'In Conversation with' Nancy Weil

Stress Less, Laugh More

Has the past year been stressful for you? Feeling stretched thin? It doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine a meaningful and lasting solution for dealing with stress. Laughter and other simple tools can reduce stress immediately, boost the immune system, and increase joy. Learn how to laugh your way to health, happiness, and new ways of looking at life.

In this special webinar with Nancy Weil, the founder of The Laugh Academy and Member Resources Director for the Order of the Golden Rule, we learnt:

  • It's essential to be able to differentiate between Eustress and Distress, as one is positive and one is negative.
  • The three simple steps to remove stress from your life are 'State It', 'Rate It, and 'Obliterate It'.
  • It's essential to have an 'HPOA' - Humor Plan of Action. An HPOA provides you with a tangible tool that you can reference in times of distress and fall back on. Without an HPOA, it's easy to continue to deal with stress in the manner you are most accustomed to.
  • Laughter helps boost your immune system, reduce pain, and other health benefits.
  • Fun stress relief ideas include having a 'Joy Box' (fun toys like slinkies, stuffed animals, etc.), 'Inner Child Outings' (play at the park, ride your bike, coloring in, etc.), or playing with bubbles.
  • Don't forget to 'Take time for chocolate moments,' whether it's literally chocolate or something else that brings you joy. These are moments of self-care.
  • Practice mindfulness, and live in the moment each day.
  • The present is all we have control over.
  • Just breathe!

Nancy Weil is a leading authority on the relationship between humor and grief and is known for her energetic, entertaining, and content-rich programs. For the past ten years, her monthly column has been featured in Funeral Home and Cemetery News. She has certifications as a Grief Management Specialist, Grief Services Provider, Funeral Celebrant, and Laughter Leader.

Transcript

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

All right, well, hello, everyone. Welcome, we're so excited to have you here today. My name is Michelle and I'll be hosting this webinar today. With me I have Marlena, my co-host, and she is going to be assisting us with questions that come through in the chat. So throughout our time together today, please feel free again just to drop those questions in the chat and we will address them as we go along. And we are so excited and honored today to have our very, very special guest, my dear friend Nancy here today.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So I'm going to tell you just a little bit about Nancy before we get started. So Nancy began to laugh at a very young age. I don't doubt that. Soon after she discovered words and has not stopped talking since. Today, Nancy will bring some of our words, some of these words to our "In Conversation With" program. She's a leading authority on the relationship between humor, stress, and grief. She also serves as the membership director for the Order of the Golden Rule, which is an association of independent funeral homes.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Nancy is also the author of the book "If Stress Doesn't Kill You, Your Family Might". Whoops, there, you can see it in. Oh yeah. And in her background too. And I have to say, I highly recommend this book. I am just loving it. So please go get yourself a copy. You won't regret it. So welcome, Nancy. Thank you again so much for being here today.

Nancy Weil

Thank you. This is going to be fun. That's been our motto is "we're going to have fun, but we're going to learn a lot too".

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. Well, I have just been looking forward to this session. You know, during these difficult, stressful times we live in, I think we can all learn a little bit more about how to manage our stress, how to laugh, how to get through the difficult times. So that's really just what our chat will be about today.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

And I guess I would like to start off by asking the question. When I think of stress, I always think negative. It really has a negative connotation to it. Right. And OK, so can you think are there like positive forms of stress? What would this even be called?

Nancy Weil

Right. So what people don't understand is they think stress is bad. When there are times where there's positive stress, stress has a purpose, it serves a purpose. We run away from dinosaurs back in the day. It has a purpose.

Nancy Weil

So there's eustress, eustress, eustress is a positive stress. It is short term. We feel we have the capabilities to handle it. Right. It's something that we can do. So, for instance, this morning I exercised. I put my body under stress, but it was a positive stress. Anybody right now who's working on some sort of project with a deadline, there's stress involved with that. But it's a positive stress because we know we can handle it. We know it's short term.

Nancy Weil

The other type of stress I talk about is distress. Distress. That is long term. It is out of our control. The pandemic is creating a lot of distress for people. We can't solve this. Right. We don't know when the end is. Loss of a loved one, illness, end of a relationship. Anybody think of these things, especially in this last year since the pandemic started? These are all types of distress.

Nancy Weil

And I always say distress can lead to disease. Right. And so we need to handle the distress as it comes. And we're going to do that today. So don't worry, we're going to give you those tools to do it. It's not that we won't have those situations come up. It's how do we cope and manage it when that happens. And that's really where I like to focus is on those tools for managing the stress.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely, and I guess the question that comes to my mind, speaking of Covid, I know a lot of us have this wild winter weather going on. You know, can you think of any, is there any positive stress associated with it or is this all just distress, not eustress?

