Stress management can be beneficial to everyone, but prioritizing it can be especially beneficial for those of us with IBS. Not engaging in stress management at all can exacerbate or even be the cause of symptoms. There are countless techniques we can employ in our daily lives, but it can take some time to figure out what works best.
In this series, we’ll take a look at a variety of techniques that will range from the very familiar to ones you may never have heard of before. Not everything works for everyone, so try things out and stick to what helps YOU. We’re going to start with some easy to incorporate suggestions that will probably sound familiar.
Stress Management Techniques You’ve Probably Heard Of
We know that moving our bodies makes them happy. We feel better, we sleep better, it can jumpstart our digestive systems (which is why it’s also important not to overdo it, especially if you suffer from diarrhea). In general these are all things that can work in our favor for symptom management.
Moving around slowly and gently (in the case of Hatha yoga, for example) can help you regain control of your breathing and also forces your gut into new positions that may help aid in digestion. Have you ever done yoga and then heard your belly rumbling? That’s why.
Allow your mind the space it needs to stop thinking about all the things you need to do today, all the things you forgot to do yesterday, all the things waiting for you to do tomorrow and just do nothing and focus on right now. You don’t have to renounce your current life and become a Buddhist monk (or hey you know, give that a try… you do you). You don’t even have to meditate for that long to reap the benefits. I’m new to meditation and I try to do at least 2 minutes every day. Sometimes that happens when I wake up or in between meetings at work. Sometimes it happens in the 2 minutes before I fall asleep at night. Sometimes it doesn’t happen. It’s a work in progress.
When you feel the stress monster sneaking up on you (or if you’re like me and it’s less of a sneak and more of an ambush) close your eyes and breathe. If you don’t, your SNS will override everything thinking your stress and quick breathing is a cry for help and your poor little PNS will be shoved to the side to make room. (Check out this post for a quick overview of your SNS and PNS.) Aim for 4-6 breaths per minute and be sure you’re breathing into your belly (doing the shoulders up-and-down kind of breathing can trigger your SNS so pay attention to your airflow), in and out through the nose or in through the nose and out through the mouth.
These techniques are great tools to have in your back pocket for when you need a little more focus or are experiencing a flare up. When I am having a bad belly day I make sure to do yoga. Even if it’s only for a few minutes. Even when I would much rather stay curled up in a ball on the couch. It feels a little counterintuitive to move when I’m in pain, but I always feel better afterward and I try to remind myself of that.
If you’ve ever tried to manage stress, whether it be for IBS or otherwise, you’ve probably looked into some of these options or maybe even given a few a try. Even if it hasn’t worked in the past for you, I encourage you to give it another go! Part of the journey is figuring out what works best for you and shedding whatever doesn’t work.