5 Easy Ways to Manage Your Stress and Anxiety

And Improve your IBS Symptoms

Have you heard the terms “fight or flight” response and didn’t understand what it means? How about “rest and digest”?

Let me break it down for you.

Our bodies are composed of autonomic nervous system which is divided into sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems that work together to sustain life.

The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as “rest and digest” system that controls the homeostasis in the body while at rest. It is responsible for muscles relaxation, increased saliva production, stomach movement and secretions. It provides us with all necessary tools to digest, absorb and deliver nutrients to the needed areas in the body.

The sympathetic nervous system is known as “fight or flight” response that helps the body to mobilize all necessary resources to fight a perceived threat, whether it is physical or psychological. In other words, stress and anxiety activate the sympathetic nervous system, and all the functions, that are not important at that moment, begin to shut down. Stress disrupts the balance in the body initiating a chain of reactions and prepare an organism for survival. At this time our bodies release certain hormones, such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and adrenaline, the heart starts pumping the blood to the muscles and digestion slows down.

This is why you have adverse symptoms when you eat during stress or anxiety.  Your body decreases intestinal flow and slows down digestion leading to stomach pain, distention, diarrhea and/or constipation. Chronic stress can make the symptoms worse.

To treat these symptoms, we have to look at the root cause. In this case, food has nothing to do with your adverse symptoms. First thing to do is we need to find the ways to manage the stress.

Here is the list of some approaches that can help with stress and anxiety. But you have to practice these techniques regularly, before the onset of the anxiety. Think about it as a prevention.

1. Breathing. Sometimes people forget to breathe when they are stressed. It may promote restriction of oxygen flow to all your organs and tissues. Find a deep breathing technique that works for you.

2. Exercise. There are numerous studies showing that exercise improves the mood and lowers the stress level, so make it a habit. Do 7-minute workouts in the morning, 30 minutes walks after lunch and/or 30 minutes stretching in the evening.

3. Journaling. Writing down your struggles and emotions on the paper helps to release the tension and negative thoughts.  If you don’t have anybody to talk to or you are afraid of talking about your feelings, write it down. Journals are good listeners! You can always go back and read what triggered your anxiety or helped you in the past to find the pattern to implement the things that made your feel better.

4. Meditation.  Some people don’t believe in meditation until they try it. It helps to release the tension in the muscles including muscles in the GI tract. There are different forms of meditation, find the one that is right for you. Don’t do it because you have to, find the one that helps you to get the results. People have been using meditation for thousands of years.  Prayer is one form of meditation and is used in many religions. Forget about surroundings and only focused on yourself.

5. Humming, chanting, gargling or singing. Making different sounds can help to stimulate the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and abdomen and innervates your gut. Next time if you are asked to “OM” at your yoga class, don’t be shy and just do it. It will help to activate your vagus nerve in the form of vibration. Feel the vibration and imagine how it starts in your belly and goes all the way up to the top of your head.

These are just some ideas that can help to cope with stress without professional help. Of course, if you think that you need a more thorough investigation or those techniques didn’t work, seek a help from a qualified healthcare professional.

 

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