Navigating Stress and IBS: Practical Strategies You Can Try

In this lesson we'll share some practical approaches to managing stress

By Laura Tilt

Navigating Stress In Today's World

Navigating stress in today's fast-paced world is not easy, but with practice you can learn to manage both the stress you face and the way you respond to it.

The mental health charity Mind has some excellent advice on learning to manage stress (which you can find here). It includes working out your triggers, addressing some of the causes, and accepting what can't be changed. The next step is to work on developing healthy coping strategies.

Consider trying these practical approaches:

Approaches you can try to help manage stress:

1. Stress + Symptom Diary: Track stressful events and notice any links to your IBS symptoms. Try to pinpoint what makes you stressed – be it an event, person, or activity then work on reducing these triggers or adjusting your response.

2. Move Your Body: Exercise can help reduce stress, as it produces hormones that elevate mood and feelings of wellbeing. Around 20 minutes of movement is enough to get the benefits. If you can, head for a walk in the park as studies show being in green spaces has a calming effect on the mind.

3. Rest and Recharge: Can you give yourself 30-60 minutes each day to do something to help you unwind? Giving yourself a break is crucial; doing too much without a breather can lead to burnout.

If you’re stuck for ideas, make a list of a few things that help you to relax (like having a bath, listening to music, calling a friend, reading or watching comedy). Pop these ideas onto slips of paper and pick one activity from the jar each day.

4. Make a List: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, jot down everything you need to do, prioritise the tasks in order of urgency, and tackle them one at a time. A structured approach eases stress.

5. Hobby Time: Build in 90 minutes weekly for a hobby you enjoy. It's a mental vacation, a chance to focus on something different and recharge your mind. If it's been a while since you engaged with a hobby, what's something you'd like to try?

6. Mindfulness: Explore mindfulness to reduce stress and anxiety. Apps like Headspace offer a free 14-day introduction to mindfulness, which can help change the way you respond to difficult situations and emotions.

6. Gut-Focused Therapies: If stress is a significant trigger for you, consider trying gut-focused psychological therapies. Both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (a type of talking therapy which looks at how thoughts affect behaviour) and gut-directed hypnotherapy can help manage symptoms.

Speak with your G.P. about what services are available in your area or check out self-help apps Nerva (gut directed hypnotherapy) and Bold Health (based on CBT) which have been built to help target the gut-brain axis in people with IBS.