It is really difficult for anyone who hasn’t had IBS to understand the impact of our negative IBS feelings:
Having a body that feels out of control,
Worrying about having a flare-up and not being able to cope,
The fear of embarrassment, of not making it to the restroom in time,
Not being able to keep a good professional image,
Fear of feeling tired and sick – but having to carry on,
Feeling and being more fragile,
Worrying about being seen as cranky or antisocial.
All of these swirl up large circles of negative IBS feelings and stress around us.These negative IBS feelings can actually fuel your IBS symptoms and make it worse.
You can’t just snap out of it
I don’t know about you, but I generally felt that I couldn’t cope, that there was something wrong with me somewhere, and I couldn’t see a real way out.
The good news is that there is something you can do to lighten those negative IBS feelings
You may have seen the word “mindfulness” come up a lot, without necessarily understanding what it was all about. You may have even tried it, but found that you were “no good at it”.
I came across mindfulness several times and thought “Nah, not for me”. Too hocus pocus – plus I couldn’t see myself sitting in a lotus position for hours going ‘Ummmmmmmm”.
Well one day, I read an article on Forbes about what successful people do in the morning:
1) They go for a run. LOL! As I was hardly able to summon enough courage to get out of bed – and was certainly not ready to bounce my stomach up and down at any time of day, This one was out!
2) They do “mindful meditation” to help them start the day better focused. That word “mindfulness” had popped up again. I couldn’t see Richard Branson crossed legged on the floor for hours, so I gave it a go.
I discovered there was a free app where you could do 10-minute guided sessions. This sounded faster and less effort, so I decided to give it a whirl. I went on the free ” 7 Days of Calm” program by Calm.com. The program was great, but I didn’t feel I was any good at it.
The mindfulness app said that if your mind wandered off, to gently bring it back. Wandered off? Mine had gone on a 3-day hike!
You are supposed to stay concentrated on your body and your breathing, and my thoughts were racing all over the place. I didn’t really understand how all this thinking and breathing was going to get me anywhere, but that lovely reassuring voice kept me going, and I pushed myself to try 10 minutes every day.
You can’t be good at mindfulness, or bad at it – in the same way that you can’t be good or bad at enjoying a song you hear on the radio. You just do it, and get the benefits of switching off.
Fast forward 3 months >>
Well, my practice was highly irregular, to say the least! There were days, and there were weeks when I didn’t do any. I was having a flare-up and this “was not the right time”. Without me knowing it, it would have been the ideal time, the time I most need it to counter those all too familiar negative IBS emotions.
Then I would go back to it. And over time my mind still wandered off, sometimes for the whole session, and sometimes not so much. I was gradually getting less worked up about things. After a few months I seemed to be able to step back from situations a little better and be a little less reactive to them. This, plus deep breathing, took a part of the negativity out of my IBS.
When I first mentioned to my husband about Calm.com, he smiled and nodded, but I could see he was thinking “Oh no, she’s off again!”. He didn’t have IBS, but he was very stressed out at work. He would come home, sit and have dinner, and just be totally elsewhere.
Over time he noticed a small change in me, and we decided to try out and share the paid version, giving us access to the excellent program on anxiety, as well as many others. I think he went along with it at first just to keep the peace, but he actually got a lot out of it. He found himself reacting less to situations and being able to distance himself from stress too.
Mindfulness is not a magic wand, but it did teach me an important lesson:
You may not be able to change situations you are living, but you can influence how you experience them and how you react to them. You can choose to lighten those negative IBS feelings and give them less power over your day.
The sensation of having some control while you are dealing with IBS is a very welcome and positive change. And you may find this new sensation even reduces your symptoms.
Now I have beaten my IBS, I don’t feel the need for mindfulness every day. My reactions have shifted for the better. I still encounter situations that cause me stress. I first use deep breathing to calm down my body and prevent unwanted reactions. And if I still feel tense, I will go back to my app for a quick session and offload my stress.