Stress, Mess & IBS
By the way, my Vegan Banana Nut Muffins were so delicious, I had to make a second batch the next day. We basically had a Banana Bread party in our dorm. You HAVE to try them!
According to VeryWellHealth, IBS a functional disorder of the colonthat causes cramping abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. It can be triggered by certain foods, drinks, and here’s the big one—STRESS.
Stress is one of the leading triggers for IBS, which leads to some pretty unpleasant symptoms: gas, bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea and/or constipation. Depending on your sensitivity, symptoms can be a little milder or even worse. But in general, IBS is not a pleasant subject.
IBS is on the rise due to increased stress in America—which doesn’t seem far-fetched at allto me. As a nursing student or a nurse in the field, we are surrounded by stressful situations and are at an increased risk for IBS. So it’s important that we manage our stress, relieve IBS symptoms, and live happier lives!
Disclaimer: If you are experiencing symptoms of IBS, go see your primary care provider. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.
I have frequent bouts of IBS-D (Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Diarrhea—there is also an Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Constipation and Intermittent IBS, which is alternating diarrhea and constipation). 9/10 times, they occur when I’m stressed or anxious. Sometimes, I don’t even realize it and they are the key indicator that I’m feeling overwhelmed.
The first few relapses I had with IBS, I was completely wiped out. I was exhausted all the time, unable to focus, nauseous, and I just didn’t feel good. Know the feeling?
As a result, I lost several pounds and I had significant hair loss. My B-complex vitamins were depleted and I was on the verge of being anemic. Hating doctor’s office visits, I wanted a concrete diagnosis and a prescription when I walked out the door. I wanted my symptoms gone with the simplicity of a pill. My family doctor seemed to blow it off, simply instructing me to manage my stress.
I was furious. Here I was—unable to keep any food in my digestive tract, feeling awful—and I just needed to “manage my stress.”
But little did I know, she was right.
My symptoms did improve when I started focusing on my stress and finding out what triggered everything. No, it wasn’t gluten (even though I am intolerant to all milk products). And no, it wasn’t colon cancer (anyone else in nursing school paranoid?). It was stress.
So here’s how I managed my stress and also improved my symptoms. I didn’t need medication and perhaps you don’t either. As always, ask your Primary Care Provider.
Manage Your Stress (duh)
This seems like a really simple thing to do, but in reality, it’s one of the most difficult. We don’t realize how much we actually stack on our plate, how much we try to fix everything and allow little stressors become big triggers. But we do, and that’s a problem. So I’ve decided to list the four biggest things that helped me manage my stress and symptoms of IBS.
Learn How to Say No
You can’t do everything, no matter how much you convince yourself you can. Instead of agreeing to everything everyone asks of you, then later feeling so overwhelmed, just say no. Only do things you know you can easily manage, and say no if it’s too big of a commitment.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, you want to do everything in YOUR way. You want it to be perfect and done correctly, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let go of some of those tasks on your checklist and let others do it. They’ll be happy to, and it will work out in the end. You’ll have more time for yourself and can do the tasks you do have better and more efficiently.
Let Go of Your Need for Control
This kind of goes along the same lines. You know those rules and guidelines that you live by, that say ‘my house hasto be clean’ or ‘I haveto do this because . . .’? Well, guess who made those rules and guidelines? You did. And you can get rid of them too.
I always feel the need to clean. I cannot stand when I walk on the hardwood floors and crumbs stick to my feet—seriously. It puts me over the edge sometimes. So, I had to sweep or vacuum every day, every other day tops. I HAD to.
I also feel the need to micromanage everything. I write EVERYTHING down in my planner, from my to-do list, important things to remember, to what I’m eating for the week. And don’t get me wrong—a planner is always a good thing, just don’t try to micromanage everything.
Let go of that control and that NEED for control. It’s hard to tell yourself this, but the world is out of your control. Learn to accept things as they are and roll with it. For me, I needed to accept that God has a plan and that the idea of me being in control of everything, just ain’t in the plan.
Find Your Activity
Doing pleasant things distracts you from responsibilities of life, so find what you like to do. A year ago (when I was having my first bouts of IBS), someone asked me what my hobbies were, and I had no answer. I had no idea. I asked myself over and over, “What do I like to do? What do I do in my free time?”
I had to really search and brainstorm. I like to write (hence the blog), paint, do crafts, bowl, hang out with friends, decorate, Pinterest…
So find what you like to do and do it. I hate to say make a plan, but make time in your schedule to do those things you like. Surely you have free time, you just might not realize it. Use that time do to the things you like and things that make you happy. Here’s a few ideas if you’re lost like I was:
· Crafts – painting, coloring, building things, etc
· Hang out with friends
· Watching movies or going to the movies
· Play games
· Go to sporting events
· The list goes on and on!
This could probably (and will be) a blog post on its own. But exercise is the easiest way to release endorphins (those happy hormones) and feel better naturally. Your stress will often disappear and you’ll feel happy. Exercising also allows you to set goals for yourself and try new things you wouldn’t normally try. It gives you some ‘me time’ whether you do it on your own or with a group. Exercising is one of those things that require a lot of motivation to get started, but the relief afterwards is seriously the best.
My 2018 New Year’s Resolution was to start running, so I signed up for a half marathon. Little did I know at that point, running would give me so much relief from everyday life. I found a training plan and made a goal for myself. It gave me confidence and really helped with my body image and self-esteem. The endorphins made me feel so much happier and relieved my stress, seriously helping my issues with IBS.
I suggest you do the same: find a physical activity that appeals to you, whether it be walking, running, hiking, riding a bike, lifting weights, CROSS-FIT, whatever. Make a manageable goal and stick to it. You won’t regret it!
Do you struggle with IBS? What other suggestions do you have? What has worked for you when relieving stress and IBS? Let me know in the comments and be sure to subscribe to get the latest blog posts and updates.