Have you ever noticed a link between your IBS symptoms and worry?
When you are feeling anxious, or upset, are your 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.
Worry turns on that famous flight or fight mechanism. This is great for survival situations, but a real pain 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 too.
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.
What can help with worry
There is one technique that I really recommend to help tackle worry.
It can be really hard to adopt as a regular habit, but you will find it easier if you understand how it can help you.
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 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.
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).
And just sit there.
Pretty quickly your 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 have to remember to prepare for tomorrow, whether you have enough x, etc.
Expect it to. It’s the mind’s job to look for potential problems and plan.
When this happens, acknowledge it, but bring your focus gently back to sitting on that bench behind the curtains of your eyes.
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 if you can, 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 months, so be patient with your new habit.
When you feel a worry start up during the day or night, use the same process. 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.
Now that IS freedom.5