Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission to fund my avocado habit if you use these links to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You wont be charged any extra, and you will be keeping me supplied with avocados. Win win, really! I only ever recommend products, tools and services that I personally use and love. You can read my full affiliate disclosure HERE.
We often talk about ‘managing stress’ being critical for IBS.
But what does that even mean, and how can you actually do it?
Well, if you have a nervous tummy, this post is for you!
Stress is a major trigger of IBS for many of us.
When you find yourself in a stressful situation, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
This activates the sympathetic nervous system, and digestion is put on hold while the body diverts its attention to other body parts to deal with the stress.
You don’t need to have necessarily experienced a trauma or crisis; any number of situations can trigger this stress response – even positive life events like moving house, starting a new job or getting married.
When you have IBS, it appears that the interactions between the gut and the brain are enhanced, so stress and anxiety can increase ‘visceral sensitivity’ (pain threshold of the gut).
It’s a double-whammy of assault!
While it’s not really realistic to remove all stressors from your life, there are two things you can do:
One – Eliminate any unnecessary stress. Can you take a proactive approach and avoid situations that make you feel stressed?
Two – Adapt how you respond to being under stress. Can you change how you react to those situations so you don’t feel as stressed out by them?
Here’s some tips to get you started:
Write it down
Make a list of the things that make you feel stressed – is there anything unnecessary that you can eliminate?
Note any patterns, and identify what (if any) situations are avoidable in future. In order to minimise overall stress, you may need to make changes to your life – weigh up the pros and cons of doing this. Journaling your thoughts can also help you release emotions.
Tackle problems one at a time
If you feel overwhelmed with lots of problems, you’re unlikely to be able to tackle any of them.
When you take a step back and look at problems individually, you’ll be able to think more clearly. Sometimes even just knowing you’re taking positive action can help reduce your stress levels.
Accept the things you can’t change
If something is completely outside of your control, it deserves freedom from your mind. And worrying about something before it has actually happened means you experience the stress twice.
Controlling this can take some practice – start by recognising these thoughts when you have them, and remind yourself of this post!
Don’t suffer in silence
Talk to someone – a trusted friend, family member or colleague, or even a mental health professional – and get things off your chest.
Your doctor or IBS specialist might be a good first port of call if you’re experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety about your symptoms, or are concerned about your diagnosis.
Practice this instant stress-reliever
Take a deep breath. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. In turn, the brain relays this same message to the rest of your body.
Try the 4-2-7 breathing exercise: breathe in for four seconds, hold for two seconds and breathe out slowly for seven seconds. Repeat until you feel calm.
Be kind to yourself
Practice self-care and self-compassion. Get your foundational pillars in place: good sleep, adequate hydration, regular exercise, and a nourishing diet.
As for those voices in your head that tell you negative things about yourself – recognise them, acknowledge them as thoughts (not fact), and let them go.