Disasters are definitely serious, however appropriate humor serves to bring temporary relief from anxiety and fear. One reaction to the recent world pandemic is the hoarding of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Yes, humans want to continue to have wiping materials on hand for their posterior regions. And a liquid to wage war on germs. But people, please stop the mania. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus—not a stomach or intestinal virus. Go buy some essential oils. And stock up on Spam—there’s a lot of that leftover on grocery shelves.

I chuckled after viewing a series of coronavirus-inspired cartoons in a newspaper story. Lucy and Alice Parker and their friend Hanna Ahlberg experienced 12 days of quarantine in an abandoned hospital in Vietnam after being on an airplane flight with an infected passenger.

“However, in true British spirit the girls are trying to keep calm and carry on. And in an effort to keep their spirits up, Alice and Hanna have taken to creating some satirical coronavirus cartoons on their iPads. Under quarantine, they have plenty of time on their hands after all. The graphic designers quickly began brainstorming different ideas commenting on the global panic surrounding coronavirus…The cartoons lightly poke fun of the recent coronavirus-inspired hysteria in a series of comic single panels. In one cartoon, blocky figures create a fortress of hoarded toilet paper. In another, a cautious Lego-like character showers under a giant vial of hand sanitizer.” www.chaohanoi.com.

A sense of healthy humor can be a line of defense when it comes to coping with stressful situations. Laughter effects mental health by releasing endorphins, natural chemicals in the body. Endorphins promote a sense of well-being and relieve stress. Laughing decreases cortisol, the stress hormone.

“Humor and laughter can offer post-disaster healing, but timing and receptivity are critical considerations,” says Steve Wilson from the World Laughter Tour. “The benefits of laughter are plentiful and far-reaching. In today’s culture, people are more stressed, less relaxed and often lacking in work/life/family balance. Life is meant to be enjoyed with passion, zest, enthusiasm and in the camaraderie of like-minded individuals. Laughter therapy can bring the happiness back into your life, while helping to relieve or eliminate many health problems that are associated with stress.” www.worldlaughtertour.com.

Reflecting on his time in a Nazi concentration camp, Viktor Frankl stated, “It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

“Humor allows us to detach from the trauma for a few moments and gives respite from the emotional chaos. Laughter provides an emotional catharsis. Feelings of anger, tension, and fear can be neutralized and released with laughter. After the laughter we feel strong, resilient, and hopeful. Laughter invites celebration and reminds us of the joy in life,” according to an article on the website for The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

However, humor needs to be used effectively and appropriately when applied during a disaster to reduce stress. Hurtful humor is not funny. And tasteless jokes are, well, tasteless—no flavor.

I think I’ll leave a basket of Spam and essential oils on my neighbor’s porch.

“I have seen what a laugh can do.  It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”—Bob Hope

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in U.S.