A somewhat annoying thing about IBS is that there is no specific cause for it, making it a whole lot harder to manage. The FODMAP diet is undoubtedly helpful in finding what specific foods trigger a reaction in each individual person. However, sometimes the FODMAP diet alone, or any other diet for that matter, simply isn’t enough (and that’s coming from its biggest advocate!). Having tried supplements, certain recommended foods and drinks and every kind of food elimination or restrictive diet under the sun, I’ve accepted recently that at times IBS is just not preventable.
I’ve had a busy and slightly stressful time recently (hence the decrease in blog posts), which has inevitably had an effect on my IBS. It’s become increasingly clear to me that stress is a significant trigger. During stressful times it doesn’t matter what I eat, symptoms will persist. I’m certainly not alone in this. Research indicates that stress, as well as anxiety and depression, is directly linked to IBS. I’m no scientist and can’t explain the exact reasons for this but I do know it’s to do with the intimate relationship between the brain and the gut.
Nowadays with our busy modern lifestyles, stress is pretty unavoidable. It would be easy for me to tell you to take a bubble bath, go on holiday or have a massage – but does anyone really have enough time or money to do this on a regular basis? – Probably part of the reason why we are stressed to begin with. Fear not – there are several ways in which you can manage your stress, anxiety or depression and I’m going to tell you just how.
It’s important to be both physically and mentally active to maintain a happy disposition. Physical exercise releases dopamine (a happy chemical) which fights stress and alleviates depression. Exercise can also help clear your thoughts and deal with problems with a bit of clarity. In terms of being mentally active, try to continuously challenge yourself – whether that’s setting yourself a goal, starting a new hobby or doing a crossword. By doing this you’re helping to prevent a negative mind-set and working to be the best possible version of yourself.
2. DO NOTHING
When was the last time you did nothing? No phone, music, reading – literally nothing. Our mind is constantly being worked and we rarely take the time out to let it rest. With phones, computers, ipads etc. we are constantly distracted by what’s been happening in the world or what’s about to happen that we are no longer living in the present. Harvard research found that your mind is lost in thought 47% of the time – imagine spending almost half your life not living in the present but stuck in your thoughts! Taking time out every day to be present is so important to living a stress-free, mindful life. Our mind is our most valuable and precious resource and yet we spend more time looking after our hair, bodies or materialistic goods. It’s time to start looking after your mind – relax, let thoughts pass by, get some perspective and enjoy the present moment. I’d really recommend the Headspace mediation app and watching this video.
3. TAKE CONTROL
Don’t be a passive bystander in your own life! Taking control of your thoughts and worries is extremely empowering. It’s vital to compartmentalise the various issues that may be causing stress and remind yourself that each issue can be addressed individually, rather than letting them merge into one big, daunting unsolvable problem. Writing to-do lists is a great way of taking control and staying on top of things. Some issues are beyond your control in which case don’t dwell and accept that there’s nothing that can be done.
4. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
I read this book by Richard Carlson and was totally mind blown. For every stressful thought, ask yourself – will this matter in a year’s time? Will you still be stressing over that text you sent or what to wear next weekend. In most cases, the answer is bound to be ‘probably not’. Stop wasting your time and energy stressing about things that will have absolutely no effect on your happiness in a year’s time – or even a week’s time for that matter. Divide your stressful thoughts into two lists – the ones that will matter and the ones that won’t (and don’t try make up roundabout ways that the smallest of issues may have a completely disproportionate impact in a year’s time). The ones that will still matter are the only ones that warrant investing your time in. This exercise encourages you to pick your fights, focus on the bigger battles and don’t sweat the small stuff!
5. CONNECT WITH OTHERS
A problem shared is a problem halved – right? Speak to your friends and family about whatever’s stressing you – that’s what they are there for after all. I’ve also found it extremely useful connecting with people with IBS through instagram, facebook pages and blogs. There are all sorts of support networks out there and people willing to listen and offer advice.
If all else fails, in your times of desperation, just look at this picture and all your worries are bound to disappear!
Really hope my top 5 tips will help lead to a stress-free, symptom-less, mindful and happy life!