Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
November 22, 2020
Last week I wrote about emotional stress and how it damaged Emma’s mouth. I also explained how she completely reversed her mouth lesions by removing the specific source of her destructive stress. That was amazing!
But I’m sure you know that stress is not easy to eliminate – especially when you don’t have the ability to solve the problem itself.
This pandemic is causing stress for me and for most of the world population. What about you?
Just having to stay “socially distanced” and inside my home most of the time is stressful. Because of my challenge with incurable multiple myeloma, I know that COVID-19 could kill me. And then I worry about the health of my wife, children, and grandkids.
I can’t solve the pandemic problem, but I can control how I deal with it. Most importantly, I can recreate my robust immune system as I’ve described in previous blogs. (Read my Unconventional Cancer Protocols.) But the pandemic is not the only stress I have.
You might imagine my stress level went through the roof in 2018 when I received my cancer diagnosis and devastating prognosis. I feared my career was over, my quality of life would end, and the ability for me to provide for my family would stop abruptly. And now I have the added stress from the repercussions of the COVID pandemic.
Many of the people with whom I coach have experienced increased levels of emotional stress. The primary cause has been the pandemic and all the collateral damage this destructive force has on their daily living and their ability to maintain an income. These increased stress levels have significantly influenced their eating habits, their guts, and their pocketbooks. Working on a Game Plan to address this stress has been helpful for them. In fact, my Game Plan has delivered solutions for me. I know it can help you.
By focusing on solutions for stress NOW, you can improve your overall health and your family’s wellbeing. If you feel you need more guidance, I can assist you through my coaching program.
Let me remind you of the ultimate results of unrelenting stress reported in a study I described in my previous article. The investigators proved that ongoing stress for a long time could cause permanent autoimmune damage if not removed in short order.
The following Game Plan consists of action steps and ideas to adjust your response to stress. They are a result of my brainstorming. The list is extensive but definitely not exhaustive. These ideas can assist you in dealing with anxiety, fear, and boredom which could ultimately result in damage to your body. These steps may be able to mitigate if not eliminate the damage from stress.
Go through the list. Many of these thoughts might not work for you. But if only one made a difference, then it would be well worth your effort to read through all of them. So, start your perusal and try whatever makes sense. Include your family and friends as part of your Game Plan
1. First of all, change what you can change. But realize there are things you can’t change. Forget about those things that are beyond your control. But don’t compromise with those things you can and want to change
2. Turn off the bombardment of depressing news on TV.
3. Don’t give into fake conspiracy theories and don’t spread them as facts to others. If they intrigue you, thoroughly investigate them first.
4. Consider your local health department as a reliable source for information about the pandemic.
5. Schedule FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype appointments with close friends and relatives to stay in touch.
6. Have pleasing music playing in the background in your home.
7. View podcasts and webinars that interest you. They are abundant on YouTube, iTunes, and other sources.
8. Watch animated or comedy movies to bring a smile to your face. Streaming TV apps like Disney, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV are great sources for them.
9. Take an online course through a virtual college, university, or educational facility.
10. Journal about your stress. Writing about what you are feeling “inside your head” can help bring dark thoughts into the light and defuse their negative effects on your wellbeing.
11. Write down “what worries you” and make a list of “possible solutions” so you can be proactive as well as reactive.
12. Be present. If you feel worry and fear, bring your attention to your breath and your body. Slowly breathe in and out. Focus on the here and now. Be aware of the sights, sounds, and smells around you and what you’re feeling in your body. Continue to breathe slowly in and out until you feel calmer.
13. Take refreshing long walks outside.
14. Engage in a hobby or start a new hobby. Examples might be painting, reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, knitting, playing a musical instrument, or photography.
15. Exercise inside your home and outdoors.
16. Go to a playground; shoot basketballs; play tennis; throw a Frisbee; swim; engage in some sport; be physically active.
17. Dance and sing. Include your kids and spouse.
18. Play board games and search Amazon for new and challenging games for the family to play.
19. Donate to food banks and children hospitals.
20. Volunteer virtually. Some examples could be reading stories for a children’s hospital or interacting with nursing home residents via Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.
