If you are suffering from stress, it can contribute to chronic pain, such as arthritis or temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Before you reach for a bottle of painkillers, consider trying one of these relaxation techniques to reduce your stress and reduce or eliminate your pain.
Neuromuscular dentist Dr. Adam Hahn of Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC explains, “People don’t realize the physical damage stress can cause. When you get upset and clench your teeth, you can cause displacement of the cushioning disc in your temporomandibular joint, which may result in permanent damage, and lead to chronic headaches and jaw pain. Take the time and relax before your hurt yourself.”
Meditations and Dreamscapes
The classic relaxation technique of meditation can help many people reduce their stress. You don’t have to make the kinds of noises they teach in yoga class, or get into any of those crazy positions, either. You just need to find some way to focus your mind in the moment with a repetitive activity. You can say one of your favorite words again and again, or you can do a repetitive physical activity you enjoy, such as knitting.
If you can’t meditate when you are stressed, try dreamscaping. In dreamscaping, you imagine yourself in a happy place. It can be your childhood home, where you spent your honeymoon, or the Land of Dairy Queen. All that matters is that you imagine yourself in the place, and focus on the details of being in that place: what it smells like, what it looks like, what it feels like, and what you can do there.
We all know that massage can be very relaxing, but you don’t have to get a massage from someone else to get the relaxation benefits. Massage your hands, arms, leg, feet, or shoulders. Focus on the feeling of the physical contact and enjoy the warmth and pressure of the repetitive motions.
Pay Attention to Your Environment
Some people have trouble with what are described as autogenic relaxation techniques–that, si, relaxation techniques that rely only on you thinking relaxing thoughts. If this is you, look to your surroundings for relaxation. Do a 360 turn or even take a short walk and pick the most pleasant sight around. Then focus on it in great detail. If you are entranced by nature, find a flower bed and look at all the activity. Pay attention to the bees and other insects fluttering to and fro. Look at the details of the individual petals on the flowers. Watch the breeze rustle through.
If you are more entranced by clothes, go to a store and look at some clothes you really like. Think in detail about the cut, the pattern, and the materials. It doesn’t matter what you look at, just as long as it’s something you like, and you focus on the details.
Tea can be a good relaxer. Take a break from your normal cup of coffee, and enjoy a cup of herbal, green, or even black tea. What’s important about tea is the ritual as much as the drink itself. Boil water in a kettle. Select the tea bag. Pour the water in the cup. Watch the tendrils of color ease slowly out of the bag until the brewing is complete. Select a sweetener or milk. It takes only five minutes or so, and you may find yourself much improved before you even take a sip.
Exercise can release some powerful endorphins that lead to pleasant sensations and relaxation. Get out and exercise. Walk or run. Ride your bike. Even do pushups or situps. The key is to elevate your heart rate and do it for long enough that your mind stops fixating on your stressors.
Put Yourself in the Corner
Nobody puts you in the corner but you. And when you’re causing yourself stress, maybe you need a time-out. Force yourself to sit out from all activity for about five minutes or so. This should be enough for you to calm down significantly.
Play isn’t just for kids, it has benefits for adults, too. Of course, the kinds of play we engage in vary. You might benefit from firing up a game on your computer or smartphone. Maybe it’s time to pull out the soduku. Or if you can find a friend or two, get out to play some b-ball or throw a frisbee.
Finding the Right Relaxation Technique
None of these relaxation techniques works for everyone, so don’t be surprised if you try one and it doesn’t work. Don’t give up, either. Try a technique a couple times, and if it still doesn’t work for you, try something else. Eventually you will settle on the right one for you, and, boy will you be happy you did!
License: Creative Commons
Thanks to Dr. Adam Hahn of Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC for his contribution to this article.