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Stress management techniques can benefit both your career and patients

Oct. 1, 2018
Five spiritual practices that I have participated in for many years—yoga, tai chi, meditation, Reiki, and grounding—all have evidence-based research to document their effectiveness in improving health and management of stress. It’s a win for us, as well as counsel we can offer to our patients.

Eileen Morrissey, MS, RDH

Five spiritual practices that I have participated in for many years—yoga, tai chi, meditation, Reiki, and grounding—all have evidence-based research to document their effectiveness in improving health and management of stress. It’s a win for us, as well as counsel we can offer to our patients.

I can’t say enough positive things about the practice of yoga. The benefits abound. I started seven years ago, motivated by a desire to help ensure my flexibility. I took classes for a year, but ultimately my goal was to practice in smaller doses on a mat in my living room. To this day, each evening I spend 15 minutes doing yoga while watching television at home. Quite accidentally, I discovered how helpful it proved to be with some of the perimenopausal symptoms I was experiencing. Temperature swings while seeing patients are no picnic. If I stop yoga, my temperature swings return.

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The practice of yoga is spiritually and physically gratifying. It helps compensate for some of the physical extremes we experience while providing clinical hygiene services, and the meditative component helps with stress. The poses I do regularly are simple. (There is no way I’m standing on my head in my living room!) There are a number of ways to learn, such as taking a class or watching a DVD.

One yoga move that is helpful to an aching dental hygiene back is to lie on the floor after a long day of clinical hygiene, with legs at a 90-degree angle either straight up against a wall, or simply over the couch, with arms outstretched. I do this for approximately 15 minutes, which is longer than the recommended five-minute minimum, and it works for me. If I don’t do this one daily, I notice that something is missing.

Tai chi is another discipline I began several years ago. My blood pressure was up slightly, and I was warned that my MD would have to medicate me if it continued. I became aware of research showing that the regular practice of tai chi can reduce blood pressure. I attended one class and left with a final message the instructor gave us. He said, “I promise that if you do just five minutes of tai chi daily, every single day of your life will be better!”

What was there to lose? I googled tai chi beginner moves on YouTube and found a 10-minute video. I selected five poses that I had learned in the single class I had attended. I began doing these poses daily, each for three minutes, in front of my television at night. What I found was, yes, every day my life was better! Months later, both my systolic and diastolic readings had decreased significantly. I plan to continue this forever. Tai chi is excellent for stress reduction and maintaining balance.

Meditation is a discipline I have engaged in for more than two decades. I was formally trained in transcendental meditation; I practice it 20 minutes daily upon arising. There are many meditation techniques to research. If you can get past the mindset that so many have—“I can’t slow my mind enough to meditate”—you will experience the benefits of increased intuitive awareness and better stress management.

There is a reason that this is referred to as the practice of meditation, and that means one has to stay with it before it becomes easier. Lose the expectation that you will slip into some higher trance that raises you from a platform. It’s subtle, and you will gain much when you get into the breathing and learn to simply ignore the little thought-pings that try to pop into your head during those moments.

Reiki is a hands-on, natural healing using universal energy. I have been involved as a Level III practitioner for 15 years. I learned by taking classes, and ultimately received an attunement, which transferred me the gift of Reiki. A true gift it is, although somewhat difficult to explain to those who are not knowledgeable. I self-Reiki every night as I sleep. I have used Reiki to calm anxious patients in dentistry, and, I have seen it work miracles in many ways, some of which would be considered totally unconventional.

Grounding is something I took up recently. You will need to research this to understand it. In a nutshell, I am attempting to integrate by placing my bare feet against the earth’s surface for two to five minutes daily. At this writing, it is 16 degrees outside with snow on the ground, which can dampen enthusiasm. I’m trying, because I seek to tap into the assistance of Earth in grounding me. The medical documentation is fascinating. Anything that reduces inflammation is a win from my perspective. At present, I’m not ready to talk this up to patients but I plan to stay with it and see what happens.

Some readers may see this as too much Ooooga Woooga. If you have made it to the end of this article, I’m reminding you that there is evidence-based research to back up all of these. The takeaway is that participating in these disciplines will help in a multitude of ways.

Why not expand your role at chairside by counseling your patients to consider any of the practices? Remember, stress is a risk factor for periodontal disease. If our patients are not managing their stress, it makes them more vulnerable to disease. Our counsel may help them lessen risk and improve overall health and wellness. Because I participate regularly, I speak to my patients from the heart as to the benefits!

Eileen Morrissey, MS, RDH, is a practicing clinician, educator, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Rowan College at Burlington County. Eileen lectures nationally. Contact her at e[email protected]m or (609) 259-8008. Visit her website at eileenmorrissey.com.