While different foods and treatments may work differently depending on your IBS, the one thing everyone with IBS can do to minimise symptoms is to manage stress.
The vagus nerve directly connects the gut and the brain. When you’re feeling stressed more messages from the gut reach the brain, and you’ll feel all the pangs and pains of digestion.
After living with IBS for several years, Not Just IBS blogger, Lara, writes about the importance of managing stress and how she carves out a little calm in her life.
Ever heard of the phrase ‘butterflies in the stomach’? How about ‘gut reaction’? There are loads of phrases about emotional feelings that revolve around our guts.
When we are feeling wound up and worried about certain things that emotional turmoil can manifest itself in physical symptoms like sweating, biting our fingernails and feeling sick. Imagine an IBS flare up on top of all of that, nightmare!
Managing stress can be a huge part of managing your IBS. The two are inextricably linked. Managing IBS is all about self care — knowing your limits and admitting when you need to rest.
So, here are some of my go-to stress-busting techniques to help you get the rest you and your body deserve:
Exercise: I’m a big fan of yoga and pilates as I find it really helps me stretch out those aching muscles and focus on my breathing which is great for stress busting! But any kind of exercise can help release those mood-boosting endorphins that help combat stress – running, swimming, cycling. Getting out and about is the most natural way to boost your mood and help relax.
Be mindful: When my head gets foggy from stressing too much I find taking some time out to practice mindfulness can be really beneficial. Mindfulness is a technique that helps the brain relax and refocus, helping reduce stress. There are loads of ways to practice mindfulness — colouring books, guided meditation videos, how-to books and even apps. You can practice mindfulness at any time during your busy day but I find it best to do it first thing on the morning when your brain is most receptive.
Get creative: I’ve never been that artistically inclined but I must admit getting crafty and creative has always been relaxing for me. Drawing, scrapbooking, photography and knitting — tapping into your creative side is a great way to channel your nervous energy into something positive.
Soak it up: There is nothing more relaxing that a long hot soak in the tub. Sometimes it’s worth treating yourself to a proper soothing bubble bath surrounded by scented candles and maybe even some soft music playing in the background. I like to take my favourite book in the tub with me and just escape into the story for half an hour or so. Just let your worries float away in the water and switch off from stress.
Laugh it off: Stress can cause the body to tense up so I like to laugh off the stress with a good comedy. On those wet and windy days when you can’t get outside, I like to curl up on the sofa and binge watch a comedy on Netflix. I’ve even found a few stand-up comedians shows on there. Comic relief at its finest!
So there’s my five favourite ways to get rid of stress. Sometimes our bodies need that break from constant worry and stress — it’s not good for us! We all need to take a little time for ourselves to relax. When we are relaxed we can regain our focus and be ready to take on the next challenge with a fresh approach.