On topic with Dr. Dill: Managing stress to protect your health

Everyone gets stressed at times. For many people, the past eight months have brought worries about their health, their families, their jobs, the planet and so much more. Whether you’re worried about the future or just can’t seem to get through everything on your to-do list, these overwhelming feelings aren’t just tough on your mental health — they can also take a toll on your body.

When you feel stressed, your body produces increased levels of a hormone called cortisol. High levels of cortisol can make you more prone to oral health problems such as gum disease, canker sores, cold sores and teeth grinding. But the effects don’t end there. Stress can also drain your energy and make sleeping more difficult. You may experience headaches, weight gain and trouble concentrating or remembering things. Stress may also contribute to serious chronic issues like such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more.

In your day-to-day life, stress can cause you to neglect your self-care. To keep yourself well, maintain these five healthy habits:




1. Exercise for 30 minutes each day. You don’t have to hop on a treadmill and run a 5K. Even a walk around the neighborhood will do. Getting outside and soaking up some sunshine can improve your mood, too.





2. Go to bed at a consistent time and make time to unwind. Try yoga, meditation, reading a book or listening to some music to help you relax before bed. Watch out for bright screens, though. The light from a television, smartphone or computer monitor can disrupt your body’s sleep patterns.





3. Stock your pantry and fridge with healthy foods. Choose fresh fruits and veggies, fish and other lean proteins, milk, cheese and beans. Sugar and caffeine can disrupt your sleep or cause a crash when the burst of energy they provide wears off.





4. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Decaffeinated black or green tea can also provide health and relaxation benefits. Just go easy on the lemon and honey, as acids and sweets can contribute to tooth decay.




5. Make self-care a priority. Remember to keep up with your hygiene habits including brushing and flossing. And make time for things you enjoy — whether that’s reading, working on a fun project or watching your favorite show. Remember, you’re not being selfish when you take the time to maintain your mental and physical health.

Be good to yourself by finding ways to take care of your mind and body each day. Even smiling can help improve your mood! By taking steps to manage your stress, you’ll protect your oral and overall health, and that’ll give you plenty of reasons to smile in the future.

Meet Joseph Dill, DDS, Delta Dental’s Vice President of Dental Science and Network Strategy. With more than 30 years of experience in the dental field, including eight in private practice and 16 in dental insurance, Dr. Dill provides expert insights and helpful advice to keep you smiling bright.