Nancy Weil

We're doomed. No, there has been. So sorry because Michelle knows I'm talking to you all from Florida and it's gorgeous here. And I lived most of my adult life in Buffalo, New York. So I get what's going on. And I feel for everyone who might be listening to this. But I can tell you that there are some things that have come in. Each person's life might be individual of what the positives are that have come during this time period of sort of hunkering down and covid time period of the pandemic.

Nancy Weil

But one of the things I think is the gift for everyone that has been given to us is what you can see on my bookshelf, the Eckhart Tolle books on "The Power of Now". That is what has happened. Covid has brought us into the present moment. Now. We can't live anywhere else. We learned very quickly that those things on our calendar, the vacations we had planned, the weddings that were going to happen, they were all an illusion because the minute everything shut down, our life got small.

Nancy Weil

And so, what we realized is, the only thing we have certainty of is right now, this moment. And that is one of the best places where we can be in order to avoid stress, because most of our time in stress is because we're looking backwards. Right. In regret, in what what did I do wrong? I should have been better prepared, backwards. Or forward, in fear and anxiety. How am I going to ever cope? What will I ever do with this? And so the only place we can find some relief is in the present moment of now.

Nancy Weil

And that is kind of the gift of Covid is that, it at least taught us that, yes, of course, my calendar still has things. I scheduled this, on my calendar. However, I am always aware, and for those of us who work within Death Care. We've always known it's been an illusion, because we work with those families where their loved one has died suddenly and they realize all those plans they had made, right, abruptly came to a stop. And so we understand that and we live differently because of it, Michelle.

Nancy Weil

If my friend says, let's go, let's go take a walk by the beach, sorry, but let's go meet and walk on the beach. I go, yes! I don't say "oh, no, I got to do some laundry and I got some chores here". I know I may not have that opportunity again. And so I say, yes, I show up for life because of that. And so, yeah, it's been a tough year. I'm not going to take that away from people. But there are some positives that have happened.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Definitely, I mean, I, I so agree and really, when it comes to removing the stress, so we've kind of talked about some different, stressful situations, but we all have those daily little stressors in our lives. And one thing you told me, and Nancy, really this has made such a difference in my life and you might know what I'm going to say, but this tool, I love it and everyone else will, too. And that's where you talk about - you state it, you rate it, you obliterate it. And it's just it's such a simple way of identifying and what not. Could you talk a little bit on that? Because I think this would be so helpful to people.

Nancy Weil

Sure. That's something I came up with when I was writing the book. And I really looked at what are those steps for relieving stress? Well, the first one is stated: notice - I'm feeling stressed. How often do we not pay attention to what's going on? And we push through, right. State it. "I'm feeling stressed." Where is our body showing it? Are we breathing shallow? Is our stomach upset? Our shoulders up like this, our muscles. State it - "I'm feeling stress". Just notice.

Nancy Weil

Rate it. How severe is this? Do I need to head to the emergency room, or is there something I can do here? Right. Where am I at on that scale? How stressed I am.

Nancy Weil

And then the third step is obliterate it. Let's use tools to eliminate the stress as we first feel it coming on. And that is where I am. I'm very Type A, so let me tell you, I have had to teach myself these tools in order to live with these healthier tools and ways of being.

Nancy Weil

It didn't come naturally to me, but I learned these, and I use them and now I teach them because they work.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Oh, well, that's I mean, it's a great tool, and I think something many people might struggle with, is even being able to state it. Like sometimes we live in this state of stress, if you will. And it's like, I don't know what's wrong with me, but I don't feel good. How do you how do you learn to state it? If that makes sense? That could be the hardest part of the whole thing.

Nancy Weil

Some people, I say, they don't get up and get dressed. They get up and get stressed. It's just their natural wiring of where they're at. And so really, in order to be able to state it, I always will say, do a little touch-in throughout the day. Have something come up as an alert on your computer or on your phone that just says, "how am I feeling?" How simple is that? Take a moment and assess how am I feeling right now? You know? And just sort of look at it. And if you're feeling a little off, where is that showing up in my body? Right. Where am I feeling that within? My, for me it always sits in the stomach. I can feel my stomach just churning if I get worked up about something. For other people, like I said, it's muscle tightness, headache, things like that. But just pay attention to your body.

Nancy Weil

You know, my dad tells the story. Years ago, he's a little boy waiting in line with his brother and his mom for Santa Claus and waiting and waiting. And he's really little. And he finally gets to Santa and Santa says, "what would you like, little boy?" And he said, you know, "I'm hungry. I think I want a sandwich". Those kids, right? He was aware of what he wanted at that moment and asked for it, and that's what we need to do. That's what we need to do. Be aware.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Just be aware. And is that kind of part of, like mindfulness too? Just kind of being in touch with your yourself and knowing how you feel. But it definitely takes practice. Am I right? It's not something you can develop overnight, unfortunately.

