Stress. In this modern world it seems to be everywhere. And if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or any functional disorder that affects your gut), you’re highly likely to have an even worse time of it when you’re stressed. Your gut is an incredible microbiome. 80% of your immune system lives in your gut and stress can knock the delicate balance of bacteria out of whack.
You’re probably thinking ‘that’s all well and good, but how am I supposed to be not stressed?’ It’s not easy, but here are a few simple ways I’ve found that help me de-stress and ease my stress-related stomach aches:
Make some Headspace
I rave about this particular app, I know, but I really can’t get over how much it helps me when I do it consistently. Even if I don’t (and to be fair, I’ve only ever managed 29 consecutive days in a row), it still helps me relax and stop my brain chattering in the stressful moment. This isn’t the only guided meditation app out there (here’s some more apps you might want to try) but personally I can vouch for how great this app has been for not only lowering my stress levels at the time, but building up my ability to recognise and not engage with stress in the future.
Sweat it out
Whether you’re kicking a ball around a field with some mates, rolling out the yoga mat, or pounding the pavement on your own with your favourite playlist, sweating out the stress is always a good option. You rarely regret a workout: it gets the blood pumping and fresh oxygen to your brain, and gives you time to focus on what your body is doing, rather than what your mind wants you to worry about.
Write it down
When I’m stressed I like to do two types of writing: 1) I like to write in my food diary (natch), because it helps me make connections between how my gut is behaving and the stress I’m under. And 2) I like to write a letter to myself. Yep. I write down everything that’s annoying or stressing me out at that moment in time, and usually just by getting it out on paper I start to either let it go or figure out a way to solve it. And then when I’m done, I screw it up and throw it away. I physically let it go, and that helps with doing so mentally too.
I also heard a similar great idea on the Happier podcast the other day – write an ‘unhappy’ list. It was a great listener suggestion, where you write down everything that’s making you unhappy at that point in time (bad weather, colleagues, tummy troubles…whatever it may be) and then two things you could do about these things (this can also include ‘doing nothing’). Like writing a letter to yourself, just acknowledging that these things are stressing you can start the process of moving on and calming down.
Put down that tech and Get Outside
Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram as much as the next person but hoo-boy, can the world pile on at times, and it does so via your phone, your laptop, and all your other pieces of tech that reside in your house and your pocket. Stressed? Put it all down and get yourself outside for a walk. Don’t listen to anything – not the news, not a podcast, nothing but the sound of life happening all around you. Take big deep breaths, focus on the walk, and relax.
Turn off social media
This goes with the tech thing, but might last a little longer than a walk. A social media detox can be a thing of beauty. Even if you’re a magical unicorn who never feels any comparison envy or FOMO, social media is still a lot of other people’s energy. It’s their voices in your head, their stress, their anger, their disappointment. You don’t need it. Turn it off and don’t turn it back on until you’re happy to (even if that actually means you never turn it back on).
Read an easy novel (or revisit an old favourite)
This isn’t the time to tackle the latest non-fiction book about the state of the world – I’m talking pick up a book that is complete fluff, and takes no concentration whatsoever to digest. Or re-read your favourite kids book. The world of Harry Potter is particularly great when you need to zone out completely for an hour or so.
So there you go - my 6 simple ways to chill out when the world and your stomach all gets a bit much. They're not rocket science, but sometimes we can forget in the heat of the moment. What ways have you found that help you nix the stress every time? Leave us a comment below, or share with us on insta!