Stress and IBS often go together, fuelling each other. IBS can be totally or partially stress-induced.
To counter stress and IBS, it is essential to understand that stress gets its power from a strong emotion: FEAR.
Some Common Fears
These are some of the fears I held deep down. Maybe you may have similar ones:
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 actually help 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 stress-induced IBS was concerned.
It is not the situations themselves that are a threat.
It is the beliefs we hold around them and have learned from society and our own experiences. And the emotions we associate with them.
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. This is the work I specialise in.
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, aggressiveness, 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.
The more self-aware you are, the more empowered you will become.
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, and hard to do, so use the following steps to help you:
Step 3) Counter your fear with more 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:
This is temporary.
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 powerful ally for stress induced IBS! 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
Can you see 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.
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.
Watch this great soothing meditation by Calm – and feel the difference.
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. There are so many to choose from online. One type is not better than another. Just try out a few and see which you prefer. If you manage to do meditation regularly, you may start feeling the benefits of reducing stress and IBS symptoms after just a few weeks.
When the stress is too strong
If you find that these suggestions do not help because the stress is too strong, this may indicate that you have a high level of strong emotions, or trauma, being triggered.
I had to access specific techniques to release trauma in order to reverse my IBS symptoms completely. If you would like me to coach you out of your IBS, why not work with me?1