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I’ve had braces on my teeth for four months now, and I’ve been acutely aware of different ways I hold tension in my jaw and mouth.
Clenching teeth and holding tension in the jaw can lead to discomforts like headaches, neck and shoulder tightness, and TMJ.
Here are some tips to help relax the jaw.
Tongue to Roof of Mouth
I learned this in yoga. Gently allow the tip of your tongue to float up to the roof of your mouth. Your jaw should naturally drop and relax. You can try this any time you notice that you are clenching your teeth or furrowing your brow.
Acu Point: HOKU
This is one of the best overall stress-relieving points. Holding this point on the top of the hand can help with relieving so many discomforts–insomnia, headaches, constipation, shoulder and neck tension–that could be causing or exacerbated by tension in the jaw. Read on.
Bedtime Jaw Squeeze
If you wake up with soreness in your jaw and teeth, try this simple sqeeze before going to sleep. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and arms, and take a nice deep breath. Now gently press your palms on the sides of your face by your jaw. Clench your teeth and you can feel a muscle bulge; that’s where you want to place your palms. Relax your jaw–try the Tongue to Roof of Mouth explained above–and hold you palms firmly but comfortably on your jaws while you take five deep breaths, in and out. Release your hands, relax your shoulders, and take five more deep breaths. Repeat the squeeze and relaxing two more times.
(Certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, or chronic pain, may contribute to sleep problems. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.)
Warning: Do not use this point on pregnant women.
Name: Hoku or Joining of the Valleys (Large Intestine 4)
Location: On the top of the hand, on the web where the thumb and the index finger meet. (See the red dot on the hand in the photo.)
To hold: Squeeze the point by putting your thumb on the point, and your index finger on the palm side of your hand. Make small circular motions with your thumb until you feel the point; it is tender on many people.Make sure that the hand that is holding the point is relaxed. The demo photo above shows you how to hold the point, but the hands are a little tense; the second photo, on the right, shows you the hands relaxed, which is how you want to do it.
Hold for 10 or 15 seconds initially, until you figure out what works for you. You can hold for a few minutes, but make sure that the holding hand does not get tense or tired out. Release gently if you feel any acute pain.
This is a wonderful point. It is effective for relieving so many discomforts, including headaches, constipation, insomnia, stress, shoulder and neck tension.
You are encouraged you to seek the advice of a qualified health care provider for questions about a medical condition.
Spring is coming. You feel like doing something new, like learning some acupressure, right?
Well, there are only 365 “official” points…
Fortunately, Michael Gach’s excellent book, Acupressure’s Potent Points: A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments, focuses on a handful of points that are especially effective. (By the way, Michael is the founder of the Acupressure Institute–where I have studied–in Berkeley, California.)
I always recommend this book to my students as a useful reference book to review information that we cover in classes, and to learn self-acupressure techniques for other discomforts.
The book includes an introduction to acupressure–its history and how it works–then is followed by 42 chapters that each cover common ailments, including allergies, constipation, insomnia, and sinus problems. Each chapter includes:
- real-life stories from Michael Gach about success with acupressure in addressing the ailment
- photos, charts and descriptions of each point and its effectiveness
- step-by-step exercise instructions
In the last minutes of 2006, I was in a car accident. We were just about to cross the Oakland Bay Bridge to go home after a warm and lovely New Year’s Eve dinner, and the car I was driving was hit by a truck.
Fortunately, no one was injured. The man who hit us was calm and friendly, which helped calm my startled nerves, and I trust that the insurance matters will all work out alright. When the clock struck 2007, we were still on the side of the road, but had a great view of the fireworks display across the Bay.
Nevertheless, my spirit has been a bit off-kilter today, the first day of 2007. Worried about the repair requirements, wary about driving, rattled that the transition to the new year was accompanied by such a jolt. However, I remind myself of the healthy intention I set for myself yesterday, before the accident.
That is, to practice some yoga and meditation every morning, even if only for 15 minutes. I ALWAYS feel better when I do that. I know this supports all aspects of my life.
And this morning, even though I was feeling a bit tentative and sorry for myself, and my neck and shoulder were a bit uncomfortable–from the accident? from stress and worry?–I did my practice. I felt better afterward, in body and spirit, and I believe it allowed me to enjoy the visits with good friends through the day as much as I have. My morning practice also probably helped to recognize my “off-kilter” state, and just let it be, rather than getting more worried about that.
So, I invite you to consider setting a healthy intention for yourself.
- Not a goal, which sets up a specific expectation. Here’s a familiar example: I must diet and lose x pounds by y-date.
- But a guiding principle that helps you with what to do in every moment. It might look like this: My intention is to pay attention to when I am actually hungry, and eat food that is nutritious and delicious, enough to satisfy my hunger, and no more.
When you pay attention to the joyful or peaceful and restful moments in your life, what healthy intentions can you set?
After dinner last night, my friend asked for some advice for her insomnia. She has the kind where it’s hard to get to sleep. (The other kind is where you wake up during the night, and have difficulty falling back asleep. And of course there’s the combination of those two.)
There can be any number of reasons for insomnia, so I did what I always do, which is to learn more about that sleeplessness.
- Do you have physical discomfort in bed, that could affect your ability to fall asleep?
- Is you mind busy? Are you thinking lots of thoughts?
- Are you feeling stressed? Do you have deadlines or other worries?
- Does this happen every night? When is it not such a problem? When it is worse?
- What do you typically do before you go to sleep? Do you have a bedtime routine?
My friend said that she thinks her mind is busy with thoughts. So I suggested she try soaking in a bath before going to bed. When our energy is up in our head–with thoughts and worries–the body sometimes gets left out. A hot bath covers your skin all the way down to your toes, and reminds our heads that it’s not all about our minds. The toes want some attention, too. Some of that energy in the head can relax down into the body, helping in overall relaxation.
It turns out that my friend does take a bath. Every night!
She thought a little more, then asked, “What about reading before bed?”
It turns out that my friend reads a variety of material–magazines, novels, non-fiction–in the bathtub.
So her nightly bath ritual may relax her body, but the reading might be stimulating her mind. My suggestion to her was to leave the reading material outside. See what it’s like to let the bath be a blissful bath on its own. And to pay attention to her ability to sleep. I’ll check in with her later.
Bathtime Tools: Even though there’s a wonderul soaking tub in my home, it’s whoafully under-used. So I bought myself a jar of Ahhh…Bath Soak because I love how the aromatherapy helps to calm me, and also gives each bath a specialness boost. I’m not suggesting that you have to buy anything to make your baths more fragrant. But to pay attention to what makes it relaxing and appealing to you.
Are you feeling stressed or overwhelmed with shopping or hosting/travel preparations? Or worried about finishing up a project at work? Or maybe you just want to take a break from the buy-buy-buy atmosphere.
Meditation can be a powerful source of health and wellness, for both body and spirit. Even when we don’t have the time or inclination for a full meditation “practice,” a few moments of deep breath and holding acupressure points can be calming and relaxing.
The Self-Acu Mini Meditation takes just a few minutes, and can be done anywhere. At your desk, sitting in your car, or at bed-time. It’s easy to do, and gives you a chance to hold two important acupressure points: the Third Eye (between your eyebrows) and the Hara (below your bellybutton.)
Give yourself this gift, now or anytime.
Self-Acu Mini Meditation
For a moment of relaxation during a busy day, try this mini-meditation.
Stand or sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Gently place a finger on your Third Eye-between your eyebrows-and place the palm of your other hand on your Hara-below your bellybutton.
Take five … deep … slow … breaths.
Smile. You’ve just given yourself a wonderful gift.