Karyn Buxman

Catching Up With Karyn

Archive for January, 2014

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum Highlights Value of Humor for Heart Health in New Book

Heart health is a top priority for me. It’s also a big worry for the millions of women out there just like me who know that heart disease is our #1 killer. More than cancer, more than diabetes, more than having your brain explode inside your skull when someone says, “Don’t worry about it, Little Lady – it’s a Man thing!”, heart disease is killing us.

This is not a good thing. But there is good news. We’re not powerless against heart disease. There are things we can do – choices we can make and actions we can perform – to reduce our risk of heart disease. And if we’re at a point where we have heart disease – or we’re precariously on the brink – making the right choices and changes can help us slow the disease’s progression.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum presents a comprehensive overview of the positive changes we could be making to improve our health in her new Heart Book: Every Woman’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy Life. I was particularly happy to see her emphasis on the value of humor for heart health.

“It is also important to never forget to laugh,” Dr. Steinbaum says in a recent Forbes magazine interview. “Laughter improves immune function, lowers blood pressure, enhances mood and decreases stress and depression.” Additionally, laughter is free, portable, always available, and works with everyone’s diet. This makes it an ideal practice to add to your healthy heart routine.

You eat healthy every day; you stay away from cigarettes every day; you exercise every day – now add laughing every day. It’s easier than you might think. Some of you are probably already laughing at the idea that you eat healthy and exercise every day – but honestly, all we can do in this world is our best. Having a positive attitude and laughing often will make it easier to maintain – and perhaps even improve – your heart health.

Want to learn more about adding more humor to your life in order to manage your heart health effectively? Check out What’s So Funny About Heart Disease? It’s a simple, silly guide jam packed with some serious science that will get you laughing – and feeling better! – fast.

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A Change of Plans!

Well, folks, I’m afraid I have some disappointing news. The stars didn’t line up in quite the way they needed to, and as a result the January 18th Vibrantly You Women’s Wellness Seminar is being postponed to a future date. As soon as I find out more information about the new date, venue and speaker details, I will be sure to let you know.

Having your plans change can certainly be a stressor. Luckily, humor provides us with an all-natural, drug-free way to boost our emotional resilience – minimizing the impact of stress on our physical and emotional health. With that in mind, I offer the best joke I’ve heard all day to you:

Q: How does an octopus go to war?

A: Well-armed!

Want to boost the benefit you just got from that simple laugh? Share it with a friend. Try the 24-Hour  Humor Challenge: see how many people you can  make laugh – or at least groan! – with that joke (or anything else that makes you laugh!) over the course of the next day. You’ll be surprised how much fun it can be.

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Humor is Power: Leaders and Organizational Culture

Full disclosure: I have always found the traffic in New Jersey to be challenging. For as long as I can remember, the minute I got behind the wheel in the Garden State, something would happen to slow the journey way down. There have been the typical fender benders and weather-related snafus, of course, but there’s also always been an added layer of strangeness to my particular journeys: one time, a tractor trailer full of tomatoes tipped over – we’re talking marina sauce for miles! – and on another occasion, the delay was caused by approximately 75 million Justin Beiber fans en route to wherever it is 75 million Justin Beiber fans go.

But lately, there have been some traffic problems in New Jersey that have nothing to do with wayward produce or rock stars. As you may have heard, recent traffic problems in New Jersey may have had a political cause. On Friday, Governor Chris Christie held a long press conference in which he apologized for the traffic slowdowns, adding that the responsible parties had been fired, and that he, himself, had been lied to throughout this event.

One question was asked, time and time again: What kind of culture was there in Christie’s administration that his leadership team would have even imagined that such actions were acceptable? It was a short walk from there to an examination of Governor Christie’s personal leadership style.

Leaders and Organizational Culture: Up Close and Personal

As a leader, it can be a very uncomfortable feeling to know that responsibility for all of the actions your organization takes – whether or not you were even aware those actions were being taken – comes back to rest squarely on your shoulders. It’s hard to overstate how important a leader’s personality, behavior, and conduct is in creating an organizational culture. Governor Christie’s scandal should, if nothing else, prompt leaders in every arena to look at their actions and say to themselves, “What message am I really sending to my team about what is and is not acceptable behavior?”

As a leader, we can empower our team with messages of trust and confidence, or we can hold them back with unclear communication, continually changing expectations, micromanagement, and hostility. The way we conduct ourselves will influence the way the people who report to us conduct themselves.  Your personal management style will shape the way your organization reacts to crisis and other events. The way we act as leaders is infinitely more important than anything we might say.

Humor can play a pivotal role in making your team feel safe and comfortable coming to you – no matter what the situation is. A leader who laughs is a leader who has demonstrated they’re capable of human understanding and empathy. These are two traits that become especially important when someone needs to present you with information you may not want to hear – something very common in a crisis situation.

One of the lessons we can learn from Governor Christie’s troubles is that the public perceives a strong and direct link between an individual leader’s management style and the actions of that organization. It’s a call to action to look at ourselves and determine if the leadership style we have is really the one we want to have. If the answer to that is no, now is the time to start making changes for the better!

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Laughter: The Key To Living Longer, Better Lives Even When You Have Cancer

At age 25, Zora was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The news wasn’t exactly shocking – a strong family history had been a part of the reason Zora’d been so diligent about being screened, key to her early diagnosis. What did shock Zora was how completely Breast Cancer took over her life.

“All of a sudden, everything in my life -every decision, every aspect of my day – was centered around dealing with this cancer.  That’s all anyone wanted to talk about,” Zora said. “My co-workers, my husband, my family, my friends: it was totally overwhelming.”

