Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
July 25, 2016
Claire came to my office several years ago with severe swollen gums and pain. But, it wasn’t from dental plaque or any systemic disease that could be identified medically. Turns out that her mouth eruptions were completely related to her stress – her intense and debilitating psychological stress. Once the stress was totally eliminated, her mouth lesions went away. Amazing! I wrote about her in this article.
Physical stressors (like excessive exercise, lack of sleep, injuries, and infections) take their toll on your body. Environmental stressors (like drugs, toxic substances, damaging foods, and other pollutants) also take their toll. However, psychological stressors (like worry, depression, anger, fear, life’s challenges, and overall happiness issues) are more prevalent in our society today than ever before with devastating results. Severe psychological stress was what Claire had to deal with on a daily basis. Almost everyone tries to deal with these and wants to get a handle on them. Prescription medicines seem to be the go-to solution. They aren’t the answer!
What really works for psychological stress? What has been proven to de-stress your stress without drugging you up? Here are 11 proven ideas, which are great starting points:
- Be present. It boils down to one-on-one. Focus on the moment – not on the past or on the future – just on the moment. For example, if you have an important task you need to accomplish, you can stress out because you think there are a million other things waiting to be done. Or you can be present and focus completely on that task. Be present one-on-one – you and that one task. When you’re done, you can move on to the next task. Then practice, practice, practice until “being present” becomes a habit.
- Just say, “NO!” If you are stressed because you feel forced to do more than you physically and emotionally want to handle, then don’t. Just say, “No!” Limit and prioritize your time to do those things you want and need to do.
- Avoid those people who stress you out. There may be some people that put pressures on you, and these people may not be important in your life. If this is the case, then avoid them.
- Reduce your dependence on the news. Constant news on TV and other media can be upsetting and depressing. If these sources create undue stress, then stop watching or listening to them. Get the news you need, but don’t inundate yourself with it.
- Give up on pointless arguments. You don’t have to win every battle. You don’t have to compromise your morals or ethics either, but you could assume enough is enough and just move on.
- Reframe situations that stress you. Try to place situations in a different context. For example, if you’re stuck in traffic, you might be able to listen to a podcast that you were planning to do later on, or you could just use this precious time to decompress or think through some of the priorities you have scheduled for the rest of your day.
- Lower your expectations and standards where possible. You don’t have to be 100% successful with every task. Sometimes 80% is good enough. When it is not, then strive for the remaining 20%.
- Realize things are what they are. There are things you can’t change. However, you don’t have to compromise with those things you can and want to change.
- Discover gratitude. Be thankful for the loved ones in your life and for those positive things you have accomplished in your life. You may want to keep a journal each day where you list two or three things you did that day that you’re grateful for and how your actions may have contributed to those.
- Experience empathy for yourself and for others. You will learn compassion for yourself, and you will better understand what affects others.
- Explore and practice specific stress management practices. These might include progressive muscle relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and various forms of exercise.
This list is far from exhaustive, but a great starting point. I have allowed my personal life to be affected by external stresses that I could have managed better if I only knew and practiced what I have described above. I have said it before, and I will continue to say it, “I am a work in progress.”