Time for yourself during difficult times….
For many of us on the Northeast coast, the last two weeks have tested our physical and mental fortitude in ways that we have never experienced. Despite our best attempts to stay upbeat and positive, the loss of lives, property, businesses, and income have been a tough pill to swallow. As a result of these ongoing stressors that have no easy answers and unpredictable outcomes that have not yet been determined, many of us have felt like we have lost control of our ways of life and daily routines.
Unfortunately when we lose control of our world and our efforts to restore order are met with obstacles that are tough if not impossible to budge, a price is often paid both emotionally and physically. The impact on your body is often seen as symptoms such as headaches, neck aches, back pain, stomach distress, rashes, high blood pressure, and jaw pain. Some of these symptoms occur as a result of the loss of regulation in critical body systems or the loss of quality sleep while others occur due to behaviors that develop during the day as a response to your brain being under constant siege. Specifically shallow breathing and bracing of the jaw, face, and neck muscles are common occurrences when humans are faced with challenging life circumstances.
With the knowledge that there are no easy fixes to the situations many of us are facing, here are some simple concepts and techniques that can be employed simply.
1) Take stock of your body posture frequently during the day. Are your shoulders raised? Are you creasing your brow? Are you jutting your jaw forward or bracing your jaw muscles? Are your teeth resting together or worse still are you clenching your teeth together as you attempt to accomplish a physical task, or is this activity accompanying an unpleasant thought? Are you holding your breath???
If so here is an easy technique to follow. Whether you are sitting or standing throughout the day, make a conscious effort to wet your lips and let the lips lightly touch each other with your teeth part. In this posture you can let your tongue gently touch the inside surface of the lower front teeth or place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Once in this position, breath slowly through your nose holding the gentle lip seal. Fill your belly with air (not your chest), hold for 2 seconds and then blow the air out through your lips over 3 seconds. Then repeat this sequence 6 times. At the same time make sure your shoulders are down, your hands unclenched, and your forehead held without tension. To stay reminded of this muscle relaxation technique, place some reminder stickers on critical places like cell phones, computers, the dashboard of your car or watch face, for example. Every time you see these reminders repeat this breathing cycle. You will find the effort calming within several hours or a few short days…
2) Once you have mastered the techniques above, try the following. Once every hour, isolate one minute. During this minute attempt the following. Try to take 6 breaths during this minute, 10 seconds each. Proceed like this: With your lips sealed, Breath air in through your nose, filling your belly, taking 4 seconds to do this. Then exhale air through your slightly parted lips, taking 4 seconds to do this. Then pause for 2 seconds. This is the first 10-second breath. Now repeat five more times…though this is difficult to master you will find that you will look forward to this minute. It is your place to calm the mind.
Remember, taking a few moments for yourself during these difficult times will enable you to remain capable of helping others in need.
Dr. Donald Tanenbaum is a specialist with offices in New York City and Long Island, NY. He is uniquely qualified to diagnose and treat facial pain associated with jaw problems, TMJ, referred pain, nerve pain, and migraines. Find out more at www.tanenbaumtmj.com