Stress is a major factor for those suffering with IBS and other digestive issues. It has been proven in some cases, large amounts of stress (be it down to a new job, grievance or other factors in your life) has been the trigger of some peoples IBS.
Whether your IBS started as the result of a hugely stressful time in your life, following the loss of a loved one or after a bad case of food poisoning, stress can be a major trigger of IBS symptoms and therefore it’s important to try to keep your stress levels down.
Below we have listed our top 10 ways to de-stress, so if you can feel your stress levels building up then have a go at a few of these. If possible, it’d be great for you to get into a routine of doing all of these on a regular basis rather than waiting for those stressful moments to occur!
1. Organise & prioritise
Having a million jobs circling around in your head is enough to stress most people out! Try to organize your thoughts – perhaps writing a diary or journal, and making lists of the jobs you need to do.
Having a list on a piece of paper can be far better than putting it on ‘notes’ on your phone, as when you have completed each task you can physically cross it off which (for me anyway!) brings great satisfaction!
It’s also key to prioritse jobs we need to do – writing an endless list of tasks isn’t going to help anyone, so just focus on the important things that need to be done that day. You’ll get far more satisfaction crossing things off a shortlist and you’ll be more productive if you just focus on the few things that HAVE to be done that day.
2. Add structure to your life
It’s one thing if your brain is going round in circles with things to do, but if you are then you need to stop and get into a structure or routine. One thing I found when I started my own business was that my daily/weekly structure went out of the window! I was working in the evenings, at weekends and then trying to fit in all the little jobs at ad hoc times through the week – I suddenly found I had no time for the gym, but would be agreeing to pick my nieces up from school as I was ‘at home’ (working!) at 3pm on a Wednesday!
My stress levels soon began to rise until I built structure back into my life. I planned my work time, my ‘me’ time, my family time and my chores/errands time, so I (and my family) knew when I was working and not to be disturbed and when I could allow myself the time for other things.
3. Eat mood-boosting foods
There are plenty of mood-boosting foods available and many are low FODMAP (ensure you stick the recommended amounts of each to be low FODMAP). Try a few of these when you are starting to feel low, tired or stressed: Dark chocolate / Bananas / Chillis / Blueberries / Fish / Sunflower seeds / Saffron / Green tea. Also make sure you drink plenty of water (5-8 glasses per day)!
4. Book into a spa
One of the best ways to de-stress and relax is to book yourself into a spa and have a massage. The atmosphere of the spa should immediately start to relax you, but a massage is a great way to get rid of the muscle aches, pains and tension, leaving you feel relaxed and at ease. A spa day and massage will also help you prepare for…
5. A good nights sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is key to living a happier, stress free life. Ensure you have a good mattress and the right tog duvet for the time of year (to make sure you’re not awoken by being too hot or cold). If you find your brain still going ‘ten to the dozen’ when you are trying to get to sleep, then you need to focus on relaxing and winding down before bed. Try reading a book, or playing some calming music.
6. Have a hot bath
If you can’t afford the spa or don’t have time to book into one, then a long hot bath can be a great alternative to help relax your muscles and calm your mind. Try adding some muscle relaxant bath cream, or bath salts, put on some calming music and light a few candles to recreate the relaxing atmosphere of a spa. A bath can also be a great way to wind down before bedtime, helping you achieve tip number 5!
7. Create a relaxing space
Everybody needs their relaxing space to go to when they want to chill. Whether that’s the chair by the fire, a beanbag in the study/library or just your bed – we all need that space to go to and relax. When I bought my house, we ended up decorating every room at the same time as all the ceilings had to be plastered. It made me incredibly stressed as there was no part of my house I could go to get away from the chaos. So I focused on getting my bedroom finished first, so I could have that one room to escape to and relax. Use your space to listen to music, read or meditate and make time in your day to do this (even if it is just 15minutes before bed time).
8. Exercise Daily
Daily exercise might sound like a lit of effort but exercising regularly actually gives you more energy. Even just a short walk at lunchtime or after work will help clear your head and boost endorphins (which reduces stress hormones). Make sure you plan your exercise for a time that suits you – I prefer to go to the gym in the mornings and ‘wake my body up’ and know it is done for the rest of the day. But you don’t have to pay for an expensive gym membership – you can easily do yoga or an exercise video at home, or go for a walk, run or cycle ride, or one of my favourites – go for a swim. Whatever you decide to do, choose an environment which helps you feel relaxed – could be a park, or at home.
9. Turn off your phone
Having notifications popping up every two seconds, calls, voicemails, Whatsapp messages, Facebook notifications constantly coming in can be totally overwhelming – particularly when it’s on top of everything else on your to do list. So firstly, open up your notification settings and turn them all off!
Make time to check your emails in the morning and afternoon – but don’t live in your inbox! Check your messages and Whatsapp at lunchtime when you give yourself a ‘timeout’ from work. And when you are having your ‘me’ time – turn your phone off altogether. It really is the best feeling.
Why do we like the spa so much? – because it’s an escape from normal life with none of the constant massages, nagging and noise, and turning your phone off can create a similar sense of escape!
10. Most importantly… Try to look at the bigger picture
Sometimes it’s so easy to get really worked up and stressed out over little things that really don’t matter. Try to clear your head, take a step back and ask yourself in the grand scheme of things, does this actually matter, is it such a big deal? If not then move on, don’t worry about it and get on with enjoying what’s important in life.
If it really is a big thing then you know what they say…’a problem shared is a problem halved.’ So don’t suffer alone. Getting into the right mind-frame is key to living a less stressed life – it’s all about the positive thinking.
Written by Bay Burdett, Founder & CEO of Bay’s Kitchen.
Copyright Bay’s Kitchen. Please do not reprint without permission.