Let’s talk about stress, baby
We’ve all experienced stress at some point in our lives. Jobs, friends, family, relationships, health, money, wellbeing; the list of potential triggers could go on.
But although stress is near impossible to avoid, it is possible to try and manage. Most importantly, the impact it has on our minds and bodies, for those of us who suffer from a sensitive gut.
Stress produces a hormone, called cortisol, which when chronically elevated can have big effects on weight, immune function, and, you’ve got it – IBS. The mind-gut connection is so strong that extreme stresses in our lives can directly cause our physical IBS symptoms to appear out of nowhere, or worsen. In turn, these physical symptoms and changes in our guts can affect the way we feel, increasing our anxiety and stress. It can be a tricky and frustrating cycle, that many of us know well; but just being aware of the connection can help.
Everybody is different, and what works for one of us might not for another; but the great news is, is that alongside food choices and the Low FODMAP Diet, there are lots of options out there that can help manage IBS symptoms and stress. Here’s my list of five day-to day techniques that I’ve found incredibly useful:
- Talk to others. Whether it’s friends, family, or bloggers online, know that you’re not alone. I remember skimming Facebook groups and being amazed at some of the posts from people who were going through the exact same thing! The online community can be a wonderful support.
- Keep not only a food and symptom diary, but a mood diary as well. The physical act of writing down the whirring thoughts and emotions in your head on to paper can help take some of the pressure off, as well as help you to identify areas in your life where stress is a trigger.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep. I’ve never been very good at getting a good night sleep and it’s something I’ve really had to work hard at over the years – but I know both my mind and gut feel so much better when I’ve had enough rest. Read a book or take a bath to wind down in the evenings and step away from screens for a while before bed too. Start making sleep a priority.
- Move your body! Regular exercise can lift your mood and make you feel good, as well as relax you and decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety. Doing yoga or going for a long walk is a great way to help get your digestion grooving and I find absurdly leaping and dancing around the kitchen whilst washing up with my housemates helps too.
- On that note, get cooking! Doing therapeutic and creative tasks such baking are a fab way to de-stress. Have a break from thinking about everything else, and focus on the task ahead – such as making this zesty Lemon and Yogurt Cake, or these Olive and Thyme Rolls. It’s even better when you get something delicious to eat at the end too.
Over time I’ve tried to change the way I think about stress and my gut and symptom flare-ups and I’d love for you to join me. Think of them as a warning system, telling you to ease up when you’re trying to do lots of things at once. It’s not your body attacking you but helping you to identify stress instead, so listen to it!