to help maintain the emotional equilibrium so central to being a great caregiver.


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What’s So Funny About Diabetes: Laughter Yoga

Generally, I don’t have a hard time convincing people to add the healing power of humor to their diabetes management routine.  Unlike diet and exercise, laughing is actually fun.  (Yes, I know there are people who will tell you there’s nothing more fun than an invigorating spin class. I am not one of those people.) Still, there are times when it seems like there’s nothing in your life worth laughing about.

My friends, this is what yoga laughter was made for. I encourage you to check laughter yoga out. If you ever need to put a smile on your face in a hurry, try this simple exercise from What’s So Funny About Diabetes?: A Creative Approach to Coping with Your Disease. It’s one of my absolute favorites:

Gradient Laughter

Start by smiling—then slowly begin to laugh with a gentle chuckle. Increase the intensity and volume of the laugh until you’ve achieved a hearty laugh. Then gradually bring the laugh back down to a smile again.

It sounds simple, right? Just try it. It’s okay if you do this all on your own, in the privacy of your own room. No one needs to know what you’re laughing about! Feel the oxygen coming into your lungs as you laugh? That’s pumping up your circulatory system, great for promoting healing and boosting your energy level. Hearty laughter drops the blood pressure and promotes immune function. When you’re laughing, you won’t just feel better – you’ll be better!

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Diabetes Awareness Month: Making Time for Humor

As we celebrate Diabetes Awareness Month, I’d like to share a few thoughts on making time for humor.  We all live extremely busy lives, balancing careers, families, social lives and managing our health care. Days go by at light speed.  We’re always on the go. One minute we’re running here, the next we’re going there, with a million things to do. Our to-do lists are six miles long, on average, and every item never gets crossed off. At this pace, entire days can go by when there’s just no time to laugh.  Those days add up, and before you know it, you’re looking at weeks, even months, without humor.

Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? For most people, it’s been a while. But as I explain in What’s So Funny About Diabetes?, people with diabetes enjoy significantly better health when they laugh regularly and often. There are multiple ways humor helps us achieve effective diabetes management. Something as simple as laughing at your favorite sit com has been clinically proven to minimize post-meal blood sugar spikes.

How can you break through the busy to incorporate more humor into your life? Try treating yourself to a humor appetizer.  Since we know that laughing prior to meals helps minimize blood sugar spikes later on, make a point of enjoying humor before you eat.  This doesn’t have to be difficult!

If you’re in the habit of checking your emails first thing in the morning (and many of us are!) subscribe to a funny Joke of the Day list and read those before breakfast.  Schedule lunch dates with your funniest friends or co-workers.  Put your favorite sit com on the tv while you’re preparing dinner. (Caution: don’t try to make complicated recipes while watching The Big Bang Theory -it’s really easy for everything to go horribly, horribly wrong. Ask me how I know this!)

What’s your favorite tip for adding humor to your daily routine?

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Election Day Humor

To err is human. To blame someone else…that’s politics!

Here we are, at long last – Election Day 2012!  It’s your chance to exercise your right to vote. Please do! To put a smile on your face before you head to the polls, here’s some Election Day Humor:

If Obama wins, I will leave the country. If Romney wins, I will leave the country. This is not a political joke, I just want to travel.

The biggest problem with political jokes is that they get elected!

Politicians are like diapers.They both need changing regularly and for the same reason.

What’s So Funny About Diabetes: A Note About Political Humor

Political humor is intensely popular – just ask Jon Stewart! Jokes about President Obama or his opponent, Mitt Romney, work well for late night TV stars – but they can be pretty problematical in person. Etiquette experts tell us that it’s best to avoid all humor about politics, religion, and any other contentious subject. Humor advocates, myself included, think that political humor has a place – but you do need to be careful with it.

Politics are intensely personal. The issues being discussed – health care, the economy, foreign policy, and more – aren’t abstract concepts. They’re central to our existence, on a daily basis. People become very invested in the outcome of elections, because the quality of their life will change based upon the results. For a lot of people, this is no joking matter. When they hear people laughing about the election, they can feel that their concerns are being trivialized or dismissed. This results in anger and upset, which they express – it doesn’t take long to discover exactly why political humor has such a bad reputation.

Should You Use Political Humor?

One way to use political humor safely is to keep it general.  Rather than making fun of a particular candidate or party, laughing about the absurdities of our political process allows everyone to enjoy the humor without feeling attacked or slighted.

What happens if you’ve got a great dig about Romney or a hysterical Obama joke you’re dying to share? In What’s So Funny About Diabetes?: A Creative Approach to Coping with Your Disease, I recommend that people “Check their BET” before telling potentially upsetting humor. BET stands for Bond, Environment, and Timing.

Bond: How well do you know the people you’re telling the political joke to? If you’ve worked on the campaign trail together, chances are you share the same style political humor.  If you don’t have the first clue if your audience identifies as Democrat, Republican, Conservative or Liberal, you don’t know them well enough to do political humor.

Environment: Not all humor works equally well in every setting. Be mindful of your surroundings before using political humor. Sensitive locations like the workplace are probably not the ideal setting for political humor – unless you have plans of finding other employment after the election!

Timing:  Choose the appropriate moment to share political humor. If your audience is relaxed and receptive, fine. If they’re stressed out, in crisis mode, or trying to concentrate on something else, your jokes may be seen as an annoyance or distraction rather than funny.

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What’s So Funny About Diabetes: Diabetes Awareness Month Starts Today!

An anxious woman called her doctor. “I’m diabetic and I’m afraid I’ve had too much sugar today,” she said.

“Are you light-headed? ” the nurse asked.

“No,” the caller answered, “I’m a brunette”.

Are you ready? November 1st marks the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month! For the next 30 days, we’re going to be featuring jokes, cartoons, and all types of diabetes-themed  humor, designed to make you laugh.  Laughter has a vital role to play in your diabetes management. When you laugh, your body responds in many ways: lowering blood pressure, increasing circulation, and minimizing post-meal blood sugar spikes.  Enjoying humor is lots of fun – and it can actually make you feel better!

Humor helps:

  • If you have Type 1 Diabetes
  • If you have Type 2 Diabetes
  • If you have Gestational Diabetes
  • If you don’t have diabetes at all – but you love someone who does!

In What’s So Funny About Diabetes?: A Creative Approach to Coping with Your Disease you can read about how humor can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar. Here’s a quick peek between the covers:

Does your blood sugar spike after suppertime? Humor can help lower the increase in blood sugar you experience after eating a meal. A research study from Japan showed that those who watched a brief comedy show after eating had lower glucose values than those who did not see the program.

Over two days, participants were given identical meals. On one day, they watched a humorless lecture, and the next they watched a Japanese comedy show. The group of 19 people with diabetes and five without had their blood glucose monitored during the study.

While non-diabetics showed no difference in blood glucose following the serious lecture or the comedy show, diabetics showed significantly lower blood glucose levels following the comedy show, but not the boring lecture. (The study was published in Diabetes Care.) The glucose reducing effect of humor was replicated in three additional studies. While the scientists can’t yet put their finger on what’s responsible for the blood-glucose lowering effect in diabetics, the researchers suggest that these findings point to “the importance of daily opportunities for laughter in patients with diabetes.”

Studies show that laughing lowers your levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol increases insulin resistance, while adrenaline tells your liver to pump more glucose into your blood. The combined effect can be a lasting reduction in blood glucose levels. In other words, laughter can probably help lower your blood glucose and keep it down for quite a while!

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