Nancy Weil

It does, it is part of mindfulness, of course. And I work with this a lot. I run grief support programs and even now I run them over Zoom. We have a meeting from all over the country. It's lovely, our gatherings, but even then, I teach them to do this, to touch in with how they're feeling. And so it helps us to be aware because we're aware then we know what do we need? Do we need the sandwich? Right? Do we need to take a moment? And just deep breath? What do we need at this moment?

Nancy Weil

Because we live so busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, task oriented. I am the superstar of task orientation. Right. And it takes a lot for me to turn off my brain and just be in that moment and not worry about the things on my list to do. And how many can I cross off today? And so finding that rhythm, I'm not saying I leave things to not get done by deadline, I get my work done, but I do it in a different pace. And in that way, it has allowed me to release so much stress I used to live under.

Nancy Weil

And it's just healthier for us. It's just, you know, stress is killing us. It is underlying most of the diseases that people have. And so we need to make sure that we are living in a stress free as state as we can. We can't do it all the time, but as it comes up, we want to rid ourselves of it.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. And one thing that comes to my mind, you know, I served as a funeral director for about six years before I started with OpusXenta. And I am sure many Funeral directors have experienced compassion fatigue. And, you know, how do you prevent yourself from doing that when you're doing the same thing day in and day out? What advice would you have, especially for those in the service who are out there serving families and taking on the family's stress and pain? I'd love to hear what your perspective on that would be.

Nancy Weil

There's a lot, and of course, you, all of you in the funeral profession, you probably attended an awful lot of different seminars on this. So I'll give you a little bit of some different ideas of things maybe that you haven't heard before.

Nancy Weil

One of them, especially right now, you have, unfortunately, had your funeral home in a hot spot. And I have talked to funeral homes all over the world with my work with OGR, where they are working 18 hour days, seven days a week. It is unrelenting. They are turning families away. They cannot handle the number of deaths happening in their community. That is a whole other level of stress, of where do you find that time? Right? For a little bit of some self care, a little bit of processing time.

Nancy Weil

So part of it, of course, ties into stoicism. We need to be stoic and get our job done right. We can't just fall apart crying in front of a family or on a removal. We need to get our job done, but we still need that time at some point to process our emotions. I was just talking to someone who's in nursing school and she said, you know, my challenge is I just I just tend to cry. I just tend to cry. And I'm trying to get over that. I said, please don't get over that. Please don't. Yes. Don't let it get in the way of you doing your job.

Nancy Weil

But there are times when families have come to me when I worked at the funeral home or the cemetery and they would say, you know, the nurse cried with us. They were so touched by that humanity. Right. So it's okay to have those emotions in those times and place for it. As a matter of fact, tears, as we know, are extremely healing. They are a stress reliever. The interesting thing and we're going to get into laughter in a moment. But the interesting thing is, is that tears of laughter where we're laughing so hard, tears are coming down our face and tears of grief when we're sad have a different chemical composition. Our body knows how to release that stress. So I always say, if you want to laugh, laugh. If you want to cry, cry. We need to know again this, being in tune with our body.

Nancy Weil

One of the things I also teach is what I call chocolate moments. Here's mine, I didn't even eat it. Look. Okay, chocolate moments, chocolate moments. Now, whenever you have that break, that you can have a chocolate moment, that is what you need to do. So what do I mean by this? Sometimes I mean, frankly, a chocolate moment, but it's also about self care. And so we've all heard about that. Right? Self care is not selfish. We need to take care of ourselves before we take care of others.

Nancy Weil

But I actually call them chocolate moments when I'm having them. So what does that look like for me? I go and I take a walk right. Pre-Covid days, I'd meet a friend for a cup of coffee somewhere.

Nancy Weil

So things that I would do, maybe maybe stay in bed on a weekend where I don't have to get up right away and start reading a book that I'm enjoying, whatever that is, that nourishes me. I call it chocolate moment. And when I'm having them, I actually say, hey, I'm having a chocolate moment right now. And that allows me without guilt in order to take care of myself. And I make sure I have some planned and frankly, some unplanned chocolate moments to help myself, so that I can show up for everybody else.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. Well we'll talk about laughter in a moment. But just speaking of chocolate moments, sometimes if you haven't practiced self care, you don't know, maybe you don't know what works for you. Do you have some suggestions for those who just don't know what they can do? Besides chocolate, which is delicious.

Nancy Weil

That's always good. No, again, so much of this is about being aware. So sometimes, you you either have to sometimes fake it till you make it. And I'll give you an example of that in a moment, in my own life which you'll all be shocked. But sometimes you have to notice something you're doing where you feel like, I feel a little lighter. I feel better. Right.

Nancy Weil

For me, oftentimes it's when I'm playing with my pets and I'm just lost in that laughing. They give me energy, that to me is a chocolate moment. Sometimes, frankly, it's just sitting down for a few minutes. I think sometimes it has a chocolate moment or taking time to make a phone call. Right? To someone that I haven't touched in with for a while. So get in touch with that by just noticing something maybe you're doing. You feel kind of good when you're doing it, so do more of that. Right. Do more of that.

Nancy Weil

One of the things that I sort of alluded to, I am very big on inner child. And we can do a whole other webinar on the inner child and its place within grief and stress and our own lives and wellness. But for today's purposes, just understand within us is still this child this adult grew up around, and that child still wants to play. That child doesn't want to work all the time, you know. And therapists say that you want to work all the time.

Nancy Weil

Your child wants to play and you go, "Shh here have a cookie, quiet down". And then we eat all these carbs and food that are just junk that we love, but it's really to nurture our inner child.

Nancy Weil

And so one of the things I started doing is I scheduled what I called an inner child outing every week. And I've done it now for years. Every week I do an inner child outing. So what does that look like? That means I do something that would delight my inner child. Just something during the week. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, but I do something.

Nancy Weil

So the other day, two days ago, not kidding. My husband had gifted us with our, remember, our slinkies? And so it was a nice day. And we ran outside because I'm in a condo. We ran outside to the stairs and guess what? We started racing down the steps! That wasn't for adult Nancy. That delighted my inner child. And for those of you who can get a slinky, if you're on hold, like we have to incessantly, especially in the funeral procession where we have to call places and stay on hold, get a slinky and just play with it while you're waiting on hold. Right.

Nancy Weil

Delight your inner child and reduce your stress. Keep these toys around you, is what you need to do. Have a joy basket at your desk, have it in your car, have it at your house. This is some of the things that will help you to start to feel better.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's awesome. Now are your cute little stuffed animals and the clown nose back there part of this joy box or is that something else? I love those.

Nancy Weil

I have, I live what I teach. I do so like I keep a clown nose in my desk drawer at all times, for in case of emergency, break out the clown nose. And if you're sitting there on a phone call and you're not Zooming and they can't see you and you're on with one of the cranky people, put this on because you'll be delighted and they won't know. And it helps you. Or your writing and working on something and you're getting frustrated. Put this on right. Put this on.

Nancy Weil

As a matter of fact, years ago when I worked at the cemetery in Buffalo, it was bitter, below zero wind chill. And we were, had our field personnel out with the graves and funerals were going on. And so our Superintendent of Grounds borrowed one of my clown noses and led the funeral and driving the lead car and waved at his guys with the nose on. The family didn't see him, but the guys in the field laughed and laughed and it got them through a very bitter cold afternoon.

Nancy Weil

And so, yes, I mean, I have had for years nobody judge me, my Pee Wee Herman bobblehead on my desk. These are actually, you all want to visit. You'll see. These are on my desk. I have a little tiny Gumby and Pogi on my desk. I keep toys around me. Because it makes me feel better, right? I have them available then, to use as a tool for stress relief.

Nancy Weil

You know, just really that, the saying where they say you don't stop playing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing. This is true. We need to continue to play. And in fact, in balance, I always said I could sit with people in their grief and be fully present because the other side of my life was working in laughter. So I had laughter and I had tears in my life. And if I kept those in balance, I was able to show up fully for those around me. And that's what I do.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Oh, that's, that's awesome. Now, you might have all these tools like these are all wonderful tools, tools we can use, but I've heard you talk about, it is HPOA - Humor Plan of Action.

Nancy Weil

Everyone listening to this needs to develop their HPOA, a Humor Plan of Action. You see, when we laugh, we reduce the cortisol, we reduce the stress in our body. We boost our immune system. Kind of a time of a pandemic with a deadly virus might be good to have as strong an immune system as we can. And so it helps to boost our immune system. It gets us to breathe deeply, it helps with upper respiratory health. Anybody see where this could be important right now? It helps with pain reduction. Laughter, when they say laughter is the best medicine it truly is, the more you study it, right? I mean, I still am all about seeing a doctor if I need to. I don't just laugh it away, but it really does to have it as part of your plan every day to laugh. But most people, it just sort of random around something. Something strikes me. It's funny. I laugh.

Nancy Weil

No, it needs to be in your day. So we develop an HPOA, a humor plan of action. Now, humor is subjective. What I find funny, what you all find funny is going to be different. So we need to develop it based on what we find funny. However, be aware humor can be harmful. So I am not talking about toxic humor. I am not talking about hurtful humor. Matter of fact, at our laughter club through World Laughter tour, we say you cannot joke about anything someone can't change in the next five minutes. Right? Well, my hair color, I can. So you can tell those jokes. Right.

