Learning how to de-stress yourself is huge. Everyone experiences stress. It’s just part of life.
Stress becomes an issue when there’s too much of it, and your system has trouble rebounding resiliently to a calm, alert state.
How is this relevant to TMJ issues? So much TMJ misery is related to chronic and acute stress. It’s one of the major contributors to TMJ issues. People clench and grind due to stress, and stress is always accompanied by muscle tension, which causes a lot of jaw issues.
Staying stressed for too long is bad for your well-being. It affects your digestion (including absorption of nutrients and detoxification) and creates unnecessary wear and tear on your vital organs.
I’m talking about bad stress as opposed to good stress, such as the anxiety before a performance that makes you a better performer, or the adrenaline you feel when a bad driver nearly hits you that helps you react quickly and successfully avoid being hit.
In my opinion, bad stress includes most news about politics (just donate money and volunteer for candidates you like) and traumatic events (there’s always something awful happening in the world).
Also, the desire to control others’ behavior can bring about bad stress. Better to focus on accepting them as they are and work on a healthy path for yourself.
Maybe they’ll witness you and want to change themselves.
You can still care and have a constructive strategy to manage stressors.
You can do these things from a calm, alert state. Imagine that.
The beauty of using a little breathwork to get yourself out of an unhelpful state of stress (any stressor that does not require immediate action) is that breathwork bypasses your mind.
Has “you need to calm down” ever helped anyone to actually calm down, whether it’s yourself or someone else telling you this?
Breathwork is also quick. You can simply do a little breathwork when stressed, and your system starts shifting into parasympathetic mode.
A note to the chronically stressed: here’s how to tell when you’re in a parasympathetic state. Your whole body starts to feel a softness and relaxation because you have let your guard down. You notice your that breathing has changed, to becoming slower, deeper, with longer pauses.
If this is hard, because maybe you’ve been carrying the guarding that often occurs after a trauma, try this: Imagine yourself in a completely safe environment where you don’t have to be guarded against anything. Maybe you are surrounded by softness, or floating in body-temperature water. You may have any objects (real or imaginary) that bring you comfort.
Let go of your thoughts and just be.
The more you practice breathwork and conscious relaxation, even when not stressed, the more it gets wired into your neurology.
The physiological sigh
The physiological sigh is breathwork technique that’s getting a lot of attention now. It’s been recognized for 80 years as a behavior people do automatically when claustrophobic and in other stressful situations.
Now you can put it to work for yourself when you need to de-stress yourself.
I learned about it from Dr. Andrew Huberman, a Stanford University professor who runs a neurobiology lab and has a podcast.
In brief, it’s two inhalations through the nose, and one longer exhalation through the mouth. (I think of it as the “sniff sniff ahhhhh” breath.)
Here’s a video demonstrating technique.
Dr. Huberman says sometimes people fall asleep if they do it 15 times in a row, but just three of these physiological sighs are enough to start slowing your heartbeat down in 20-30 seconds.
I nearly always yawn when I start doing physiological sighs.
Another fairly quick breathwork technique for reducing stress is the 4-7-8 breathing (the Relaxing Breath). Dr. Andrew Weil, who has been practicing and writing about holistic health and integrative medicine for 30 years, came up with it.
Dr. Weil recommends doing four of these breath cycles at least twice a day for two months to get the benefits. This wires it into your neurology.
He recommends slowing the cycle down, with the limiting factor being how long you can comfortably hold your breath.
It can also help with cravings and falling asleep.
In essense, you are retraining your nervous system to be more relaxed.
You may become less stressed from using either or both of these techniques and still benefit from receiving a TMJ Relief session to retrain your jaw muscles into relaxation. The breathwork will help your body retrain itself more quickly and prevent relapses.
If you’re ready to have that conversation with me, please connect. I’d love to hear from you.
What to do if you have jaw issues? I offer a 30-minute in-person TMJ consultation to gather information and evaluate your issues. I also teach clenchers an alternative to clenching and provide known ways to stop grinding, from those who succeeded.
These habits are major contributors to TMJ issues, and you can change them.
If you’re not in Austin, I can do the above as well as help you learn what to ask about when seeking TMJ relief near you. Just let me know if you need a phone or Zoom consultation.
I offer a combination TMJ Consultation plus TMJ Relief session in person in Austin, Texas. The consultation serves as an intake, so I have a better idea of what your issues are and how we’ll measure progress. Your consultation is free when combined with your first TMJ Relief session. This is a two-hour session.
To be fair, when you’ve had TMJ issues for a long time, or they are acute, you may need multiple sessions to retrain your system to retain the ease and alignment, along with doing your homework to stop clenching or grinding your teeth.
I offer a package of four TMJ Relief sessions for 10 percent off single sessions, best done a week or two apart. These sessions are 90 minutes and integrate various bodywork modalities — including work in your mouth — so that you feel great when you get off the table. They are best done over 4 to 6 weeks.
If you’re really adventurous, you can schedule a 75-minute Self-Treatment for TMJ Issues session on Zoom where we’ll do an intake and I will teach you how to work on releasing the tension patterns that cause problems, including working in your own mouth. You’ll need clean hands and short nails. It’s really not that hard! Learn more about it here.