Friday, July 31, 2009

Relief for Teeth-Grinding

I will spare you the pain of reading yet another blog post summarizing the latest breathing article that I read. And God knows, there are plenty of those to choose from every week. You'd think by the number of articles that have been written recently on breathing that it was the "hot" new thing to do or something, like those "lose weight by obeying the one simple rule" ads that have been popping up in our e-mail account ad sidebars every day for the last month.

Today I will mention an article on the link between stress and teeth-grinding, or bruxism. There is, of course, a correlation, and the article mentions various ways to alleviate the pressure on your teeth through the use of mouth guards and similar apparati, but, according to Dr. Nancy Rosen, "because stress causes most of all grinding, the only real way to cure it is to reduce the stress in your life". Rosen suggests exercise and meditation, and forms of therapy that are centered around relaxation (please keep your local humble hypnotist in mind). Dr. Harold Menschel of the TMJ and Facial Pain institute "also recommends relaxation therapy and even hypnosis". Even hypnosis? Does anyone else, non-hypnotists included, sense a little bit of condescension in that? Even hypnosis indeed.

Anyway, as a hypnotist myself (or even a hypnotist, I should say), one method that I recommend is to spend more time being aware of the tension and tightness in your jaw area that leads to teeth-grinding or clenching, and to deliberately relax those areas regularly. This can be done by visualizing or directing relaxation to the area during meditation or deep breathing, or by reciting an affirmation or self-suggestion like, "My jaws are loose and relaxed, and my teeth are separated" while in a state of self-hypnosis. Do this before bed, so you can go to sleep without carrying any tension in your jaws that would cause nightly teeth-grinding. And also do it first thing in the morning, and at various times in the day when you would feel stress, whether it's while sitting in traffic, or at your desk at work, or dinner with your mother-in-law. The idea behind this is to pinpoint the stressful moments of your life and deliberately replace the tension with relaxation.

One article that I'd like to read but haven't come across yet is one that explains why so many people do carry stress in their jaws as opposed to other parts of the body. I mean, does anyone out there clench their fists as a stress response? Or tighten their kneecaps? Not so much, right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't kill yourself over a few mosquitoes

Thanks to my career in nature recording, I am outside A LOT, especially during the warmer months. I've always been very enthusiastic about being outdoors, going back to my childhood. What that means is that, over the years living in New England, I've probably been bitten by over a million mosquitoes. And I pride myself in being everyone's favorite hiking buddy, because mosquitoes seem to prefer the taste of my blood over anyone else's. I can't explain why, I just know that it is an indisputable truth. I can tell you about mosquitoes whose bites hurt like crazy but the welts only last an hour, and I can tell you about mosquitoes whose bites are stealthy and hardly noticeable, but the welts last a whole week. And I can tell you where to find each of these various types of skeeters.

Over the years, I've tried all the different kinds of repellents: The 100% DEET stuff that works well but melts plastic on contact and was reported to have caused liver problems for the Gulf War infantrymen who used it; The "all natural" botanical repellent that works decently, but needs to be reapplied every 15 minutes; The ultrasonic emitter that clips onto your clothing and "scares off" mosquitoes by mimicking the sound of their top predator, the dragonfly (don't waste your money on this one); and just about everything in between. None of these turned out to be a sastisfactory solution that I felt good enough about to stick with. So in the last couple of years, I've settled on what I felt was the one true solution to preventing mosquito bites: a physical barrier.

That's right, I got a bug suit. You know, the dorky matching hoodie and pants made of window screen material that goes on outside whatever clothing you're wearing. It even has a drop-down 'veil' of sorts to protect your face. And as expected, it is not only highly embarrassing to wear in areas where I run into other people, but it works great! -- except now all the mosquitoes just bite me on the hands :( But I can't expect myself to wear gloves while trying to fumble with the tiny buttons and switches on audio equipment and cameras while standing in a stream. And plus, IT'S SUMMER, PEOPLE. It's way too hot to be wearing gloves! And yes, mesh bug gloves are available, but that doesn't solve the problem of trying to manipulate tiny controls (and it also adds another element of embarrassment to the already very embarrassing bug suit).

Which leaves me with - what exactly? Bug suit over my whole body and repellent on the hands, of course! Brilliant! Now, I simply have to find a repellent that works for more than 15 minutes and doesn't give me hand cancer... which brings me back to square one.

But then I found this great article on safer bug repellents. Thank you, WebMD and CBS Health, for waiting until mid-July to publish this article. But better late than never, I suppose. So what are the latest safest options? Soy-based repellents, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Time to go to my local holistic camping store and find these things! The article also offers short summaries of other natural repellent choices and physical measures you can take, and also has a section on the old standby, DEET, which still seems to be the consensus winner for pure repelling ability, but comes with the usual list of cautions, especially for children. It is after all, an insecticide.

Strangely, no mention was made of the bug suit among the options. Apparently, it's just too dorky for mainstream use. Thanks again, WebMD.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yet another article on breathing

Just when you thought you'd mastered the ancient art of breathing, another expert comes out with a new way! Just kidding, actually, the technique for proper breathing is, at its heart, generally consistently agreed upon, but everyone does have a tendency to add their own spin to it.

Here's my opinion of what you NEED to know: Basically, short, fast, shallow breaths result in stress and poor oxygen transfer to the body, which leads to fatigue, poor brain functioning, and overall poor health. Long, slow, full breaths, on the other hand, create relaxation and good oxygen transfer, leading to higher energy levels and better brain functioning. It's easy. If you ever needed to know one thing about breathing, it would be to favor long, slow, full breaths. Every single thing ever written about good breathing contains this same advice.

However, if you want to see the latest round of "improvements", read this article that I found online. It talks about emphasizing the exhalation phase of the breath as the focal point for relaxation, and also has a guide on how to pace your breathing for maximum effectiveness. It's good advice really, but do keep in mind that the number of different breathing techniques out there merely indicates that there's no single correct way. Heck, try them all, you can't really go wrong as long as you follow the golden rule of deep, full, breaths.