I had a dentist appointment last week to check out my sore jaw and found out that I’m on my way to TMJ if I don’t do anything to correct it.
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) is a result of clenching and grinding your teeth to the point that the joint cushion for your jaw wears away to nothing, causing—essentially—bone rubbing against bone.
The first thing my dentist asked me was if I was stressed. At the core of it, my problem with grinding my teeth at night was due to stress, and there was a lot of it (both teeth grinding and stress).
This was not okay. My mental health was impacting my physical, so I needed to give myself some TLC, stat. Below are a few of my tactics on how to relax, so read on and chillax:
Tactic #1: Set the mood with music
Find music that you can really settle down to and get into your “happy place”. For me, a bunch of the tracks from Super Mario Sunshine really hits the spot (I recommend turning on the playlist while reading through the rest of the blog post). You don’t need to have this type of music playing all day, but I find it helps when I’m trying to focus and get a bunch of work done.
Tactic #2: Make yourself a cuppa
And I mean relishing in the moment of making that cup. Take a page out of the serene Japanese tea ceremony and give yourself a few minutes to let the tea steep or the coffee brew. This is your chance to quietly meditate, to practice some deep breathing.
During this time, don’t even reach for your phone. If you get bored, look for something less aggressively stimulating, like reading a book or listening to music.
Tactic #3: Use a hot moist compress on sore muscles
In my case, my sore muscles centered around my left jaw. I bought one of those nifty microwavable heat packs. It’s probably one of the most helpful random purchases from Marshall’s (I think I got mine for $5-6), so I recommend snagging one if you ever see it. Mine is actually marketed for use on your eyes, but these things work wherever you need them to.
Tactic #4: Play Wii Fit U
Believe me on this one—it works. I was actually somewhat surprised to find a section of yoga exercises that you can follow along with. The soothing music coupled with the neutralizing voice of your trainer brings a certain sense of calmness you just can’t seem to fight against.
When done right, you’re also working on your breathing, posture, and strength. It’s a win-win.
Tactic #5: Install f.lux on your computer
No matter the time of day, I have this piece of software activated on my computer, whether at work or at home. There are a number of recent studies that suggest the blue light emitting from electronics and light bulbs greatly reduce levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps us control our sleep/wake cycles. Get exposed to too much blue light towards bedtime, and you’ll probably have trouble falling asleep. By using f.lux often, my eyes also don’t feel as strained so, I feel much more at ease while working.
Tactic #6: Stop sweating the small stuff
You make a dash for the bus but the driver doesn’t care to open the door, never mind look at you when you knock on the door. The train is packed and you can’t find a seat. Someone bumps your shoulder while walking to work. Especially if all these happen in one day, you’re essentially bound to a terrible, no-good very bad day.
Or are you?
It’s tough to do at first, but if you stop sweating the small stuff, it’s totally worth the effort. This is one of the penultimate tactics to a more relaxing life. It’s not to say that you stop caring about important details, but rather, just the details that, in the long run, don’t contribute to your well-being.
If you miss that bus? Don’t worry, another one’s coming. The train is packed? Consider waking up earlier to catch an earlier, less crowded train (or talk to your boss about coming in a little later). Someone bumps your shoulder? Unless they have some agenda against you, chalk it up as an accident and not a personal offense.
Why relax? It allows us the chance to meditate and reflect on our actions. Ultimately, we find focus on the important things in life, on what we should actually worry about.
With a week of practicing these relaxation tactics, it’s been great so far. My jaw’s been getting better, day by day, though I think I still have a bit of a ways to go.
If I had to recommend just one tactic, it’d be #6; your outlook on life is one of the best tools you have towards living, breathing, being relaxed.
Top image by Aaron Burden from Unsplash.