Dealing with Stress

Today, I went to the dentist.

I’ve always been proud of my teeth, silly as that sounds. They’ve always been straight, and I still have all of my wisdom teeth (which I suppose means I have a large mouth). I try to take good care of them.

But I do have one problem with them: I tend to clench my jaws in response to stress. Several years ago, I was so stressed that I actually chipped some enamel that way. (You can clench very hard when you’re asleep.) So the dentist made me a mouth guard. She took an impression of my upper teeth, and then a plastic device was made that fits over them perfect. And I have to wear it when I sleep. If you think of everything glamorous and romantic – well, this is the opposite of all that, isn’t it? But it keeps me from damaging my teeth.

Today, she looked at the mouth guard, which I always bring in, and told me that I’d been clenching very hard. Also, she told me that there was more chipping on the enamel. So clearly, I’m under too much stress.

The question is, what to do about it? It’s deadlines as far as the eye can see, although I’ve already asked for an extension on two of them. No, that’s not quite true. After May 15th, there are no deadlines. After that, it’s just summer and finishing the dissertation and writing a novel. No deadlines until September.

But still, what to do about the stress? Clearly, I need to do something.

Here, because I have no actual answer, I will go on a brief tangent. The dentist is in Brookline, so before my appointment, I went into Booksmith. I have what may be a bad habit in bookstores: I look to see if anything of mine is in there. You see, for a long time, when I was just starting out writing, I was intimidated by places like Booksmith. I would look around and think, so many books! What makes me think I can write one, can ever compete in this marketplace? (In a bookstore, it’s obvious that you’re competing in a marketplace.) But then I started seeing my stories in books on the shelves. Like these:

See? I’m in two of these books, Tails of Wonder and Imagination and The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2010. Pretty nice, hunh? And someday soon I’ll be there with a book. And then more books.

And then the dentist told me that I was doing an excellent job with my teeth (other than the clenching, of course), so I rewarded myself by going to Japonaise, the bakery and coffee shop, where I bought an azuki cream. Here’s what one looks like:

What you can’t see in this picture is the filling: whipped cream and red bean paste. It’s one of my favorite pastries in the world.

And now back to the subject of stress. The dentist suggested meditation, but I’m not sure that would help right now. I think I would stress about having to mediate. But I have to think of something. I know I’m pushing myself, not taking very good care of myself.

One day, and I hope it’s one day soon, I want a small cottage where I can create a calm, peaceful space. Where I can write, and garden, and do all the other things I like doing when I’m not so completely stressed. I’m working for that – that’s what the stress is all about, trying to get there. But I don’t especially want to kill myself on the way there, you know? That wouldn’t make sense.

So I’m going to have to think of something. Sleep and exercise, those are probably good ideas. Eating healthily. I’ll probably have to start there, with basics. I know all that, I do. It’s just implementation that’s difficult. Because I have so much to do, and I want to do it all – because I want that cottage, more than I can properly express.

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6 Responses to Dealing with Stress

  1. Cymru says:

    You and I have the same goal. We both want a cottage more than we can truly say. I picture mine somewhere in England, most likely Devon. Mmmmm, I get so wistful when I imagine it in my head. Whenever I get stressed, I sit back and listen to music and picture my cottage in my head and try not to think of anything else. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But at least I smile.

  2. Grey Walker says:

    I think it’s rather telling that you typed “mediate” instead of “meditate” above. As if your subconscious is feeling the strain of mediating all the deadlines and other stresses in your life. 🙂

    What better soothing sanity boost than a sweet bean paste bun!

  3. Maery Rose says:

    I was just at the dentist yesterday and have the same issue — had to have crowns put on three teeth a year ago because of cracks, even though I also have a mouthguard. I am trying to meditate every day, go for walks, eat better — all the things you mentioned. It’s not easy because of busyness but important to remember that the writing (and other things) will be better if I make these changes. Good luck with your cottage quest! I’d love to see it happen for you.

  4. I ground my teeth at night for many years before noticing that if I took digestive enzymes and probiotics capsules before I went to bed–two of each–I woke up without a sore jaw. My theory is that bad digestion is at fault. And my dentist tells me that he’s not seeing any new evidence of teeth grinding. I’m not trying to promote quack remedies; just passing on what helped me, with best wishes.

  5. Catherine says:

    My dad, who is a dentist, tells people to use ACT mouthwash because it strengthens enamel and pretty much keeps you from having cavities, if you use it regularly. My grandpa, who was also a dentist, likes to tell people to eat cheese. Pick your poison.

  6. Cymru says:

    Did I just write “imagine it in my head?” Wow! That’s probably one of the most redundant things I’ve written. That’s what happens when I wake up too early after a night of insomnia. Anyway, hope your day was less redundancy-ridden than mine.

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