Life can be stressful.
Whether it’s work demands, family obligations, a busy social calendar, or problems in our personal lives, stress can take a serious toll on our mental and physical health.
Stress even impacts the health of our mouth – issues like teeth grinding, gum disease, canker sores, and TMJ dysfunction can all be made worse in times of stress and can lead to further oral and overall health complications down the road.
That’s why it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress or to reduce overall stress levels all together. To help – and to give you one less thing to worry about – we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks for managing stress and to help bring you a little peace of mind.
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1. Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week to keep our bodies in tip-top shape. But our bodies aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits.
Exercise increases concentrations of a hormone called norepinephrine, which studies show helps the brain manage its response to stress and stressful situations. It also releases the feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin, which can put you in a better mood and allow you to approach stressful situations and events with a fresh perspective.
2. Kick the unhealthy habits
When we’re stressed, we sometimes turn to not-so-healthy ways to deal with it – perhaps we drink a little more than we intended or light up a cigarette after finally quitting.
While alcohol and tobacco are often viewed as “stress-relievers,” they actually put an increased level of stress on the body. Alcohol suppresses the immune system, leaving the door open for infections like gingivitis to wreak havoc. Tobacco raises your blood pressure and heart rate, placing more stress on your heart as it works to calm down.
3. Practice the art of saying "no"
No one likes saying “no.” We all want to please those we love, and we all want to find a way to make people happy.
But it’s important to recognize when your desire to please others is impacting your own ability to be happy. Sometimes, graciously turning down plans can be the best way to relieve some pressure from a busy schedule. And learning to set personal boundaries and politely step away from a stressful situation can help to make you feel more empowered and in control of your own life.
4. Get in touch with yourself
If you haven’t tried meditation, this is your sign to start.
A study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (the official journal of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society), found that practicing mindfulness meditation significantly reduced the body’s inflammatory response to stress when compared to traditional stress-relieving habits, such as exercise and diet.
And research on stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia found that meditation could help improve the symptoms of these conditions by reducing the level of cortisol in the body – the hormone released by the brain in times of stress.
5. Talk to someone
A famous English rock band once sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and sometimes, friends are exactly what you need.
Call up a trusted friend or loved one and talk to them about what’s stressing you out. Even if they can’t offer a solution, just the simple act of them lending their ear can make a world of difference.
According to Psychology Today, studies show that simply talking about our problems with someone we trust can help reduce stress, strengthen our immune systems, and reduce physical and emotional distress.
These are just a few tips for managing stress. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to your healthcare provider about other options to help reduce stress and/or eliminate stressful triggers.
For more information on how stress effects your oral health or if you have any concerns about the health of your teeth, talk to your dentist.
Stress taking a toll on your teeth? Use our “Find a Dentist” tool to locate a provider that will care for your smile!
Find A Dentist