May 11, 2020
Laughter and Wellness in the Midst of a Pandemic
Allan Strong, long-time peer support advocate and Peer Support Coordinator at Choices for Change, shares his thoughts on the importance of maintaining one’s sense of humour through COVID-19
It has been six months of captivity because of the pandemic. Ok, I exaggerate, it’s been about six weeks. But each week feels like it’s a month long.
I don’t know what’s worse – the month-long weeks, or not knowing what day it is. I think I am writing this on a Saturday, but it could easily be Thursday for all I know. You could tell me that it’s Halloween and I would believe you.
Being housebound for the past six weeks (are you sure it hasn’t been six months?) has been challenging for me. I like having the opportunity to do things beyond the four walls of my house.
I enjoy having a coffee at Starbucks.
I enjoy having eggs benedict at my favourite restaurant.
I enjoy my morning drive to work.
I enjoy a lot of things.
But they all came to a crashing halt in March.
I know I am not the only one feeling overwhelmed right now.
It is hard to maintain a sense of humour when I am locked inside and being bombarded with daily pandemic totals.
“There are x thousand people infected in Canada and x number of people have died,” says the CBC every morning as I eat my bowl of Froot Loops.
This is serious stuff. There is not much that is funny about this.
Before the pandemic, I thought that social distancing was something that happened when you didn’t shower for a month.
Before the pandemic, a face mask was something a hockey goalie wore.
Before the pandemic things were different.
As I write this, I am getting really, really, really down.
It is hard to smile while this pandemic is going on. Being in lockdown is not fun (are you absolutely certain it has been six weeks?)
On several occasions, being able to find humour in unsettling times has been something that has saved my butt. I’ve learned to use comedy as a way to cope while performing with organizations like Stand Up For Mental Health and co-leading workshops with Laughing Like Crazy. After all, research shows exercising one’s sense of humour can help reduce anxiety and improve overall mental wellness. That’s why programs like these exist.
When I start to lose my sense of humour, I know I am in serious trouble.
So, you might ask, how do you find humour in a pandemic?
The amazing thing is that life still goes on.
The sun still comes up, Tim Horton’s is still serving coffee and the Leafs still have not won the Stanley Cup. What was funny before the pandemic is still funny now.
We need to laugh, especially when things are challenging. There are plenty of things to chuckle about.
Donald Trump will always say something outlandish; you can always find a funny cat video online and the Leafs still won’t win the Cup this year.
Think of the things that cause you to smile and chuckle.
There always will be something that brings a smile to your face. Hang on to those things, they will get you through. Your sense of humour is still with you. It hasn’t gone anywhere yet.
I don’t think it is a piece about maintaining your sense humour during the pandemic, it is about using your sense of humour during the pandemic to stay well.
Stay well and stay safe, everyone!
Allan Strong is the Peer Support Coordinator at Choices for Change. Allan has been working in the mental health sector for over thirty years and is an advocate for peer support. Allan has been involved in a number of projects concerning peer support over the length of his career. Allan is a proud supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs.