Following is the full transcript of stress expert and humorist Loretta LaRoche’s talk titled “How to Humor Your Stress” at TEDxNewBedford conference.
Loretta LaRoche – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT
Well, I’ve been teaching stress management for a good 30 years. And I have to tell you people are going insane. It’s just unbelievable; isn’t it?
I mean I think about my origins. I’m a Sicilian girl from Brooklyn, and was born into this Italian family with a lot of drama — lot of drama — I mean you know, it’s like an opera. You take the garbage out. You got a oh, taken the garbage out… and they got to kiss everybody, because you might not come back. Who knows?
But the word stress didn’t even exist then. Nobody — nobody talked about stress. It was depression, it was World War II. My grandmother had three sons in the army and she was always suffering, because of that… Sicilian martyrdom. Every time I looked at her: Oh suffer.
But we laughed a lot. You know what else we did? We ate a lot. We ate. And when we were eating we practiced to eat again. We talked about eating all the time.
We had some fun amidst the angst that was going on. And people seemed to just roll with the punches. I mean they accepted the reality and they had a community of people that helped them. They were called neighbors. Do you remember them?
Nobody comes to your house anymore with a sausage or a meatball. Because you know what if your LDL is too high, or something might go wrong, you know and who are these people anyway? You see them coming to the door… oh, I don’t want to see any people. I have my show to watch tonight. The one with neighbors in it.
I don’t ever remember my grandmother standing in front of the sink going on mud on to me. I’m so stressed. I can’t take it no more. I got to go to my spin class. Maybe I forgot my kale smoothie this morning. And I don’t know where my Fitbit is.
We have gotten to a place where we don’t know how to see humor in our lives, because we don’t have those people stopping by. The characters that were once in my life that provided me with historical references that I could put in my books.
We don’t have those meals together like we often did, where we talked and laughed and shared stories. And if you acted up, huh lots of luck, you got told what’s wrong with you. And I went to Catholic school. I had the Sisters of Perpetual Mood Disorder. Trust me they didn’t let you get away with anything.
And you know that’s all part of understanding how to humor your stress; isn’t it? To have people around to guide you, to laugh with you, to make light of things here and there, instead of all this drama we go around with now; don’t we?
There are a lot of drama, everybody’s got to tell you what’s happening. Facebook is full of stories: Oh you should see what happened. I was in traffic. Oh yes here is a picture of me going through the E-ZPass. This is pathetic, folks. Pathetic. Isn’t it?
We don’t have a life anymore because our life we have become human doings, we’re no longer human beings. We have to tell everybody we meet what we’re doing. That’s why we’re so stressed out. Everybody we meet, you know… you know what I’m doing.
“Do you know how busy I am? I am so busy I don’t know what to do.”
“Well maybe you should shut up, maybe that would help. You shut up.”
But now the person you’ve told, hey they have to ramp it up, they got to win this contest for God’s sake. So they have to say you think you’re busy, you should see how busy I am.
Now you have nowhere to go but your physical ailments. You’ll have to share them. Well my back hurts, my front hurts, my side and I don’t go to the bathroom very much anymore.
And I have to tell you that the more stressed you are, the more you’re going to need a laxative. We are one of the few countries that I’ve been in many places in the world that have so many laxatives. Why do you think that is? Look at people’s faces and you’ll find out.
People walk around on things all day long, squeezing and squeezing and squeezing. By the time they go to bed at night they look like dead parrots.
We have problems with insomnia. More people are medicated now taking sleeping medications. We have more people on antidepressants than any other place in the world. We even have children on antidepressants, because we can’t leave them alone either. God forbid they should go out and play.
Go out and play? What are you serious? I’m going to make an app that has a squirrel on it so the kids can see that. I’ll probably make a fortune. You can’t even ride your bike up and down anymore, you got to wear a NASA astronaut suit. You got to wash yourself with [Peral]. You got to have a healthy snack. No wonder the kids are stressed.
I used to drink out of the hose. And I’m still alive. I even fell off my bike lots of times. It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? Kids don’t know how to be kids anymore. Human beings don’t know how to be human beings anymore, because we’re all stressed. It’s become a metaphor for existence; hasn’t it?
So I just want to start by taking you on a journey perhaps to de-stress with a simple little survey. How many of you have been stressed the past week? Raise your hand. Past several weeks? Past month? Several months? Several years? Lifetime?
Now when we’re stressed, what do we do? We like to tell people and we form groups. Global Whining Groups. We get together in our offices, in our home, whatever. Some people, before they leave the house, will tell their family I’m going to be tired when I get back. This is a form of pre-suffering. You’re not tired yet but you will be.
Now my suggestion is when you’re stressed like this, give yourself a standing ovation. Ask for one. Maybe when you go in your office, you walk in and you say “I came in. I’d like a standing ovation.” Why not?
When you go home tonight, some of you have already made yourself crazy by thinking about what went on while you weren’t there.
What’s the difference? Something went on. When you walk in the door tonight, go in and say “I’m back. I could have gone someplace else. You’re damn lucky I came home. I’d like a standing ovation.”
So with that in mind, I want every one of you to stand up and give yourselves a standing ovation right now.
That was awesome.
Now that’s one step in the right direction.
The second thing you have to do is realize we have 60,000 thoughts that go through our brains every day, most of which are there to disturb you.
A lot of us are always thinking about the worst possible scenario; aren’t we? Oh my God what’s going to happen? And of course, the fear messages that come across with the media today just enhance that; don’t they? A lot of you are crazy enough to put the news on in the morning and we have to know what the weather is.
When I was growing up, you know how you found out what the weather was like? You looked out the window. You said oh it’s raining. Not now, you put it on, you have to know it’s raining, what the dew point is. And if there’s some kind of thing, a lot of rain you have to watch some idiot anchorperson by the ocean with an umbrella.
