You're having dinner with your girlfriend's parents for the first time, and when her dad asks you what your plans are for the future -- you burst out with nervous laughter. It's not the first impression you were hoping to make, and worse yet, you can't seem to stop the laughter. Nothing about the situation is funny, and you just want it to stop.
When you laugh in a stressful situation, it is your body's way of coping. "Prevention" magazine reports that laughter likely eases stress by counteracting the effects of cortisol and adrenaline -- the brain chemicals that trigger the "fight or flight" response that sends your heart rate skyrocketing and makes your palms sweaty. Nervous laughter may also be your body's way of telling you that the situation is not so bad -- that you can cope, writes general internist and author Alex Lickerman on "Psychology Today" online. Though it might make you uncomfortable, your laughter serves a purpose.
Since nervous laughter is the result of stress, you can try to control it using relaxation strategies such as taking deep breaths. Breathe deeply in through your nose, and then exhale through your mouth, being sure to take deep breaths from your abdomen instead of shallow breaths from your chest. Count to 10 as you exhale, slowly releasing the breath. Practice deep breathing regularly, and you will be able to quickly calm yourself down.
If you find yourself in an embarrassing situation and can't stop laughing, consider taking a one-minute vacation, as suggested by the University of Texas Counseling and Mental Health Center. If you can find a minute to yourself, close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene that helps you to relax. Visualize details of the scene such as a running brook, swaying palm trees or a relaxing breeze. Imagine the sounds, smells and textures that you would experience. When the minute is up, you should feel more at ease.
Find the Humor
If you can't stop laughing because you are shy or embarrassed, consider finding the humor in the situation rather than trying to control your response. For example, at the dinner with your girlfriend's parents, you might say, "Sometimes I laugh when I get nervous. That's not going to go over well in my college admission interviews!" Being honest and admitting how you feel will help to release the tension from the situation. Showing that you don't take yourself too seriously will also put others at ease.
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