Smith: Dealing with uncertainty, leave them laughing!

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Ron Smith Maricopa
Ron Smith

Back when I was hiring employees, I would always add a couple of extra desired skills to the job description— the ability to deal with ambiguity and a sense of humor. Most of my reasoning was based on observations of employees who seemed to work well in a team environment.

Another contribution to my early management skills came from a retired Navy commander who I was fortunate to have working with me. He had three sage pieces of advice:

• Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen and can you deal with that?

•  Don’t ever back somebody in a corner without leaving them a way out

•  If you can, leave them laughing!

I found asking the question about the what’s the worst that can happen resulted in finding manageable solutions in most of my predicaments. It is a great tool I still use today.

Little did I know at the time that I was learning about stressors in life and how to successfully deal with them. These were great life lessons that helped to shape my current style of living and coping with the trials of life.

For successful aging, we need to be able to deal with uncertainty. We can plan for some of the more predictable issues and be prepared to ask ourselves whether we can deal with the problem if necessary. It’s a great question because it provides focus and allows us to think more clearly. It also helps reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. Once the problem has been defined, we can call upon friends, family or our spiritual beliefs to work through it.

In addition, developing personal skills helps us to build confidence and comfort in our ability to deal with future uncertainty.

The advice to try to leave them laughing is no joke! Laughter not only relieves stress, but provides many other health benefits.

Mayo Clinic says laughter can improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction and improve your mood.

It can also induce physical changes, such as stimulating organs by enhancing your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating circulation and muscle relaxation, and relaxing your heart rate and blood pressure.

An Indiana State University research study concluded laughter can boost the immune system by up to 40 percent.

Remember, when you can, to “always leave yourself and them laughing”

Keeping a positive perspective

The American Psychological Association says “research shows that people react differently to uncertainty, and that those with a higher intolerance for uncertainty may be less resilient and more prone to low mood, negative or down feelings, and anxiety.” Suggestions to help better face life’s uncertainties include:

  • Be kind to yourself – your tolerance for uncertainty may take some time to grow.
  • Reflect on past successes – give yourself credit for prior successes and build on that.
  • Develop new skills – when life is kind of calm, try things outside your normal comfort zone.
  • Limit exposure to news – try not to compulsively follow the news.
  • Avoid dwelling on things you can’t control – try not to labor on negative situations where you have no ability to change the situation. Instead, consider and focus on what you can control.
  • Take your own advice – ask yourself what advice you would give a friend if they came to you with this situation.
  • Engage in self-care – don’t let stress derail you from your normal healthy routines. Use a stress release tool, such as yoga or meditation, to reduce your stress level.
  • Seek support from those you trust – don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to family or friends for help.
  • Ask for help – if you are having trouble with stress, reach out for professional assistance.

Learning how to laugh

No sense of humor? Don’t worry. Humor can be learned. For example:

  • You can search out materials that put a smile on your face, such as greeting cards or photos, comic strips or cartoons that you can hang up in your office or tape onto your computer. Use a funny screen saver on your computer. These are reminders to lighten up.
  • Look for humorous reading material, watch funny TV shows or download comedy movies.
  • Hang out with friends who make you laugh. Seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh.
  • Just start smiling more and notice the effects on others. You might be surprised!
  • Share with friends jokes or stories that you recently learned.
  • Try to laugh about your own situations or predicaments. There’s often a lot of humor in some of the things we do every day if we give ourselves a chance to step back and be observers to what we did or experienced. Share embarrassing moments; it’s the best way to take yourself less seriously.
  • Find your inner child. Learn to play again!
  • Ask people about the funniest thing that happened to them recently.
  • Count your blessings – actually make a list and watch how the positives in your life can help unblock the humor.
  • Try not to go a day without laughter. If you have to, set aside 10-15 minutes a day to seek out something that amuses you.
  • If all that doesn’t work, I discovered that there is a thing called laughter yoga. Think about that for a minute!


Ron Smith is an aging-in-place advocate, a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) and a Certified Living in Place Professional (CLIPP™).

This story was first published in the November edition of InMaricopa magazine.