For some people with IBS, stress and anxiety may trigger their IBS symptoms. With the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK, it’s understandable that you may be feeling more stressed and anxious than normal. In this blog post, we explain how to stay calm and manage your IBS well during this difficult time.

Connect with people

Social media means it’s possible to keep in touch with friends, family and people who understand what it’s like to live with IBS. At The IBS Network we have a supportive community on Facebook and post regular updates on Twitter and Instagram. If you haven’t already, you can join our Facebook community here.

Select your news and social media carefully

Social media can be supportive but we recognise that it might also make you feel anxious, particularly if others are sharing their worries. Consider taking a break from social media or just limiting yourself to particular groups or pages.

Stay connected with developments but be careful where you get news and health information from. If any news reports or social media increase your anxiety, consider switching them off or limiting what you look at for a while.

Understand your IBS

If you’re isolating for 12-weeks use the time to complete our 12-week wellness diary. This helps you record what you are eating (food) and how you are feeling (mood). You can then use the information to identify patterns to your IBS which can then help you better manage your condition. Read our blog post on how keeping a wellness diary can help your IBS. 

Identify your triggers and make informed food choices

It’s important to identify which foods trigger your symptoms. An awareness of the causes means that you can try and prevent a flare up. Keeping a wellness diary or using our online symptom tracker may help you.

Try to keep active

Exercise is good for the body and mind. If you are isolating, try to exercise at home. There are lots of videos online including aerobics, yoga and Pilates. Try to avoid sitting down for long periods of time. Even just getting up and walking around can help. Alternatively, if you do want to get some fresh air, go for a walk, but avoid contact with others and stay far away from groups of people.

Make sure you get sunlight and fresh air

If you are unable to go for a walk on your own get as much sunlight and fresh air as you can. Even just opening the windows and curtains, or sitting out in the garden, can make a big difference to improving mood, reducing stress and anxiety and helping you relax.

Find ways to relax

Relaxation and mindfulness are great for reducing the feelings of panic and anxiety, especially if you are starting to feel overwhelmed. Consider starting a new hobby or read that book you’ve been meaning to read for months. You might also consider painting, drawing, sewing, knitting, colouring, writing, yoga, watching a film, singing, listening to music, playing an instrument, mindfulness or meditation. Focus on enjoying the present moment.

Do something new

Why not consider doing something creative or taking a course to keep your mind active? Listen to a podcast, do a puzzle or take an online course. At The IBS Network we have a self-care programme designed to help you take control of your IBS (details below).

Self-care programme

Take the time to work through our self-care programme. We designed the programme to provide you with comprehensive information about the nature, causes, and management of IBS.

The self-care programme includes information on: what else it might be; how to manage your symptoms; what medications help; how complementary therapies work; how to adjust your diet, how to manage stress and emotions, how to design your own personal self-care programme, and track how your symptoms respond to change.

Take control of the way you respond

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is. If you feel overwhelmed, take a deep breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, allowing your body to relax. This will take practice, you will find you get better at this as time goes on.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water is important for your body and mind. Try to drink at least eight glasses of non-alcoholic fluid throughout the day.

Keep to your routine

Your IBS may change if your routine changes. Try, where possible, to keep to your usual routine. Avoid panic buying.

Call our IBS Helpline

For advice about your IBS, members of our charity can call our IBS Helpline, which is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings 7pm until 9pm.

Contact an IBS specialist

Members also have access to our team of medical professionals including gastroenterologists, dietitians and complementary therapists through the Ask the Experts online service.

IBS supplies

For all your IBS emergency supplies visit our online shop. We stock a variety of products to help you manage your IBS including cleansing and intimate wipes, toilet bowl sprays and coin towels.

However, like everyone else, we are having problems in receiving supplies of our regular items, such as cleansing wipes. We will do all we can to keep our online shop stocked, but may have to remove some lines as stocks run low.

The IBS Network is here to help and support you. Please visit our website to find out how.

For more information about IBS and stress visit our website here.