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The Benefits of Entertainment for Stress Relief

(in partnership with Mayfair Diagnostics)

When the lights go down in the theatre to start a show, an invitation is extended. It is an invitation for you to laugh, sing, and step into a world you’ve never been. A story being told on a stage provides a welcome period of escapism. For some, this invitation is vitally important.

Now, more than ever, managing stress and taking care of our mental health have become important to maintaining our overall health and wellbeing. We’ve all had to adapt to a lot of change in recent times and it’s an understatement to say this has been stressful for many of us.

The arts, and theatre specifically, creates an experience and break from stress, unlike any other. Seeing a comedy with an audience heightens the laughter you exude. Watching a familiar musical with an audience makes you want to sing along and cheer. Taking in a drama with an audience creates a connection to moments we can all relate to, and makes us think in ways we weren’t expecting. Whether it is theatre, orchestra, dance, or opera, the arts bring us together, collectively, to take us out of our daily lives and invigorate us with a break from stress that we often need.

But how can we manage this stress and keep a positive outlook? According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, there are a few simple steps to get started:

  • Identify the problem and talk about it.
  • Get active – physical activity can help reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Develop strategies for dealing with stress.

One strategy for dealing with stress is to have fun. Fun activities can be a source of eustress – a positive type of stress that can make you feel vital and alive. Later this season at Theatre Calgary, Jimmy Buffett’s Escape to Margaritaville will provide not only well-loved and popular music, but the mission of this show is to just be FUN. Some past Theatre Calgary shows are great examples of this, and offer some good advice for a less stressful life.

  • “Don’t be a Scrooge!”: Positive attitude – regular fun can help you feel less overwhelmed. In A Christmas Carol, once Ebenezer Scrooge sees the light in people, and the world, he is a changed man.
  • “Oscar Wilde was on to something…”: Laughter has many health benefits, such as relieving pain, increasing happiness, and even boosting your immune system. The Importance of Being Earnest was a chance for audiences to revel in wit, folly, and plenty of laugh-out-loud one-liners.
  • “Just play those jukebox hits”: It’s easy – finding the motivation to get active can be hard but committing to more fun in your life is much easier. Audiences who attended Million Dollar Quartet were made up of many who had not ventured out to the theatre for a couple of years, but found it hard not to get up and dance to Elvis and Johnny Cash!
  • “Embrace those outside your doors”: Sense of community – sharing fun activities with family and friends, like going to the theatre, helps you maintain healthy relationships and foster a sense of community. In Theatre Calgary’s Little Women, the March sisters created not only a strong bond with each other through their creative imaginations, but they brought their neighbours, and community into their world.
  • “Go where everybody knows your name”: Burnout buffering – regular fun activities can help bring balance to your life and prevent burnout. In Steel Magnolias, the Louisiana ladies gather frequently at their favourite salon to talk, share, cry, and feel good about themselves. They go not just for their hair, but for the escape to something fun and fulfilling.

For more strategies for dealing with stress, there are many national support programs, as well as local Alberta and Saskatchewan programs, which can help you cope. If you are in crisis, please go to your local hospital, call 911 immediately or locate a Crisis Centre in your region.


In addition to the mental toll that stress can have, there are also physical effects of chronic stress. That’s why it’s important to speak with your health care practitioner about both your mental and physical health. He or she can refer you for mental health support, as well as investigate any physical symptoms.

Generally, our body can handle stress in small doses. When that stress becomes long term, it can affect all systems of the body, such as:
The cardiovascular system
The gastrointestinal system


Stress can cause muscles to tense up. With chronic stress the muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time. This may cause a number of conditions, such as tension headaches, migraines, and low back pain.

Within the cardiovascular system, stress can cause an increased heart rate and elevated stress hormones and blood pressure. It may also contribute to inflammation in the coronary arteries. Dealing with chronic stress can mean experiencing these symptoms for a prolonged period, which increases the risk of hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.

This is of particular concern for older women. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, women have an increased risk of heart disease and chronic stress can add to this risk.

Within the gastrointestinal system, dealing with stress can alter your eating patterns. You might eat more or less than usual or change the types of food you eat. These changes may disagree with you and lead to pain, bloating, nausea, and stomach discomfort. It can also affect how food moves through the bowel and cause diarrhea or constipation.


Speaking to your health care practitioner about any mental or physical concerns helps manage stress and can help to address symptoms early before they become troublesome. In particular, it’s important to be aware of any symptoms that may be a sign of heart problems.

Your doctor may request an abdominal ultrasound to investigate abdominal pain or intra-abdominal structures, or a musculoskeletal ultrasound to investigate muscle pain. For cardiovascular concerns such as chest pain, medical imaging can assess the heart function, electrical changes, or blood flow (exercise stress testingmyocardial perfusion imaging). Coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) may also be appropriate.

CCTA can non-invasively examine the coronary arteries using a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce comprehensive, detailed images. It’s designed to look for plaque buildup in the arteries supplying the heart muscle (a risk factor for heart disease). Patients with family histories of heart disease may be at risk for developing atherosclerotic plaque buildup, blocking or narrowing these arteries. On CT, these can be identified even before symptoms of chest pain develop.
For more information about Mayfair Diagnostics or their medical imaging services, please visit


American Psychological Association (2018) “Stress effects on the body.” Accessed January 8, 2023.

Canadian Mental Health Association (2016) “Stress.” Accessed January 8, 2023.

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2022) “Emergency signs: When to call 9-1-1.” Accessed January 8, 2023.

Newby, D. E., et al. (2018) “Coronary CT Angiography and 5-Year Risk of Myocardial Infarction.” The New England Journal of Medicine 2018; 379: 924-33.

Pietrangelo, A. (2020) “The Effects of Stress on Your Body.” Accessed January 8, 2023.

Scott, E. (2020) “Why Having Fun Provides Some of the Best Stress Relief.” Accessed January 8, 2023.