Nancy Weil

But you can't. So it makes it. I have children's joke books over on my shelf and I used to have, I should go back to this, where if you emailed me, I always, under my signature line, had a little joke. It came from a children's joke book. That's part of my humor plan of action.

Nancy Weil

It used to be if you called and left me a voice mail, would say, hey, when I call you back, I'll tell you a joke. I can't tell you how many people would be like, "please, I need that". So we need to develop a humor plan of action. What is funny for you? So that might be shows that you love to watch that are funny. Right. And with Netflix on demand, you name it, you can find funny.

Nancy Weil

So. Making sure there's fun things to watch, if you're going to watch something on the television is part of the HPOA. Playing, we talked about, with your pets part of your HPOA, right? Having these toys around part of your HPOA. So what is it that gets you to laugh? Being with fun people, even if it's a Zoom gathering, will get us to laugh. The amazing part, Michelle, as they found in research, is just anticipating laughter. You start to get some of those health benefits.

Nancy Weil

So I know that night I'm going to sit down and I'm going to be watching a really funny show or I'm going to be out somewhere with friends that I really enjoy being with. I'll already start to anticipate it and start to have some of those benefits. So it's very important that we build this in. And I always say write it down, because when we get super stressed, everything goes out of our mind. So get your list and look right. Look at your paper. What do I need to do? Oh, wait, I could do this right now.

Nancy Weil

And sometimes, frankly, laughing for no reason. Just do this. "hahahahahaha" Just that your brain says, "hey, I'm laughing" and all these wonderful things start to happen in our body. Laughter, number one, YouTube. I start every morning when I'm getting ready in the morning, I have on YouTube watching funny videos. I start my day with laughter every day. That's how I start my day.

Nancy Weil

Another really, really cool tool is get a straw. If you don't have a straw, I guess you could grab your pen, right? Put it between your teeth and don't let your lips touch. If you hold that for three minutes, your brain says, I'm smiling, look. Within three minutes, your brain notices, you're smiling and it will drop the cortisol stress and raise the serotonin to make you feel better now. These are not about feeling better tomorrow. These are about feeling better now. So when a stressful moment. Or just smile. Just smile. We're going to be like, OK, you look really happy, right? Smile and get those muscles going, right?

Nancy Weil

Matter of fact, I want you all to notice something, you guys will be so smart, you'll be gelotologists, those who study humor. There's something called a duchenne smile. And the duchenne smile actually involves around the eyes as well. So if you look at pictures of like the Dalai Lama, Buddha, you know, the pope right now, they have these huge smiles and around their eyes you'll see wrinkling as well right? Their eyes sort of narrow and that's an authentic smile, uses your entire face. And they found in research that people with authentic smiles tend to have greater health, deeper, better relationships. They earn more money, greater job satisfaction, because they're actually naturally happy. So start smiling more, right? As part of your HPOA.

Nancy Weil

Because, by the way, I'm sorry now you got me on a tangent here, when you smile, OK, it is linked to the thymus gland. The thymus gland helps to regulate our immune system. OK, it's about two to two finger widths below this divot. Right. And you can wake up that thymus gland. Right. It helps to regulate the immune system. So when you smile, you are waking up your immune system. Smile more.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Turn that frown upside down. Right?

Nancy Weil

Right. Absolutely. Now do I do that when people are grieving, oh, don't cry like just smile? No! But can I say to them, hey, that might help you feel better. Maybe you could try that. And like I said, there's still a place for tears. There's still a place for grief. I make space for that in my grief group with my with my folks who come in. They need that space as well. I'm not saying we should be happy all the time, I'm saying that when we are stressed, there are tools we can use to help us to feel better. We may not go from "here" way up here to joy "Oh I'm so happy", but maybe we'll go up a little bit better, a little bit better. And that can make a difference on those tough, tough days.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely, and I guess something, I'm sure other funeral directors struggle with this, sometimes knowing, you know, when it's appropriate to use humor or laughter, sometimes you get that family and they are just so happy. They're laughing and talking about all the good memories of grandma. But you just, there's a fine line of should I? Shouldn't I? Do you have any advice on how to know when it's appropriate to use humor, when it's not, what kind of humor, etc.?

Nancy Weil

Oh, gosh, you said it. You said it. We need to let the family be our guide. If. Humor is a wonderful coping tool, it's our press release valve. Now, there is a humor that is more situational between peers. So a funeral director, right. A funeral director might have humor that if a family overheard, they think "that's very dark". It's just not appropriate. You see that within EMT, an emergency room. I mean, you see that because it's understood humor.

