Diabetes Through a Humorous Lens
SEEING DIABETES THROUGH A HUMOROUS LENS:
The role of humor in diabetes self-management
By Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, cartoonist
The seriousness of diabetes is routinely emphasized in the media and by healthcare professionals. Many people living with the disease experience this first hand.
Just ask Lily, who was diagnosed over a year ago. At first, it was a shock. Then everyone tells you about the negative things that can happen if you dont control it. I was completely overwhelmed, she said.
Her reaction was not surprising, given the plethora of somber-related diabetes information, the uninviting tone often taken by the medical community, and the well-intentioned, yet unconstructive opinions shared by family members and friends. An untapped resource for balancing out the gloom-and-doom focus of diabetes care is humor. Thats right, humor!
Whats funny about having diabetes? Nothing. The human condition lends itself to humorous situations, however, and research proves the health advantages of its use. One needs merely to tap into the humor mindset to begin to reap its benefits and gain a perspective on a variety of diabetes-related situations. Much like sunglasses protect the eyes against the harmful rays of the sun, a humor filter can protect the mind from being ill-at-ease about having diabetes.
BENEFITS OF HUMOR
- Enhances communication - A little humor helps to break down awkward moments.
- Allows for expression of anger - Language was invented in order for people to communicate, whereas humor was invented in order to complain. Dealing with a chronic disease can trigger anger and humor is a wonderful way to help process the emotions.
- Benefits health - Laughing increases endorphins, decreases blood pressure, decreases pain, and decreases anxiety.
- Reduces stress - Having diabetes is stressful and humor can help to relieve this burden.
- Promotes learning - Turn the ha, ha into an aha moment. The laugh-learn connection is well documented in the literature.
- Lowers blood glucose (sugar) - A research study from Japan showed that those who watched a brief comedy show after eating had lower glucose values that those who did not see the program.
RISKS OF USING HUMOR
- Someone can always be offended. When in doubt, dont try it out.
- Humor can distract if overused and is risky during periods of extreme stress or crisis.
TIPS FOR DEVELOPING HUMOR SKILLS
(Adapted from Smith, Kevin. Humor. Complementary/Alternative Therapies in Nursing, 2002, 4th Edition, Springer Publishing Company.)
1.Humor is everywhere. Its a matter of seeing it. Adopting a humorous outlook takes both a change in attitude and behavior. Its a process not an event.
2.Humor should not be divisive. Apologize immediately if any offense taken.
3.Get to know what amuses you. Never tell a joke or story unless you like it yourself and think it is really funny.
4.Keep a file of humorous anecdotes, stories, jokes, and cartoons.
5.Allow yourself to be silly.
6.Learn to laugh at yourself.
7.Watch who is the subject of the punch line.
8.Use common experiences and annoyances.
- Its not a treadmill, its a dread-mill.
- If it tastes bad, you can have all you like!
- I love what you do for me, Metformin.
- Can I have sex with my insulin pump? Yes, but wouldnt you rather have sex with your wife?
- May the force be with youeat fiber!
What if someone helped Lily from the start by being positive about preventing complications or gently pointing out the subtle humor inherent with any of the self-management behaviors?
Humor can be the key to living successfully with the diabetes providing one can remember to look for it!
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Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...