When a well-meaning colleague asked Zora what she could do to help, Zora said it was the last straw. “I just snapped, and said, ‘Why don’t we go do something fun and not even talk about my cancer at all!'” Much to her surprise, her colleague instantly agreed, and they went to the movies. “We saw We’re The Millers and I laughed until I cried.”

Coming out of the movies, Zora said, “I felt so good. It was probably the best I’d felt since getting the diagnosis, honestly. Because for that time, I wasn’t Zora-who-has-breast-cancer. I was just Zora. And it felt so good!”

Laughter: A Healthy Coping Mechanism That Builds Emotional Resilience

When I heard Zora’s story, I couldn’t help but nod. It’s so similar to the tales I and other humor researchers have been hearing for decades from cancer patients. The experience of laughter provides a much needed respite from the constant stress and pressure that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

Many times, patients report that their very identity had been supplanted by their diagnosis, pigeonholed into what society believes someone coping with cancer looks like. Laughter is a simple, effective way to break out of that pigeonhole and step back into their own authentic identity. This does more for happiness levels and overall mental health levels than any other intervention. Best of all, laughter is free, portable, and side-effect free!

If you believe that it is not just the quantity of our days that matter, but the quality of those days, you’ll want to investigate the powerful impact laughter can have on health and well-being. It’s amazing how the simplest, most natural way to entertain yourself  can change the experience of living with cancer.


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Headed to Chiberia: How Humor Helps Us Face Stressful Weather

Later this week, I’m appearing in Chicago, where things have been, as you may have heard, a little chilly lately. Just the thought of confronting sub-zero temperatures and the need to take precautions against frostbite is enough to stress this California girl out – but what can you do? Work still needs to get done, even when the weather’s not cooperating.

Humor is power. It helps us build emotional resiliency, preparing us to better face things like -45 degree weather. I believe this. The research supports this. I tell people of all types – business leaders, nurses, health care systems administrators, students, teachers – how to use humor to prepare them to tackle even the most challenging thing.

But there’s just one problem. I couldn’t think of a single funny thing about extreme cold weather. Perhaps I had a frozen funny bone. It happens.

That’s when I turned to my trusty friend, the Internet. At times like this, when you really need a laugh, Google Image Search is truly your friend. Searching for “funny so cold” reveals:

I’ll admit it. I laughed out loud.

And the instant I laughed, I felt a little better. Some of the anxiety about subjecting my body to sub-zero temperatures slid off of my shoulders.

Humor shared is humor increased. So I sent that image to a friend who’d been patiently listening to my angst about the trip to Chiberia…I mean Chicago.

Her reply?

“That’s so cute I can’t bear it!”

Now I was groaning – but just at her pun, and not with worry or dread. My funny bone had apparently started thawing out.

I share this story with you in case you wind up facing a day full of extreme weather, whether that’s frigid cold, sweltering heat, or worst of all, election season. Each weather event is going to require its own unique set of preparations and coping skills – but laughter will always make it more bearable.

If the laughs aren’t coming automatically (and sometimes they don’t!) go looking for them.  Scour social media, call your funniest friend, watch a comedy: it doesn’t matter what makes you laugh: what matters is that you’re laughing!


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Stop Stress From Wrecking Your Life

One of my favorite cartoons in the whole world shows an obviously frazzled mother, apron on, bulging briefcase near her feet, a half dozen children lined up in front of her. “The doctor says I have too much stress,” the caption reads, “so one of you is going to have to go.”

Who among us hasn’t felt like that? Overwhelmed by life’s pressures and responsibilities and yet totally aware – as much as we might joke otherwise! – that there’s not one area where we feel like we can relax. Everything is critical. Dropping the ball is totally unacceptable; nothing can be let go.

The family is important, the romantic relationship is important, the house is important, the job is important – at least to the degree where it pays for all of the other important stuff! There are so many important things that you even have a list of important things you’re not doing but should be – a list that by simply being in existence stresses you out even further.

It’s hard to live your best possible life when you’re feeling like that. Hey, if we’re going to be real here, we have to admit it’s hard to live at all like that. Stress is a killer, and that’s not a metaphor. Your stress levels contribute to your heart health – remember that heart disease is the #1 killer of women – as well as how well you can manage your blood sugar, regulate your gastrointestinal system, and maintain a strong immune system. The more stress you have, the less healthy and happy you’re going to be: it’s that simple.

Stop Stress From Wrecking Your Life

If you’re interested in making 2014 a much better year than 2013 even dreamed of being, you’re going to need to stop stress from wrecking your life. Now, I’ve got some bad news for you: it’s impossible to eliminate stress entirely from your life. What you can do is use some fun, simple and easy techniques to change the way you handle that stress. I’m teaching these techniques as a special women’s health symposium called Vibrantly You. It’s being held later this month in San Diego, CA. Here’s more info so you can learn more about it, including who’s appearing on stage with me. (Spoiler Alert: Dr. Daniel Amen – the best selling author and leading brain health expert you’ve seen on Dr. Oz!)

You can feel better. You can have more energy and greater emotional resilience – essential elements of coping with life’s everyday stresses. It’ll be good for you, and it’ll be good for the people you love: chronic stress exposure makes the best of us irritable and short tempered – in other words, a ton of fun to live with.  We’ll teach you the techniques you need to transform your everyday life into a happier, healthier one. You can do this. Life should be fun. We’ll help you find your way back to the joy.

Register for Vibrantly You now.


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