So far my self prescribed stress relief regimen consists of:
- Eating more healthfully
- Exercising more regularly
- Checking in with the ergonomics guy at work to make sure I'm sitting properly since my neck is killing me (Diagnosis: I was sitting properly but I had to stop cradling the phone to my ear with my shoulder. I got a headset.)
- Trying to get more sleep
- Taking the occasional "nerve pill"
- Applying a heat pack to my neck and shoulders every night
- Avoiding stressful/upsetting media
- Downloading meditation podcasts to listen to as I fall asleep
- Attempting to meditate when I first awaken each morning
- Taking an Aleve each morning with breakfast
This morning I went in for my bi-annual teeth cleaning with my Dentist. I sat in the chair and he started poking around and cleaning with that dreadful pick thingy. A few minutes in he sat back and we had conversation that went pretty much like this:
DDS: So, what's going on?
Me: What do you mean?
DDS: Does your jaw hurt?
DDS: You're clenching. So, what is it? Work or home?
Me: What are you talking about?
DDS: The tension, is it from work or home?
Me: Uh, I've... been... a little... stressed at work.
DDS: It's pretty bad. You know when you clench your teeth you're applying 800 pounds of pressure. You could take my finger off if I made you mad enough. That kind of clenching happens when you're stressed out. Most people feel funny talking about it with their Dentist but what's going on at work?
Me: Well you ARE a Doctor.
DDS: Yes, I am!
So I explained the past several months to him. He then explained that clenching my teeth at night would not only make my jaw sore but could also cause headaches (check!) and neck and shoulder pain (check and check!).
DDS: Do you chew gum?
Me: Not anymore.
DDS: Good. Ok, so you should start taking a couple of Aleve before bed and 2 more in the morning.
Me: Is that going to be ok? it sounds like a lot.
DDS: No, you'll be fine. Swallowing fists full of Advils a few times a day will eventually hurt your kidneys, and we don't want that, but the Aleve should be ok. If that doesn't help then call me and I'll give you a super-sexy mouth guard. I'll show you one in a minute. That helps 95% of people with Bruxism (the official name for us teeth clenchers). If that doesn't do it then I may have to prescribe muscle relaxants. I'm not opposed to muscles relaxants for this sort of problem. Nothing too severe though. We don't want you walking around like these desperate housewives running their shopping carts into the potato chip aisle at 3:00 in the afternoon.
DDS: And If THAT doesn't work then I can give you a device, sort of like an iPod, that will send small electronic shocks to the jaw muscles until they relax. I mean it's not like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or anything but... you know.
Me: Umm, ok.
DDS: Now the other thing. I don't want to worry you but you're bleeding... A LOT. I'm not helping you here (he said waving that pick thingy around) but it's a lot of blood. Why are you bleeding?
Me: I'm not flossing enough?
DDS: No! It's the stress. Do what you gotta do. Take some time off. Go get a facial. Whatever, just do something. I'm not going to tell you to relax because it's easier said than done but go out and do something... and tell you HR department about this!
He then made me rinse with some crazy peri-whatchamacallit dental solution to help with the bleeding and apologized for ruining my lunch. "You'll want to salt everything because this stuff diminishes your ability to taste much for the next several hours. Sorry!"
Who knew your Dentist could tell so much about you from poking around in your mouth for a few minutes? Luckily I really like my Dentist. I like how normal and matter of fact he is but the whole conversation was sort of the last straw for me. So far I haven't mentioned my stress level to HR or my boss but I'm going to, pronto. In fact I tried to talk to my HR person about it today but she had her door closed every time I time I walked by. I'll try again tomorrow.
Until then, I'm microwaving my neck roll getting into bed for some quality Tivo time.
I'll let you know how it goes with the Aleve and the super-sexy mouth guard (I just know I'm gonna need one).
P.S. Be sure to check in with Oprah tomorrow. She's interviewing Roger Ebert. Have you seen him lately? Egads! Let's just say Roger's had a rough few years. There goes my pledge to avoid upsetting tv.