Alarm goes off at 5:30, you hit snooze for another 9 minutes and pray to God it will feel like an hour, alarm goes off again, you drag yourself out of the bed, caffeinate, make breakfast for the kids, wake said kids up, get a shower, wake the kids up again with a little harsher tone, pull something out for supper, pick out clothes, wake the kids up yet again…this time turning the light on in their face, fix your hair and makeup, start a load of laundry, threaten your kids with splashing cold water on them to get up for school, make lunches, the dog just puked in the laundry room, and your husband can’t find his wallet…all before 8 am.
If this sounds like some semblance of your mornings…dude, I feel you. Life is just…life. We love our kids, our spouses, and most of the time our jobs, but life…is stressful at times.
Have you heard that saying about stress?
“Stress is like a rocking chair, you’re doing something but you ain’t going anywhere.”
I agree with this statement, but sometimes you just can’t help it. Our lives these days seem like they are just full. Full of stress, busy-ness, drama, family, friends, jobs, clubs, programs, volunteering, and church…it’s a lot to juggle, and every now and then we get a glimpse of peace and serenity instead of the other way around.
We all know that stress can trigger an IBS flare up. Every doctor’s visit, website, Facebook page, and dietitian tell us to “manage our stress”. The good news is there are so many different ways we can reduce our stress.
It’s true, there is no one way to manage IBS, just like there is no one way to manage your stress. Sometimes we have to mix it up! Here are a few tips and tricks, I’ve learned along the way.
1. Identify the Source by Journaling
Obviously, there are times when we know what the stressor is, it’s the kids fighting while all you want to do is make supper in peace after a long day.
Other times, it’s not quite so obvious and you may need to slow down and identify the source(s) of your stress that is setting off your IBS flare ups.
There was time, I was so stressed, I just didn’t know where to start to “fix” my life. So, I started journaling, I would write about the day, what was nice, what I wanted to happen in the future, and most importantly what bothered me.
Eventually, I started to see patterns of what was stressing me out. I learned that coming home to a messy house (at least the parts that were in view when I walked in the door, like the kitchen and living room) really bothered me. It set off a chain of anxiety and thus set my nights up for flare ups.
I started having the maid and butler (my kids) straighten up the living room and kitchen because they got home before I did and it made for a much better evening for all of us.
2. Go for a Walk
Any exercise is proven to reduce stress because it releases endorphins (feel good hormones) and lowers cortisol (stress hormone).
Even if you’re not a marathon runner, get outside, take a walk, smell the air, listen to the birds, or the semi’s honk their horns on the highway; or if you’re feeling froggy, jog, run, ride a bike, take the kids’ skateboard for a spin, but get out and do it.
If you feel like some company, invite your family or the neighbor to go with you. But if you just need a break from the noise, go alone and enjoy the silence!
Tip: Yoga encourages physical and mental relaxation, which helps reduce stress and anxiety.
3. Lay on the Grass
I never did well in Science class growing up, but there was one thing I do remember. You ready for my big science lesson?
Laying on the grass makes you feel better because grass gives off negative ions and negative ions make us feel positive! So, I guess that whole math equation of 2 negatives = positive is even true in nature! Wow, isn’t God amazing?
Thus, I could never live in a state where grass doesn’t grow freely. I honestly don’t know how desert people do it!
I lived most of my life barefoot running in the grass, maybe this is why I loved it so much as a kid, I didn’t know it at the time, but it made me feel good.
So, go be a kid again, go lay for 15 minutes on the grass and watch the clouds, or the stars at night, read a book, have a picnic in your backyard or play twister!
4. Reduce your Caffeine Intake
Yes, I know. You need this caffeine to make it through the day. But caffeine is a stimulant and in some people it can cause anxiety if not used in moderation.
Everyone has a different threshold, but if you notice yourself getting jittery or anxious, consider cutting back. Especially later in the day, so it doesn’t interrupt your precious, precious sleep.
Consider switching over to some of these other caffeinete alternatives:
-Hot water with lemon or apple cider vinegar
Humans have been using aromatherapy for thousands of years for medicinal, religious, and perfume purposes.
Lavender is probably the most common household name. It has been documented for over 2000 years in different empires. The Egyptians used it for mummification and perfume; the Romans used it for bathing and cooking; and the Greeks used it for insomnia and back aches.
Today, we know these aroma-therapies as essential oils. And honestly, there is no shortage of finding these now, like there was 2000 years ago.
Experiment with these scents to find your most relaxing state:
Okay, fine, laughter-therapy isn’t a word, but you get what I’m saying here.
“Laughter does a heart good, like medicine”
Hang out with your funniest friend, watch a comedy, go back and watch funny home videos.
Laughter reduces stress by relaxing the tension on your muscles. A relaxed body reduces the stress response. And according to some medical folks, laughter can improve your immune system over time.
7. Get a Pet
Medically, they say having a pet provides you with a purpose, keeps you active, provides companionship, and releases oxytocin (the happy brain chemical).
I say…they don’t talk back! And sometimes they are more loyal.
I read a meme somewhere, if you want to know who loves you more…lock your dog and your girlfriend in the trunk for an hour and see which one is happy to see you when you open it! LOL! Hey, we got to laugh or we will cry, right?
8. Positive In, Positive Out
I used to date a guy that listened to death metal music all the time. That’s his business, I didn’t care what he listened to, he is grown and if he liked that, whatever.
One time, we took a trip and I let him control the radio all the way home…I was so angry by the time we got back I could have picked up the car and thrown it into the garage.
The point is, if you want to feel more positive and less stressed, make sure whatever you are exposing your cognizant and subconscious mind to is positive.
I’ve heard of experiments where police officers challenged themselves to listen to nothing but Christian music for 30 days. At the end of 30 days, the officers stated they were much happier in their jobs and less stressed.
A police officer’s job can be occasionally rewarding, but without question, most of the time it is a thankless mentally and physical tough profession. So, if they were happier and less stressed, imagine how they responded to their seemingly endless calls of negativity? Just sayin’…
Be aware of what you putting in your mind. Remember mama used to say “you are what you eat”? Our minds respond with stress, anger, and anxiety to negative influences too.
9. Breathing Deep
Unless you’re in lamaze class or in “fight or flight” mode; you need to practice breathing deep.
Breathing deep can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation part of your brain.
While there are many deep breathing exercises you can try; I’ll share one that has helped me get to sleep on those stressful nights.
Try this relaxation breathing:
+ Breathe in 4 seconds
+ Hold your breath for 4 seconds
+ Breathe out for 4 seconds
+ Repeat 10 times
10. Physical Contact
Humans were made for contact and physical touch. From a therapeutic standpoint, positive physical touch releases the positive brain hormone, oxytocin and it lowers the stress hormone, cortisol.
Every baby of mine was premature. When I had my first, I knew absolutely zero about being a mother, and gratefully, I had some really awesome NICU nurses who took some mercy on me. When my daughter, was plugged up to all kinds of tubes and wires; her biggest issue was breathing because her lungs were underdeveloped. If you have or known someone with asthma, you will know that not being able to breathe causes the body to go into a fantastically stressed mode of “fight or flight”.
To calm my daughter, the nurses taught me about skin on skin contact. So, when feeding, I would unbutton my gorgeous hospital gown and lay her directly on my chest and amazingly her heart rate would slow down and regulate.
Many animals in fact also participate in affection. Chimpanzees cuddle their stressed friends. Male lions rub heads. Elephants intertwine their trunks. Giraffes share in “necking”, and several kinds of primates engage in kissing.
For humans, hugging, cuddling, kissing, and I carefully suggest that sex can all relieve stress.