Years ago, Gabriel García Márquez wrote a book called Love in the Time of Cholera. Well, it seems that pretty much anyone in the world these days with access to a computer could write a novella about Stress in the Time of COVID-19. These are stressful times, indeed.
Stress places a burden on our oral and systemic health.
Americans are showing a significant increase in stress related to the suffering economy and increasing unemployment rates.
You may be experiencing stress yourself, or there may be someone in your life showing signs of a deterioration in their mental health. Even the strongest of people are struggling right now. For these reasons, we need to care for one another the best we can. We need to pick up pieces we’ve never had to deal with. However, this might seem easier said than done, and finding the best place to start is often part of the roadblock.
When we don’t adequately address our stress, it can take a severe toll on our bodies. Stress can adversely affect our ability to fight off infections as well, and gum disease is just one of the many conditions that can be caused by stress. Gum disease can result in bad breath or bleeding gums and can result in tooth loss as well. When we are stressed, we often grind our teeth or clench our jaw, leading to issues with TMJ (our jawbone). With severe cases of gum disease, we may need to see a periodontist to treat the infection.
When your mouth has an infection, it can serve as a pathway that allows bacteria to get to the bloodstream. But when your body is healthy, that pathway is closed. When we keep our mouths healthy, we are doing an excellent service to the rest of our bodies. We call this the mouth-body connection.
Stress can alter our moods and behaviors.
Stress can lead to an increase in our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the cortex of our adrenal glands. Cortisol is released into the blood and is transported throughout the body. Most cells contain receptors for cortisol. As such, cortisol can take several different actions depending on which sort of cells it is acting upon. Cortisol controls the body’s blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, serves as an anti-inflammatory, influences memory formation, controls salt and water balance, affects blood pressure, and aids in the development of unborn babies.
With this all said, as the body works to heal, the natural stress-response is inflammation. Inflammation can be beneficial, but when stress becomes severe or chronic, it can lead to tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system. Thus, chronic stress causes chronic inflammation, which can be detrimental to your oral health.
Help ease the stress of the woman in your life.
Whether she is your wife, mother, sister, or daughter, strong women tend to absorb and take on a lot of stress. Women tend to work on auto-pilot, taking on what is often referred to as the Mental Load. This mental task list tends to fall to women by default, simply because women are wired to operate differently from men. For women, they’ll walk through their laundry room and recognize that more laundry detergent is needed. So they’ll add it to the proverbial grocery list. Women will notice when their child is low on their medication, even if they aren’t the ones to administer the medication.
Women know when medical visits need to be scheduled. Women can multitask, folding laundry, pausing to take dinner out of the oven at just the right time, and picking up something off of the floor on the way. All this happens while the men in their life are checking something on their mobile devices. And don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying this is wrong or right. It just is.
Unfortunately, that mental load can lead to more stress. Women often experience stress in balancing their career and family life. The additional responsibilities layered on because of COVID-19, such as distance learning and the need to entertain a young child who can no longer have playdates, can be a lot to take on. When we can’t socialize with our adult friends, we lose that ability to vent and decompress. We need our villages to survive, and unfortunately, those villages are temporarily off-limits.
5 Tips to Relieve Stress for the Woman in Your Life
One of the best things that others in the household can do is sit down and talk to the woman in their life to see how they can help manage the home’s duties (not just the chores). Sometimes, however, you may find that she is unable to articulate what she needs. Many strong women can’t imagine not handling things on their own and, as a result, aren’t the best delegators. To make things a bit easier, we’ve created a list of 5 things you can do to help ease her stress.
1. Consider taking a day off so she can prioritize medical visits, such as with her physician or dental hygienist.
Often, moms put themselves at the bottom of the list, and self-care, as well as routine medical and dental visits, start to suffer. In this age of distance learning and quarantines, it’s not always possible for us to call on our village of helpers. Make sure the person taking care of everyone else is also caring for their own health.
2. Suggest (and make happen) a routine night where you take on the household and child-rearing responsibilities for the entire evening.
Every parent needs time to themselves. So make sure you’re both getting regularly scheduled time to relax, pursue a hobby, or do what you need to take care of yourself. Encourage Mom to head to the bathroom for a long bath—and lock the door. Perhaps a long soak while listening to an audiobook or watching her favorite show will be just what she needs.
3. Call the grandparents or hire a sitter to come watch the kids, and take her out for a night on the town.
If you still have access to your village of helpers, let them know how best they can help by asking for a night out. Then, plan an evening for just the two of you.
Lean in close, though, because there’s a secret to making this evening successful. The key is that you need to do more than just arrange the sitter and plan what you’ll do away from the house for an evening. This might take a bit of extra effort. Think through what she would do to arrange for an evening away from the kids or the house. Then, do those things. Create the list of important items for the sitter. Plan dinner for the kids. Do whatever you can so she won’t feel stressed while she is away.
4. Determine the responsibilities you can take off her plate.
This might take a bit of extra effort too. When we’re used to having a strong woman in our life, it becomes second nature to let her handle it all. As a result, we can take for granted the things she does. And sadly, this often makes it hard to notice all of those gestures and the extra effort she gives. So start by paying attention and making a mental note of things that get done. Put together a list of what you will take over, and plan an evening where you will present that list. Most importantly, be sure to follow through.
5. Encourage physical activity, but proceed with caution.
One of the best ways people can reduce their stress levels is through physical activity. This doesn’t mean you should run out and buy her a Peloton or a new treadmill. In fact, that action could backfire on you. Rather, pave the way so she can find the time to get in a workout, get out for a walk, or go for a run. Whatever physical activity she enjoys, make it so she can get it done without guilt and without sacrificing something that will otherwise not get done.
While we’re all in the same boat, everyone’s boat is much different.
We’re facing something we never anticipated, and a lot of change has been thrown at all of us. We hope you and your family are coping well. We’re here closely following recommended guidelines to keep our patients healthy and safe when they visit. Come visit us soon for your regularly scheduled professional dental cleaning and checkup.