I naturally clench my jaw when I’m working or concentrating but a few years ago, I started to notice regular jaw tension and attributed it to higher stress levels–I guess a global pandemic will do that. I got a cheap drugstore night guard to protect my teeth at night but that wasn’t going to address the underlying issue of managing my stress.
Stress management is really important for our overall health and I’ll be honest, I don’t always strike the right balance. I think it is fair to say that most of us probably don’t always strike the right balance to feel a complete sense of contentment.
So, what helps me manage stress? Moving my body really helps, but I’m not always motivated to do heart-pumping movements. When I’m in the office that isn’t always practical or feasible. I have found that stretching during the workday (in a desk/computer setting) can be a really helpful way to reset my body and mind. I usually stretch my back, shoulders, and legs. I never considered stretching my face until I checked out a book from my local library called Chair Yoga by Kristin McGee. I was flipping through the book and found a section on face exercises. They may help ease eye strain and jaw tension plus they just feel nice.
Start by sitting in a relaxed position. This whole routine should take around 10 to 12 minutes.
- Up/Down with Eyes: Look up and down with your eyes 12 times. Focus on moving your eyes only. When finished rest for a few seconds with eyes closed.
- Side-to-Sides with Eyes: Look left and right with just the eyes 12 times. When finished rest for a few seconds with eyes closed.
- Eye Circles: Circle the eyes around 6 times clockwise, then 6 times counterclockwise.
- Close/Opens: Close your eyes for 10 seconds, then open your eyes as wide as you can. Repeat 6 times.
- Diagonals: Start by looking up to the left at a diagonal, then down to the right at a diagonal. Focus on moving your eyes only. Perform 12 times of upper left to lower right movements and then switch to the upper right and lower left corner for 12 times.
- Head Back Downward Gaze: Tilt your head back and then gaze down at the tip of your nose. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths.
- Fishy Face: Suck in the cheeks and pucker the lips. Hold for 3 seconds and then release. Repeat 10 times.
- Open Wide: Open your mouth as wide as you can and hold for 2 seconds before releasing. Repeat 10 times.
- Lower Jaw over Top Teeth: Take the lower jaw and lift it over your top teeth. Your lips can stay together. Hold for 15 seconds. You will stretch the entire underside of the jaw and the neck. Repeat 3 times.
- Side-to-Sides with Lower Jaw: Let your lower jaw relax and release from the top jaw, and then try moving it from side to side. Repeat 10 times.
- Gummy Lips: Curl your top lip up toward your nose, hold for 3 seconds, and then release. This is not a scrunched face. Repeat 10 times.
- Wide Smiles: Smile as wide as you possibly can, stretching the entire mouth and holding for 3 seconds before relaxing. Repeat 10 times.
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