Tough day at the credit union? Perhaps you should put on your donkey ears. Such advice was representative of the strong dose of "human interest" those at the Texas league's annual meeting here received.
Kicking off the meeting was Amanda Gore, a physical therapist and psychologist who uses humor not only to make her points but to help people take stress out of their lives.
The Australian-born Gore, who now lives in Dallas, started off by noting, "The thing about Americans is, well, I think you'll have to admit you're all just a little bit intense. People take themselves too seriously here. In Australia, if you take yourself too seriously, you can rest assured that someone will come along and remind you just how insignificant you are. We have a phrase for those people who take themselves way too seriously. In Australia, we say such people are so far up themselves it's dark."
And not taking oneself too seriously is the primary premise behind Gore's philosophy of stress-busting. Unlike other stress busters out there, Gore doesn't tout any expensive, sophisticated tools for monitoring one's heart rate, for example. Instead, one of her favorite tools costs about $7 at Target-a magic wand that actually makes the "brrring" sound when you wave it.
"This is the single most effective tool you can have," she said. "You'd be amazed at what it can do. When you see someone taking themselves way too seriously, you just give the wand a wave, and even if it doesn't get them to lighten up, you certainly will."
The consequences of not laughing at oneself are no laughing matter, she said, pointing to heart disease as one example.
Another favorite stress busting tool that's well under $20 at any Disney Store: Eeyore ears, from the Winney the Pooh character.
"You buy a pair of these and make your sulking teenager wear them-remember, your teen hates you already, so no harm done," she said. "The thing that happens is, you can't take yourself so seriously when you're wearing these."
The must-have accessory that goes with Eeyore ears? Tigger ears, of course.
"Eeyore is the epitome of the energy sucker. I call them psychic vampires. They're pessimists. Nothing good can ever happen to Eeyore," Gore suggested. "But Tigger is the epitome of the energy giver, and that's what you want to be, both in your professional life, if you expect to lead others, and in your personal life as well. When you give energy, you get energy back. Tigger is an energy giver."
There are less tangible tools, too. Instead of asking someone "how are you"-and getting a litany of bad things that have happened-Gore advised saying, "Hello! What is the best thing that's happened to you all day?"
"Even if it's been a really bad day, there's always something good, there's always something to be grateful for," she observed. "People need certain things in life. They need a strong sense of purpose or faith. They need to feel happy and have a sense of belonging. And they have to be grateful. I want you to go through your whole day and find a reason to be grateful."