One person may get a migraine; another will have severe clicking and/or locking of the jaw; a third may have pain at the back of the head and neck – the symptoms of TMJ vary wildly. One thing is certain – stress is a major contributor to the condition. I’m proposing some simple steps you can do each day that offer relief. Find the one(s) that work most effectively for you.
1) Meditation: You don’t need to wear a tie-dyed T-shirt or be excessively fond of granola and sprouts to embrace the benefits of mediation. A few minutes daily definitely helps ease anxiety. It’s not difficult to start. Just sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus on reciting (whether out loud or silently) – a positive phrase or “mantra.” This can be as simple as “I feel at peace” or “I am embracing the calm.” Place one hand near your stomach to sync your mantra with your breaths. Let distracting thoughts float away.
2) Deep Breathing: If meditation just isn’t your thing, make time for a 5-minute break to focus on your breathing. Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. Sit up straight, close your eyes and place a hand near your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your mid-section then work its way to your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
3) Focus on Your Senses: Take 5 minutes to consciously slow down. Become aware of little things: how the breeze feels on your face when you’re outside; how lovely the birdsong is in your garden. Really taste your food, or enjoy the way the water beats on your back when showering.
4) Reach Out to Friends: Friends and family are one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others. Share what’s going on. Processing a new perspective on your problems can really help to diffuse stress.
5) Tune Into Your Body: This one really works for me. Take a “walk” through your body to get a sense of where the problems are. Lie on your back, or sit quietly with your feet squarely on the floor. Start at your toes, and work your way up – noticing the trouble spots. Be aware of the places that feel tight or sore, and for several moments, breathe deeply and imagine a healing breath flowing to the spot.
6) Practice Decompression Techniques That Work For You: You know what truly relaxes you. Perhaps you respond well to a warm heat wrap on your neck and shoulders. Or, you benefit from lying down with a tennis ball to roll away tension. Maybe soaking your feet is your trigger for complete relaxation. Take the time each day to treat yourself to your optimum relaxer.
7) Laugh About It: A good belly laugh lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. It also boosts brain chemicals (endorphins) that help your mood. Tune into your favorite sitcom or video, or call someone who knows how to make you smile.
8) Tune Into the Benefits of Music: Research proves listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. Your playlist doesn’t have to be spa music with birds chirping in the background. Blowing off steam by rocking along to favorite tunes is also a great stress reliever.
9) We’ve Said It Before….We’ll Say It Again – Get Moving! Exercise leads the pack in relieving stress. It doesn’t have to be a marathon – just something that gets you going. Take the stairs; park at the far end of the mall’s parking lot; raise your arms over your head and take a big stretch. Yoga, Pilates or spinning, whether calm or frenetic, exercise is the best combatant for stress.
I encourage you to test out which of these methods work best for you. You are worth the time! Allow yourself a mini break with maxi results. Beat the stress right out of your day, then enjoy your improved “Mind/Body” (dare I say “Mouth/Body”?) connection.