Nancy Weil

When we are with a family, no, it's not the time to use that type of humor. But if they're coping, style is to remember and to laugh and to crack jokes. It doesn't mean they think it's funny. It means that just how they're coping so we can meet them there, we can be a little lighter with them. But it's not our job to cheer them up by getting them to laugh. Right. It's not our job, if you are a funeral celebrant, to make sure that you're cracking a bunch of jokes that have nothing to do with the deceased or the family because you want to make them laugh, so I'll tell this joke that I think will lighten them up. Don't do that right. Don't do that.

Nancy Weil

Share a story maybe that they told you that will get them to laugh at the memory, but meet them. If they are in a space of raw grief. Step in that space with them, allow them that space, right? That's where we need to be. We need to be wherever they are because the rest of the world is going to tell them to cheer up or it'll get better. They're going to, "oh, it's been two months. Aren't you over this yet?"

Nancy Weil

Please give them that space. I cannot tell you, Michelle, and I know you've had this, how many people would step in to our property and cry and then apologize. I'd be like, if you can't cry here, where can you cry?

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Exactly.

Nancy Weil

Right. We need to provide people those safe spaces as well to bring their emotion. Yeah. And I'm not going to say we don't have to shake it off sometimes after because we can feel coated in that grief sometimes, you know, and that's when it's appropriate after that family has left. Take a little walk if you can, right? Have a little something to eat or to drink, put on your clown nose as you're filling out the paperwork. Right. Whatever you need to do to help you to step back into your own energy away from that family, is important.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely. Well, that's just some wonderful wisdom and advice, and I know it's going to be so helpful for those in attendance today. Nancy, do you have any parting wisdom before we jump into the Q&A that you would like to share?

Nancy Weil

Breathe. Is that a good one? Tell them, Breathe.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely.

Nancy Weil

Especially in the funeral industry. We know that's really important, you keep breathing. But again, as we talk about mindfulness, we tend to breathe real shallow up here. And so one of the things is to use the breath to help you just to calm down. I love, I do yoga through YouTube right now, and my gym is also my office. And so I do alternate nostril breathing. And I'll just teach you a moment because it works so well, and probably don't do this around your coworkers or your families.

Nancy Weil

But what you do is you just cover one nostril and breathe in and out. And then the other one. And then again, this side. And then reverse. And that's one round, if you do that just three or four times, you will find oxygen coming up to the brain and you will start to feel calmer. And if you don't want to do this, just breathe slower, slow down the breath, be aware, try to belly breathe.

Nancy Weil

Or do what I call the "AHH" breath where you just breathe and go, ohhhhh, right. Just sigh and get it out and just release that because it releases the tension in our face. So if nothing else, you know, this is a great tool for breathing. You'll see I have a great big one here behind me.

Nancy Weil

Breathe. If you can't get yourself to breathe, get some bubbles in your pocket or on your desk. And yes, I carry these with me. Yes, I do. They're everywhere I am. I don't want to feel stressed. You know, working in this profession, we know the value of today. We know there's no promise of tomorrow. Today is what we have.

Nancy Weil

And people say to me, I bet you never have a bad day. And I say, I don't. But I have bad moments. And I use these tools to try to reverse where I am to a little bit better feeling place. I don't always make it up to joy. I don't always get to this level. But I use these tools because they work. They work. So everybody listening, grab and create your HPOA, grab those toys around, you have these tools available. It's what's so important. So, yeah.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's some wonderful wisdom, I shall buy a purse sized bubble to start carrying around. You know, I mean, the little things in life.

Nancy Weil

My dollar, look how much I've already used, right? This is my dollar stress relief just little a little hint, when I lived in Buffalo. It would freeze in the winter in my car. So you need to go inside if you're somewhere super cold right now. But there's something about just blowing some bubbles. It delights your inner child, it gets you to breathe right. And helps you to relieve your stress.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

That's awesome, I love that. Well, Nancy, this has been amazing. I think what will go ahead and do is move into the Q&A, making sure we respect everyone's time, it looks like we have about 10 minutes left. So Marlena here is going to go ahead and present us with some questions that have been asked. So go right ahead, Marlena.

Marlena Weitzner

OK, so we have a question, any tips for how to speak to someone that needs to work on self care, self care and struggles with stress?

Nancy Weil

So the only control we have is ourselves. I mean, let's just be very honest, I'd love to tell you, yes, you can change. If you notice my little friends here, it's very hard to change an Eeyore, right, to have those chocolate moments, Eeyore, because Eeyores love to live, right, in their drama. Frankly. That's why I have these behind me. They love their drama. And you're like, how are you doing? They're like, not so good... and you're like "No, it will get better". And they're like, no, I don't know how it possibly can.

Nancy Weil

So it's hard. You need to know who you're working with. Is it someone who's just having a bad moment and is open to those suggestions. Yes. Then work with them on that. If it's someone who just frankly really doesn't want to feel good, they inversely feel better the more miserable they are, you're probably not going to be successful. But A) live by example. Live by example. Right. Have an inner child outing, and invite them if they're someone close to you. Invite them on your inner child outings.

