Stress is serious business. But
that's all the more reason to laugh about it, according to Tricia
When the Oshawa motivational speaker gives a seminar to a
corporate group or workshop participants, it's like a stand-up
comedy performance as she quips, banters, gesticulates and grimaces.
"Humour is my thing, how I teach people to relieve stress and
it's how not to bore an audience. I wish I had a nickel for every
time someone has told me I should be in Vegas. I'd be rich!" says
Hasenclever, who calls her business Learn With Laughter. Her humour
is largely self-deprecating, as she pokes fun at people's common
"We are so afraid to ask for what we want that we'd rather
jump in our car and drive 140 kilometers in the driving rain on the
401," she says. "Or we'll prowl downtown Toronto streets in the
middle of the night rather than pick up the phone and tell a friend
she did something to hurt us."
She didn't always find life as amusing during the seven years
she spent as a 911 dispatcher with the Metro Toronto Police, dealing
with life-threatening situations on a daily basis, juggling multiple
tasks at once and adapting to the rigours of shift work.
"Part of me misses it, but it's such a difficult job with
tremendous mental stress as people are always at their worst during
an emergency," says Hasenclever. "Things started happening to my
body. I developed a sleep disorder, I had swollen glands, my immune
system was shot and I got depressed. It was all due to stress."
Hasenclever left the police force to start her own business,
selling clothing through home parties. While running that business,
she discovered she had a talent and a passion for public speaking
and Learn With Laughter was born several years ago. She draws upon
her experience as a former university psychology student, her
training as a 911 worker and from her own years in therapy. Her
curiosity about people and a natural insight has also been a
As well as public seminars, she has frequently given them for
companies looking for a way to increase productivity, such as York
Region Health, McDonald's, the Investors' Group and her old
employer, Metro Toronto Police.
"Stress is huge, it's a real catchword and everyone's feeling
under the gun," says Hasenclever. " Sept. 11 had a huge impact on
people, especially women. People better appreciate that time is
short, and we've become more family oriented, but it created a real
sadness that's still there."
The problem is that many people don't even recognize the
signs of stress ... or don't want to.
"Stress is an intangible thing and people like concrete
things," she explains. "We are so not aware of the signs and haven't
been taught to recognize them, so we ignore them. We don't connect
the dots. We don't clue in that our ulcer is due to stress. We'd
rather blame spicy foods."
Hasenclever typically starts one of her seminars with a flip
chart outlining the common symptoms. They include sleeplessness,
quickness to anger, weight gain or loss, strained relationships (not
just with spouses, but friends, family and co-workers) less
productivity at work, fatigue and illness.
"Once I talk about the signs, that usually starts quite a
discussion and it's a huge step forward once people recognize they
are suffering from stress," she says. "It's not something that
should be ignored."
Many don't want to recognize
stress as the root of their ills, because that suggests a
psychological problem, which still carries a stigma, "and many think
that's hooey," she says.
`We don't clue in
that our ulcer is due to stress. We'd rather blame spicy
Speaker & Humorist
"Even now, people will say it's fine to get counseling or
therapy, but they still won't see a psychiatrist. They are terrified
to find out what's inside them. But you find out things that become
obvious when you hear them. I tell people it's not worth doing
unless it's frightening ... except for bungee jumping. Don't try
People mistakenly believe stress can be banished, but that's
just not so, Hasenclever says. Stress has myriad causes, including
buying a home, planning a wedding or dealing with relationships.
It's important to learn how to relieve stress and develop individual
"I'm always amazed by how many people refuse to believe that
a positive attitude can change your life," she says.
Among Hasenclever's suggestions for combating stress are:
- Exercise. "It's huge in helping reduce stress. Start with a
20-minute walk a day. People still aren't making the connection that
their body needs an outlet to release tension."
- Support groups
- Communication. "We aren't communicating enough. I still have a
hard time communicating with my husband and I'll go hide and lick my
wounds and he won't have a clue I'm hurt or what's wrong. It's so
instinctive for us to close up and we've gone out of our way not to
be vulnerable." Hasenclever says it's important to air your
grievances your boss, family or spouse what's wrong in a
non-threatening manner to open up the lines of communication.
- Do an activity you enjoy. Hasenclever takes delight in the
gardens that she and her landscape designer husband created and
she's also enjoying learning to horseback ride.
- Learn to laugh. Hasenclever says chuckling about life's little
annoyances is important.
"Say you come home and see that your husband hasn't done the
dishes. Pull back, learn to laugh and communicate about it."
For more information
Tracy Hanes battles stress in Whitby.