This week’s guest post is from Jo Coates, who writes all about the challenges of living with IBS on her blog, jocoates.co.uk.
She’s written a piece specially for The IBS Network all about the little things she does on a daily basis to manage her IBS.
I am a creature of habit with a list of daily rituals that I tick off in order to make myself feel as good as possible and to keep an IBS flare at bay. These rituals range from the IBS faithful of keeping a stash of peppermint teabags and a hot water bottle close by at all times, to making sure I carve time out of a busy day to give myself some space to unwind. All of these things are massively important when I know one of my main IBS-D triggers is stress.
Take a Daily Dose of Probiotics
You’ve got to be good to your gut, which is why I start every morning the same way: taking a dose of probiotics. These good bacteria make their way into your gut, preparing it for whatever you throw at it during the day. I’ve been taking probiotics daily for over three years now and credit being able to eat a little bit of what I fancy, especially when on holiday, to those good bugs.
Swear By Elasticated Waistbands
The only way I can deal with my stomach bloating to resemble a large football is with the help of an elasticated waistband. I hate the feeling of being restricted by my clothing, especially when the waistband of my skinny jeans is digging in or my gut is trying to burst the top button. That’s not the life for me. I prefer cosy jumpers and midi skirts, dresses with lots of movements and anything that twirls. I have been known to borrow my bestie’s maternity jeans because they’re built to expand with you! For me, comfort is key, but I want to be comfortable while wearing sequins. Dammit.
Sip Peppermint Tea by the Bucket Load
I’ll be honest with you, I’m not a fan of hot drinks – unless it’s mulled wine or a marshmallow-laden hot choc but I’m not sure they have the same healing effect. I’m not a particular fan of the taste, but I know that a peppermint tea in the morning is the best way to self soothe. If I have meal out or feel a bit uncomfortable after eating, my default is peppermint tea to help ease those abdominal pains. I swear I can feel it helping as it makes it’s way down.
Give a Hot Water Bottle a Cuddle
If I’ve had a particularly stressful day or my anxious thoughts are spiraling, I find my IBS gets more irritated, showing first in those painful cramps. This is why I’m most likely to be found slouched on the sofa with a fluffy hot water bottle clamped to my stomach. All I need to create is some kind of fastening to strap it there comfortably.
10 Minutes of Meditation
I know that I can be easily overwhelmed, which triggers stress, which triggers an IBS flare. It can be an endless cycle. I’ve found that 10 minutes of mediation a day helps keep my mind in check. I do this on the train during my commute, lying on the bed when I get home, or just before I go to sleep to help unwind. I focus on my breath and do a full body scan to check in.
Leave the Office for Lunchtime Walks
I crave fresh air and green spaces if I’m stuck in an office all day. I ensure I eat my lunch away from my desk and follow it with a leisurely walk to a park, a river or somewhere quiet where I can relax. This helps clear my mind, meaning I feel refreshed and ready to start again when I return.
Record a High and a Low Each Day
Every night, before I cosy down in bed, I record one high and one low from my day. It’s a practice I’ve been doing for nearly two years and something my therapist encouraged me to continue after I tried CBT this year. It helps me focus on finding the best memory from a day, even if it was a tough one, while also allowing me to note down the thing that made me feel low. It could be as small as feeling fatigued or as big as having to stay home due to an IBS flare. Recording it means I get all those niggles out of my brain before sleeping, so I can doze off in peace.
Make Time for Myself
Every day I try to do something fun for myself. I might take a bubble bath – if I have a bad IBS flare I will live in the bath – or paint my nails, read a book, take a walk, watch a film or have a nap. I check in with my body and how I’m feeling to work out what it is I need before practicing a bit of self-care, putting myself first.