Stress and IBS often go together, fuelling each other.
To counter stress and IBS, it is essential to understand that stress gets its power from FEAR. What kind of fears did I have deep down? Maybe you may have:
The fear of not coping;
Fear of not getting everything done;
A fear of having a flare-up;
Fear of losing your job;
The fear of not being seen as a success;
Fear of not being a good wife, parent, boss, coworker, friend…
Fear of not being enough.
But the real question here is this. Did that fear serve me in any way? The answer is NO. It made me anxious, dragged me into an emotional spiral each time, and stopped me thinking rationally.
Often it made the outcome even worse than I had feared, especially where IBS was concerned.
It is not the situations themselves that are a threat. It is the beliefs we hold around them. And we learn these beliefs from society, and from our previous experiences.
As we said before, the rush of emotions we get from a situation often comes from our reactions to past experiences.
You CAN practice countering stress and IBS on an everyday basis. But this has to be a deliberate choice by you to help yourself.
By doing this you will be creating new and more positive habits and experiences. Over time you should be able to catch yourself before your reactions ignite.
(Please realize that very deep-seated emotional triggers take time to rewire, and will require professional guidance).
How can I counter fear?
Step 1) Notice when fear shows up
It is not so easy to notice fear creeping in, as we are often already spiraling. But there will be signs. Shallow fast breathing, obsessive thought, muscle tension, aggressivity, maybe some reaching for food, drink.
If you can’t see the signs clearly yourself, ask a partner or close friend to be your mirror and tell you when you are reacting.
Step 2) Understand what fear is about
If it turns up at the wrong times, instead of buying into it, we need to be thinking “Thanks fear, but everything is OK”. Easy to say, hard to do, so use the following steps to help you:
Step 3) Counter your fear with positive thoughts
To reinforce the above, we can distract ourselves from it with positive thoughts. Thinking positively in a stressful situation is really hard to do. So you may want to have this written down somewhere or on your phone that you can take out and just read:
You are who you are. And you are a great person.
Like every other person on the planet, you are not perfect.
You are doing your best. And your best is quite enough.
Everything may not be as you would like it, but you are working on it.
Everyone else is afraid too. In every situation, interaction, discussion or argument, other people’s fear is often hiding in the background.
Step 4: Regain control
If you read my previous post on deep breathing, then you will know that deep breathing stops the fight or flight stress response in its tracks and calms your body back down. A few deep breaths will get you back on track. Didn’t work? Then try a few more. Take a break. Get up and go and do something else, Then come back. This time you’ll be OK. And more focused…
Step 5: Notice the fear in you – and in others
It can be interesting to consider how other people are reacting and why. If your colleague makes you a nasty comment, why does it bother you, and what could be the fear THEY are trying to hide?
By doing this we can better understand why people react the way they do. This doesn’t mean you have to accept it. But you may find a better way of responding to them that benefits you, and them, better.
Step 6: Try to bring down stress levels
We can’t always change situations, but we can change how we perceive and live them. This can help reduce stress and IBS symptoms.
Learning to let your mind rest seems to take some of the urgency out of everyday situations. I found that taking 10 minutes a day to do mindful meditation really helped to reduce my reaction to stress and my stress levels in general. I sometimes hear people say “Oh, I’m no good at mindfulness”.The idea is not to perform or be in control, but just let your mind rest. So you can’t be bad at it. Some days your mind will be racing, and that’s quite OK. You will still feel the benefit over time.
Maybe you already have an app, or do your own meditation. I invite you to try the free Calm.com app. I find Tamara’s soothing voice is just great. Why not try the free program “the 7 days of Calm” and see how you get on. You can do this program over and over, and explore different themes in the “best of daily calm”. If you manage to do it regularly, you may start feeling the benefits od reducing stress and IBS symptoms after just a few weeks.
A LIVE case study
Is this post clear enough? Will it help anyone? How can you explain something this huge in just a post? Will it be enough? I am starting to feel restless, tense, reaching for a biscuit, a drink…
Oh, just look at those signs of fear creeping in…
So I got up. Oops, I had that biscuit, and I’ve sat down with a coffee substitute. Oh, I didn’t get there quite in time. But next time I just might. And like everyone, I’m only human.
I am deciding that this post will be as it will be. It won’t be perfect – but it will be enough. A few deep breaths to counter the physical effects, and back to writing. Once my brain and body have calmed down, the words are starting to flow again. I have regained control of the situation.