Nancy Weil

Have you know, we have a new playground going up here in a park near us. And my husband and I both at the same time as we drove by, went, oh, my God, I can't wait to get on that. Like, we're not kidding. We can't wait this huge playground for kids and we're like the first kids that want to get on it. So invite them along and we'll walk on the park and go down the slide and see if they want to join you. So help them by your example of your self care.

Nancy Weil

Buy them some items to fill their joy basket. Right. Bring them some items. The little marching band that winds up and goes across your desk kind of thing. So bring those things to them, maybe of having a joy basket, especially if it's in an office setting in your break room. Invite people to play. Oftentimes adults just need permission to play and so make that space for them.

Marlena Weitzner

Yeah, that's great. Somebody else said, "I feel like a lot of people use free time or inner child play time at work to look at social media. Do you think that social media helps or hurts with stress?"

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Good one.

Nancy Weil

Funny cat videos, I guess, but let's be honest how much you have to sort through before you get to those fun things on social media. So, honestly, I have had, I am on social media a lot because I have to monitor a lot of pages for groups. But I have not found, for me at least, social media to be the healthiest place for me to live. Right. And I'll be honest, I'm addicted to the news on my phone. I'm working on breaking myself from that. That is just not always, that's why I use YouTube instead, because YouTube, I can go in and honestly y'all do this, put in talking dog and videos will come up and the dogs like "I love you mama" and I thought the dog was talking, right. To YouTube I can go in and put in what? Laughing Baby, I dare you to not laugh while you're watching some little baby while they're tearing the paper and their whole body is just laughing. Right. So I don't find that most of what you have to sort through on social media to get to the fun stuff is really there. And so I don't see that for my inner child. I just don't, you know. I just really don't sorry. And I, and I've been on all of them, and I just I'm not finding it there.

Nancy Weil

Remember, the children don't want to know, OK, long time ago, there were children who just wanted to go out and play and not just sit in front of electronics, let's try that child. Right, that wants to go and skip rope. That wants to go, I had a carpet picnic once and I might do that tonight. Now I'm thinking of it. And I took and I threw a blanket on the floor and we had dinner sitting on the floor. Good carpet picnic, and it was fun. I just saw, I put actually on my list of things to do because somebody did put this on social media. They sent a picture. They did movie night by building a fort out of blankets with chairs. And they went into their little fort and watched a movie. And I said, oh, I got to do that. So I put on my list of things to do: Blanket Fort. So that this weekend when we get time to watch something, we're going to do it sitting on the floor in a blanket fort. So that was an idea I got from social media. But those are few and far between, those kinds of ideas. But if you do it, post it on social media to remind people how to have fun.

Marlena Weitzner

Yeah, that's great. Oh, my gosh. Now I want to do that too.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Right?

Marlena Weitzner

Okay, I have another question. What stops most people from following their humor plan of action, and what are steps we can take to ensure we follow it even during those difficult times?

Nancy Weil

Write it down. Write it down. I mean, honestly, the first thing I would tell you is when we get really overwhelmed, stressed, we like and we freeze, we freeze. And nothing seems like it's going to be fun. Right. And so if we write it down and we make that list, when we're in that state and it can be a memo on your phone, it can be in your computer, wherever you need, you don't have to write it on paper, but then you can look at it and say, which of these 10 things, for instance, your list can have however many you want, really might be good right now for me?

Nancy Weil

Right. What might, what might work for me? As a matter of fact, when I'm working with people who are grieving, I'll still say, watch something funny, because even though you may not laugh out loud because you're just not in that space to laugh, your brain still says, hey, that's funny. And your brain starts to release those chemicals to drop the stress and bring up. Right. Your immune system and all of those wonderful benefits, not to the full extent, as if you were fully laughing, but it still will help.

Nancy Weil

So, you know, write it down. Check your list. Do your list, pick one.

Marlena Weitzner

That helps you stay a little bit more accountable too, because you wrote it down. Another question: as a leader in my organization, I like to spend 10 to 15 minutes a day encouraging knowledge-based or positive water cooler talk within our team. What are other ideas that you can share to encourage stress breaks for a team?

Nancy Weil

Yeah, so A) make sure in your break room you have a joy basket, filled with little toys, little windup toys, whatever. Just different things that you think that they get to have a little play break with. One day, at the cemetery, as a matter of fact, we had a very rough week and it was like a Friday afternoon. And we got to the point where it's like we just don't want the phone to ring one more time, you know, we just hit our max capacity for compassion.

Nancy Weil

And so I went into my desk drawer and I pulled out a stress ball, that I kept these toys, and I started tossing it around the office and we were all laughing and people from upstairs were hearing us and coming down. We're throwing this stress ball at them. We were doing this. There were no families in the office at the time. And within a few minutes we all were laughing and feeling so much better. I put it away and we can go back to work. So that's one thing.