Then if it’s nice here they tell you where it’s awful. So you have to start your day always catastrophizing and awfulizing. That’s a term that was made or developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, the author of Rational Emotive Therapy and many of us are catastrophizing and awfulizing every day. Aren’t we?
We get in our car and we just can’t take the fact that there’s traffic. Every time I went for a ride with one of my husbands — and I’ve had two — I call them my was-bands — the first thing they’d say is where did all these cars come from? It’s a road. I said let’s go home. Let’s go in the driveway, we’ll just go up and down. Won’t we?
See the only way to de-stress and use humor is to move away from yourself to become the witness to your behavior. That’s a very Buddhist kind of mindset: become the witness to your own behavior. Think about what you’re thinking about. Is it realistic? You’re in a car, asking yourself where the cars came from is an idiotic question.
You might want to ask yourself: gee, I wonder why I said that. This doesn’t make any sense. And then we try to ramp it up and make it as bad as possible and we torture the person next to us: did you see all the cars? No, I’m an idiot. I didn’t notice.
How many of you do this when you go food shopping? I’ve stood in line with people who are harrumphing and pawing the earth like bison and going insane, asking stupid questions again. Like oh, look at all these people in the store. I wonder why they’re here now.
See, the Seinfeld part in this. Ask yourself why am I saying this? People go shopping at odd hours. There is no plot. They’re not here to take revenge on me.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if we lightened up? What if we lightened up? What if every one of you realized that you were the joke Coo-Coo-Kazo.
Imagine what fun we could have with people that we met, if we started listening to our dialogue instead of taking it so seriously, as if you think the worse and get the worst you suffer twice. If you think the best and get the worst you only suffer once. But I think a lot of us like to suffer. What do you think? Yes and let’s face it. It isn’t just something that we do on purpose.
Some of us have over reactive parts of our brain and they’ve noticed that when Buddhist monks have meditated since they were children, that part of their brain is not as reactive and that’s sort of innate to a lot of us; isn’t it? Because we’re born with that predisposition.
People in my family, all the women, have had panic attacks including myself. The wonder of my journey is that I have been able to teach other people the things that I needed to learn. And I continue to try to do that because as you get older and I was 77 a couple of months ago… thank you; I’m still alive.
Well, that’s why people come up to me and they say oh you’re still doing this. I said yeah I’m not dead yet, okay. One of my greatest visions is to see the world lighten up, because if each and every one of us had a light heart we could share it with others; couldn’t we? And our energy in this world would change.
So many times when we engage with each other it’s out of… I don’t know… necessity to get out of the place we’re in. We don’t even know where we are half the time, because we’re always thinking where we’re going next. We don’t even enjoy the moments because we have to take selfies of the moments we’re in. So we can watch the moment later.
There are so many ways that we can get through this life and laugh. And one of them is to just laugh on purpose. Just crack yourself up. Have a staff laugh at work.
Sit with your friends and laugh. I mean some people haven’t had a good laugh for years because they’re riding with a committee in their head. People who told them wipe that stupid grin off your face. You think this is funny. When are you going to control yourself so you can be like me? You see how I am. Because you got to grow up and be an adult and squeeze a lot. Squeeze.
So consider another option: Smile. Smile often. Smile at your fellow human. You know, when you’re going through the counter and you’re paying for your groceries, say, hey check me out. Become the fun you’re seeking. So many of us are waiting for the fun. You are the fun.
And smiling at one another creates a sense of lightness around you; doesn’t it? I talk to everybody. I don’t care whether they want to hear me or not. I just know that I want to enjoy whatever life I have left on this planet.
So another couple of things I want to share with you before my time is up, and it’s not up totally yet. Find yourself a little red nose. Try complaining with this nose on. Walk into a store, say I don’t see anybody here. Where are they?
If you’re in a relationship and your partner wants to get amorous and you’re not in the mood, put your nose on; say why don’t you start without me? When it sounds good I’ll be in.
Hey, who knows fifty shades of gray, fifty shades of noses; I don’t know. If you like to pre-suffer and you have a psychic mentality, put this on. Get yourself a little costume like this and put it on and start a psychic booth. Go into work and say it’s going to be a bad day. Next week it’s going to get worse. If someone says it’s a beautiful day, it’s going to rain Friday.
How many people do you know like this? It’s like why suffer in advance. You know we don’t have that much time as I said before: we’re all going to go to another place. Enjoy it. You don’t have to be a perfectionist at everything. You don’t have to be a martyr. You don’t have to be a control freak. Tamp it down.
I’ve never walked through a cemetery that said did everything, died anyway. And if nothing that I’ve said works, I love this. This is a great metaphor. You want to drive yourself crazy, get a whip. Use it when you wake up in the morning. Start right in. Oh it’s raining. Oh I’m so bloated. Oh I’m still married to you.
Take it to work. There are people there that you know were brought in to disturb you, go right up to them, say I was final, so are you.
Now you’ve given up your power and you’ve lost your sense of humor. So I hope you will go out into the world, especially tonight, because some people will start right in as soon as they leave: oh, it’s dark. Oh my God it got dark. Can you believe it? No, I didn’t believe it until you told me. Now I know.
Do we have a car, can we find it? No, we’re going to sleep here on the sidewalk tonight.
You got to see the funny; you really do. It’s the best revenge, folks and it’s a wonderful connection, because when you can laugh at yourself, it shows you humility and it really breeds connection to all of us, because we’re all vulnerable. Aren’t we? We’re all vulnerable.
So thank you so very much. I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful rest of your life.
Download This Transcript as PDF here: How to Humor Your Stress_ Loretta LaRoche (Transcript)
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