21. Help family members and friends to be calm.
22. Write creatively. Examples might include poetry, your memorable moments, fictional and non-fictional stories.
23. Self-publish your writings on Amazon – it’s free and you can create an income.
24. Create an Internet business.
25. Connect with friends and loved ones via social media sites like LinkedIn, Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. These also are great places to follow businesses and topics you like. Just remember to set yourself a timer – 45 minutes of social media is a perfect window. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of negative news – make sure to mind Game Plan #2 and Game Plan #3!
26. Sleep well: Your body needs seven to eight hours of restorative sleep each night. Make your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
27. Practice stress relaxing techniques like meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation:
a. Meditation: I don’t find meditation difficult. It is very natural and simple for me. I sit in a comfortable chair in my quiet bedroom. I close my eyes and relax my thoughts. Whatever thoughts come into my head, I simply tell myself, “That’s Okay” and then let them pass. I often concentrate on something rhythmic like the exhalation and inhalation of my breaths. Sometimes I repeatedly think to myself, “I am relaxed and still.” I meditate for 15 to 30 minutes at a time.
b. Diaphragmatic breathing: This is deep breathing in the diaphragm. To do this, I lie in my bed, and put my hand over my belly button. As I breathe in slowly and completely, I want my belly to push my hand out as far as it can. Then when I begin to exhale slowly, I want to try to get my tummy right up to my spine as my hand moves in that direction as far as it can. I simply repeat this a number of times. I find this very relaxing.
c. Progressive muscle relaxation: This technique creates total body relaxation by “tensing” separate muscle groups and then “relaxing” them. It’s called the Jacobsonian Relaxation Technique. I get ready for this when I’m ready to go to bed. I lie down on my back in bed and make myself comfortable. The key for me is to progressively tighten groups of muscles and then relax them afterwards. I start with my feet. While lying in bed, I squeeze and curl my toes and constrict these muscles as tightly as I can. Sometimes, I’ll be holding my breath. I keep the muscles really tight, and then I relax those muscles slowly as I breathe out. Then I move up my body to concentrate on my legs, tightening and relaxing these muscles in the same way. I continue to move up to my buttocks, abdomen, back, shoulders, neck, hands, arms, face, etc. Progressively, I tighten these muscle groups and then let go. After one round, my entire body feels relaxed and stress-free. It’s a method I love, and it always works.
28. Provide your body with nutrients that enhance your immune system. Stress will destroy your gut microbiome, create systemic inflammation, and weaken your immune system. You can offset some of the damage by:
a. Eating nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods
b. Drinking natural mineral water, which has electrolytes like magnesium, calcium, etc. (ex: Gerolsteiner, Fiji, Evian)
c. Seasoning food with Himalayan salt, which contains 84 minerals and trace elements
29. Satisfy your “need to eat to relieve stress” by considering these alternatives to junk food:
a. Drink more mineral water
b. Make hard boiled eggs and have them on hand for snacking
c. Choose pork rinds for a salty crunch
d. Chew on grass-fed beef jerky
e. Eat raw honey to satisfy your “sweet tooth”
f. Enjoy some fruit like various berries, apples, and avocados
30. If your feelings of stress have escalated and are getting the best of you, there is help available. Please take action! Talk about your feelings with a loved one, or you can privately seek assistance from live counselors waiting to hear from you:
a. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
b. Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, 24/7
I’m not sticking my head in the sand, and I don’t believe that all bad things will go away. How ridiculous would that be? But I know that reframing stress and occupying your time with constructive and supportive activities can give you and your family a healthier perspective when dealing with stress.
For me, I need to feel relevant and productive. That’s my personality, but that may not be yours.
However, I want to emphasize that it is important for me to change what I can change and to let go completely of those things that are beyond my control. This single concept has been a game changer for me. It might be for you.
Check out my new training on the Better Belly Blueprint! You can watch it HERE.