Nancy Weil

Another thing is, you can do different fun contests of like having them post a children's riddle or a children's joke, nothing that could be offensive. So that's why I say children's jokes. So things like that or the, where people put up their baby pictures and you have to identify which staff member that is by their baby picture. Fun things like that, that you can do that will not offend anyone. We have to be very careful in the workplace of that, but would be fun right in that way.

Nancy Weil

So I love that you're already encouraging positive conversations. Right. Staying focused on that. And that's important too. Even just, even just having a little laughter break and amongst your staff where everybody gets together and you do some laughter exercises. Right. So so pretending that you're playing with a slinky and laughing, you don't even have to have it, go "Hahahaha" right.

Nancy Weil

Different laughter, that you can make up, as a laughter leader this is what I studied, where you can do a little laughter club. There are organizations who start their day with their team getting together and doing five minutes of laughter exercises. So they're ready for the day. Energized and ready.

Marlena Weitzner

The amount of times I do that, too, I just laugh and then your fake laugh turns into a real laugh. OK, do we have time for another question?

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Yeah, I think one more.

Marlena Weitzner

OK, OK, so somebody said "I've read that too much positivity can also be bad. What is too much in your opinion?"

Nancy Weil

If you're manic. If you're manic, I mean, honestly, it can be that it could be a sign of a mental illness. Also, if you are using it to deny and stop any emotions that you would label as negative or bad, that's why we've talked about, there's a place for laughter. There's a place for tears. There's a place to be sad. There's a place to be stressed. There's a place, right, for every emotion. I say the emotions are a neighborhood you can visit. But don't build your house on a vended alley, right? Don't go into anger lane, like this it it. Sometimes we do get angry, but don't live there. Don't build your foundation there, so it can be too much if it's out of balance.

Nancy Weil

That's why I said notice. How am I feeling throughout the day? Because sometimes it would be stress, sometimes it would be angry, sometimes I'd be hungry. Sometimes I would be feeling really light and silly. Notice. So it needs to be in balance. Don't deny your emotions or stop them because you think you're only allowed to feel happy and joy all the time. That's just not realistic. So, yeah, that's a great question, every question was great, thank you. I love when these questions come in. Yeah, absolutely.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

So thank you, everyone, for for the questions, of course, and for joining us today. We're so honored that everyone took time out of their busy days. We're all very busy and a huge thank you to Nancy for giving us her time today. She, she was so kind to join us and just impart her wisdom. I feel like I learned a lot. And I really hope that everyone at least learned one thing. Let's all make a joy box. I'm going to go work on mine. I got my, my cats. That's my stress relief. But there's always room for improvement.

Nancy Weil

Your kitty, you have your kitty! You're ready to start your joy basket.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Yes, I got mine.

Nancy Weil

Yeah. And if people are watching this on replay, or you watch it live and you have questions we didn't get time to answer, reach out to me. I am always available and I love to share this information because it's just a healthier way to live. And I'm here.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely, well, we have Nancy's email addresses up here, and is it OK? Can they always reach you at both of them? Do have a preference?

Nancy Weil

No, just find me. I always say, once you meet me, I never leave you, but I don't stop you. So if you all want to find me, please. It is never an interruption. It is never a problem. I am here to try to help you and it may not be today. And maybe you remember this and suddenly you're hitting a hard time and you need you need some information or advice.

Nancy Weil

Just reach out. Or if you have people that you know are grieving and don't have access right now to a grief support group, please know I'm running mine over Zoom. So it is open. And I always say, if your heart is hurting, come to me and just know I'm here. I'm here in your laugher, I'm here in your tears.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Absolutely, and that's the truth, Nancy is a wonderful resource, we're so just fortunate to have her. I really hope we can have a part two session to cover some of the things we weren't able to today. But again, please reach out to Nancy at one of her email addresses. You're also on LinkedIn, correct? Is that a good place for you?

Nancy Weil

Yeah, I'm not hard to find, everybody go right ahead. Find me, it's not hard to find me. And I promise I respond, if you don't hear from me within twenty four hours, you know, I'm not out on a cruise ship right now, so it means I just did not get it. So make sure you reach out in a different way because I will always respond.

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

Perfect, and then, of course, I have my email address down there, if anyone has any questions about what we've talked about today, anything, please don't hesitate to reach out to me as well. But again, I'd just like to thank everyone for being here. Thank Marlena for being my co-host and a huge thank you to Nancy. We look forward to hopefully having you again to share some more of your wisdom.

Nancy Weil

Nothing better. I'd love that. Thank you!

Michelle Imam Bakhsh

All right, everyone, well take care and have a great rest of your day.