It can be challenging to deal with IBS and worry to say the least!
When you worry, or you’re feeling anxious and upset, are your IBS symptoms worse?
I didn’t see this for a long time.
When my doctor said I needed to relax more, I had no idea what he really meant.
Relaxation is one of those words like meditation. You hear about it a lot, but you never really get a feel for what it’s all about or how to do it successfully.
Why worry is affecting you
We generally worry about the outcome of something in the future. And we are expecting the worse case scenario. Which rarely actually happens.
Worry turns on that famous flight or fight mechanism. This is great for survival situations, but a real pain in the butt in every day life.
The mind gets hold of it, and can keep us in this state regularly. Keeping your nervous system on alert and your IBS on.
It’s really hard to relax when you’re worried about something. In fact it’s really hard to focus on anything else.
Sometimes we have a really dire situation to handle. In that case worrying doesn’t help, but it is part of the natural process of facing that situation.
However when worry creeps into your life every day, that’s when you need to do something about it. Because it will steal the fun in life (if your IBS hasn’t already) and exhaust your adrenals. You will find it really hard to have any peace of mind, and in a defensive position all the time. Not fun.
How to deal with worry and IBS
There is one technique that I really recommend to help tackle worry.
This technique teaches us a very valuable skill: FOCUS
And when we can choose what we focus on, we can choose to focus less on worry, and more on what we really want in our lives.
I call that technique “fearless focusing”. [Also known as meditation:)]
How to do fearless focusing to counter worry
Here is a very simple way to do fearless focusing. It’s extremely simple, and yet extremely difficult – until you get used to the process. But it will serve you well.
You can do this for a few minutes sitting quietly – or play a challenge with someone else to see who can frantically focus for the longest!
Find a chair or stool (or sit on the floor if you prefer) in a quiet place. If you’re not in pain, you can even do this while on the toilet.
Sit with your back straight, not leaning against anything.
Close your eyes (this removes outside distraction).
Take a couple of comfortable deep breaths (a signal to your body and mind that something special is happening).
Imagine you are sitting on a comfortable bench behind the closed curtains of your eyes (or you can imagine yourself on an exotic beach by the sea if you prefer).
And just sit there.
Pretty quickly your clever mind will try to take you off somewhere.
It will start bringing in thoughts about:
– what you have to do next
– your shopping list, what you’re having for tea
– what you have to remember to prepare for tomorrow, whether you have enough x …
Expect it to. It’s the mind’s job to look for potential problems and plan. But it can get carried away!
When this happens, acknowledge it, but bring your focus gently back to sitting on that bench behind the curtains of your eyes – just for a few minutes more.
Do this for a few minutes (10 minutes if you can), then open your eyes, get up, smile and stretch.
You may only manage to stay frantically focused for a few seconds. That’s OK. Remember that it takes time to build your focus muscle.
Do it the same time tomorrow, and the next day.
Once you get used to acknowledging your mind, but actually choosing to focus on something else, you have the keys to worrying less. This can take a few weeks to a few months, so be patient with your new habit.
Worry during the night
When you feel a worry start up during the night, or you can’t get to sleep, use the same process. (This will be easier if you already have the habit of changing your focus.)
Take a deep breath, then bring your mind back to sitting on the bench behind the curtains of your eyes. Just for a few moments. You will notice yourself observing the worry more, and feeling it less.
Over time you will even be able to choose another more helpful thought you would prefer to have.
The beginning of feeling more in control!
If you want to explore other things you can do to deal with IBS and worry – and help you relax, try these.9