By SARAH L. OSTLER
At the annual Professionalism Conference, sponsored by the nursing department, students and faculty learned about humor and stress management.
“Tickling Stress Before it Tackles You” was presented Thursday morning to more than 350 nursing students and faculty from BYU and Utah Valley State College.
Margie Ingram, director of special programs at the Humor Project, Inc. in New York, presented ideas and advice for balancing stress with humor.
“We need to understand the stress-humor connector,” she said.
Ingram told of how her husband began Humor Project, Inc. after realizing the strong stress-humor connection in the medical setting.
“What aggravates you? There is relief in knowing we’re not alone,” she said as students and faculty paired off into discussion groups.
Other students suggested parents, spouses and jobs as sources of stress. One male volunteered his early alarm clock as a source.
“School, wedding plans, lack of a job,” said Jill Collier, a senior majoring in nursing from Columbia, S.C.
Ingram pointed out the effects of stress, such as illness, impatience and egocentricity.
We need to interrupt chronically high levels of stress with relief, Ingram said.
The attendees then discussed different ways to relieve stress.
“I like to pray, read my scriptures, be alone and serve others — that way I don’t focus on myself,” said Stacy Parry, a senior majoring in nursing, from Sandy.
Other reliefs included taking a nap, cooking and hiking. Almost all of the activities were inexpensive, Ingram said.
Ingram suggested choosing activities that are spontaneous and not time-consuming. Choose things that bring joy — that is your humor connection, she said.
Ingram used data showing how response to stress can physically affect a person’s life.
“The ways that we handle stress is a good predictor of how we will be as adults and the longevity of our lives,” she said.
Try to anticipate the stress and then it will not be so destructive. Once it occurs, try to accept it, then put it behind you or else put the pent up frustrations into something else, Ingram said.
“I find that if there’s no balance in the five, it can be counter-productive,” Collier said.
“Nothing is funnier than the unintended reality of life,” Ingram quoted Steve Allen. Ingram had the groups discuss the sources of humor.
There are funny things in every aspect of life, she said. She related an anecdote where a pastor had preached to his congregation about the wickedness of alcohol and urged everyone to dump it in the river. The closing hymn was “Shall We Gather at the River.”
Ingram related humorous stories of bloopers on papers and tests; children and dealing with crises.
She also spoke of the “AT&T” of humor. Making sure it is appropriate, tasteful and timely are all essential to successful humor.
Students in the BYU nursing program were required to attend, said Debbie Mills, assistant clinical professor of the BYU nursing faculty. This is the first year students from UVSC were invited.
Planning for this year’s topic began a year ago, after last year’s conference. Students wanted to learn about coping with stress in the work place, Mills said.
Collier, who spends about twelve hours a week in clinical settings, looked forward to the conference as a way to improve herself.
“If I can relate to my patients through humor, it will help me in my profession,” she said.
“The conference is very student-driven. The focus comes from the students,” said Richard Drake, member and past-chairman of the committee of continuing education.
“See the humor in all situations,” Ingram said. Humor helps us look at the lighter side of a stressful situation.