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Stress Relief for IBS
Having some level of stress and anxiety is normal for anybody. After all, no one lives a completely stress-free life. You don’t mind a bit of stress, but since your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms became more intense, more frequent and longer in duration, it seems your stress and anxiety have been on the rise. Now you have two problems instead of one.
As time goes on, it is beginning to feel like your stress makes your IBS worse and your IBS makes your anxiety worse. This cycle cannot end well for you. You need to take steps to prevent and manage your IBS symptoms while you take steps to prevent and manage your anxiety and stress.
Follow these tips to achieve a life with more happiness and less stress, anxiety and IBS. Here’s how:
1. Find a Good Doctor
With IBS, there can be a good amount of confusion with your diagnosis. You may think that you have a more serious condition like ulcerative colitis or Chrohn’s disease. If you have a trustworthy doctor, he or she can rule out these other conditions, which allows you to focus more on IBS, what it means and what you can do about it.
If you do not trust your doctor, you will have sleepless nights worrying about missed symptoms, new tests or overlooked lab results that lead you to believe something more is going on with your body. This doubt will steadily raise your stress until you reach a breaking point.
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Journaling is such an overlooked positive coping skill, but it is one that deserves your attention. Journaling allows you to process thoughts, feelings and trends in your behavior. This information lets you compare how you feel to your IBS symptoms. Whenever you have an inconsistent medical condition with unstable symptoms, chances are good that patterns will emerge. If you do not document your findings, there is no way to put the pieces together.
Think of journaling as a way to gather a lot of data. Once you gather all of this information, you identify trends and take the steps to change it. If you are new to journaling, consider tracking physical symptoms, mental health symptoms, activity levels, sleep and diet. After a few weeks of entries, take a look back at the information to assess. Journaling gives a sense of power and control over your condition, which beats back anxiety and stress.
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3. Check Your IBS Food Triggers
Hopefully, your IBS journaling will shed some light on the interactions of the food you eat and how you feel. In many ways, IBS is a very individualized illness – foods that are major triggers for some people will have no impact on others. Just because you heard that someone else can eat certain foods without issues does not mean that it applies to you. No. It’s not fair, but fairness is not a consideration with IBS.
Begin by staying away from chocolate, spices, fruits, beans, cabbage, alcohol, cauliflower, broccoli and milk. Some people claim that carbonated beverages actually help, while others swear against them. The goal is not to understand other people, only yourself. By decreasing your food triggers, you will limit your physical symptoms. Fewer symptoms will produce improved mood and lower stress.
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If you are looking for the most efficient way to improve your mental and physical health, look no further than exercise. This might be the point where you are tempted to skip to the next page, because you think you have heard this all before or because you are looking for the “quick fix.” But remember, in the world of stress and anxiety, there are no quick fixes. You should beware of anyone offering one.
Instead, the best progress is made with basic principles like exercise. You don’t have to swim across the English Channel or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. You only need to take a 30-minute walk four times per week. Instead of plopping on the couch to watch a rerun of that show again, you could do something that is actually going to improve your life. For IBS stress relief, exercise is a must.
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5. Relax Your Body
With IBS, it probably feels like your body is working against you a lot of the time. This can lead to you thinking that your body is your enemy instead of your ally. Working to add relaxation into your life can help reestablish your body as your best friend.
There are two relaxation techniques therapists use that are great fits for IBS. The first is deep breathing. This process involves you lengthening your inhales and exhales in an effort to draw in more air. More air will allow more oxygen to stream throughout your body. Your lungs can slow as well as your heart.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another helpful technique. It involves tensing and relaxing certain muscle groups in alternating patterns. Experiment and practice to improve your skills.
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6. Relax Your Mind
Stress has a strong ability to change the way you think and see the world. In turn, this changed perspective will add even more stress to your life. Your best course of action is finding ways to relax your mind and find calm, peace and tranquility. Meditation, autogenic training and guided imagery are all good options.
If your mind races, try autogenics by looking up specific scripts online. If your mind is easily cleared, try guided imagery to create a deep daydreaming session. Yoga combines the best of relaxing your mind, relaxing your body and exercise into one skill.
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7. Improve Your Sleep
Since middle school health class you have been hearing about the restorative powers of a good night’s sleep. Now, all of these years later, you’re still reading the same thing. Sleep allows your mind and body to deal with the stress of the day and better prepare for the stress of tomorrow. Quite simply, less sleep means lower ability to deal with everyday stressors. Cut out excuses that keep you up late at night and find ways to make your bedroom as hospitable as it can be.
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8. Have Fun
Some people mistakenly put all of their focus and energies on reducing the bad in their life. They think that by removing all of the negatives, their life will be positive. The problems with this philosophy are that it is impossible to remove all the negatives, and even if you could, you would have no positives in your life to bring you joy. At times, having fun is the best stress-reducer.
Make a list of the people, places and things that result in happiness and make it a point to do these more often. Being with the people you enjoy will always recharge your batteries. Resist the urge to isolate and hide because of the fear of IBS embarrassment. Get out and see the world. You only get one chance to have fun.
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9. Set New Goals
What are you working towards? Is it specific and achievable? People without goals tend to focus on the unchangeable facets of life. Choose to be different by having direction and purpose. Diversify your interests and activities by becoming involved in numerous projects. Once you begin to accomplish your goals, you will feel a strong sense of independence that breaks apart stress.
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10. Avoid Negative Coping Skills
Negative coping skills are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They look safe and promising but are actually quite threatening. Some people seek the comfort of alcohol and other drugs when stress is high. Over time, these coping skills become their only coping skills. They become essential and irreplaceable.
Other negative coping skills include shopping excessively, spending too much time online and playing video games without end. All of these are fine in moderation, but people with high levels of stress often over use these in the name of self-medication. They always create more problems than they solve.
Read more about the way stress and anxiety impact IBS over at NewLifeOutlook.