If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that whenever someone starts a sentence with, “Did you mean to…?” it’s guaranteed not to end well.

Take, for example, when an editor recently handed me back a story I’d written and asked, “Did you mean to write ‘hand and cheese’ quiche?”

Clearly, I was describing a “ham and cheese” quiche and not a cannibalistic menu item. Yet I was so embarrassed by my typo that it put me in a dither all day, which probably caused me to make even more typos in my next story.

Stress can affect the mind, body and behavior in many ways at work, home, or anywhere. The term “stress” gives the impression that some sort of force is being applied, as if with enough pressure we might actually “break.” The goal is to try to alleviate the stress before we reach the breaking point.

Things happen that we can’t always control. A host of irritating issues beyond “hand and cheese” can trigger stress — health problems, emotional problems, and relationship problems, to name just a few. But what I’ve learned is that we can control how we deal with stress.

My friend Jackie says we can get stress release from laughter, and that’s no joke. She should know. She’s a humorist and for her, humor is a serious business. Jackie says humor is a great coping mechanism because it allows us the necessary distance to see things from a different perspective.

When my embarrassing typo pushed me into an emotional tailspin, I called Jackie. “It was an honest mistake,” she said. “You think you’re the only one who’s ever misspelled a word? Last year I read about a woman who sent a tweet: “I love it when you can still smell your boyfriends colon on you.”

I laughed. It was the first time that day I’d even cracked a smile.

Jackie continued,“Her message, and her accidental use of ‘colon’ instead of ‘cologne’ went viral. Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes you just have to laugh.” According to Jackie, studies have shown that humor makes us feel good, relaxes the body and the mind, and triggers the release of endorphins, which can ease physical pain. Laughter has been shown to bolster immunity, relieve stress, alleviate pain and improve mood. A rubber chicken or a funny cat video isn’t going to eradicate depression, but it can help alleviate stress.

Jackie says you don’t need a full-blown laugh to feel better. A smile is also known to release “feel-good chemicals” in the brain that elevate mood.  And, she says, a smile is contagious.

She recommends laughing as hard and as often as possible, watching comedies, reading funny books, sharing funny stories and surrounding yourself with funny people. So I’ve recorded all of my favorite funny TV shows: “Modern Family,” “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.” I’ve subscribed to dozens of humor blogs, and I make time to hang out with funny friends like Jackie. Now, every morning when I walk my dog I smile at the passersby. They always smile back. Sometimes I think their dogs smile too.

The next time someone asks me, “Did you mean to…” I’ll be packed with an arsenal of stress-reducing tools. And I’ll remember the infamous “colon” tweet and know that when something smells funny, sometimes it is.”

Lisa Tognola is a freelance writer from New Jersey. She blogs at where she reflects on life in the suburbs — the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

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