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Fitness, Health, and Wellness

4 Ways to Curb Stress

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Let’s talk about stress real quick. It is something everyone deals with and manages differently. No one can make it through life without stress. But stress can take a toll on those of us with IBD and can have an effect that goes well beyond our mental wellness. I’ve talked about my struggle with anxiety, which is a topic I think should be touched upon more, but the number one contributing factor to my anxiety and majority of my flares…STRESS. This topic could be something I could write about for days. There is a lot of science happening in regards to stress and our body’s reaction to it. But what I want to mostly share is how I am currently managing my stress and link some papers that are worth the read!

With stress, your body’s fight or flight system is in full gear, producing excessive amounts of hormones that can do damage to your digestive tract over time. For a long time, I feel that no one wanted to accept the fact that stress can be a major contributor to flares occurring with IBD. It’s almost as if it was something that was just never discussed, though known to a lot of doctors. Now, numerous publications have come out stating that stress can be a sole trigger of flare ups, mostly because of the brain-gut connection and inflammation that stress causes in the digestive tract. Chronic stress causes a huge uptake in cortisol which, in turn, has immunosuppression implications as well as increased inflammation.

So, have you ever sat there wondering why you flared out of nowhere? You haven’t changed anything in your diet and things have been going pretty well but you’re running to the bathroom 20 times a day and nothing is making sense. Take a quick scan of what is going on in your mind and life. Are you close to a deadline for work? Have you been studying all night for finals in college? Is there something going on in your family? Stressful situations cause chaos in our bodies which can cause even more chaos with a raging flare. And so the cycle begins.

Currently, I have some ways that I try to mediate stress in my life which I want to share with you. They are not a fix all, but they definitely help relieve tension and stress, and with everything going on in the world around us, I think I’m doing pretty okay! These have been my go to’s lately and I haven’t had a true full on flare in about 3.5-4 years…fingers crossed!

  1. Exercise. This is probably my number one go to in regards to alleviating my stress. It doesn’t need to be anything intense or crazy, especially since our bodies cannot handle intense exercise at times. For me, this can be something as simple as a walk around the park. Exercise helps reduce stress hormone levels and increase your feel good hormones. 
  2. Meditation. This takes practice. And something I am not that good at yet, but I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a bad mediation practice! Get an app like Insight Timer or Headspace and just sit and breath for a bit. This is another activity that increases the feel good chemicals in your body. I try to sit for a few minutes everyday or do this in the shower to either get a jumpstart on your day or have some reflection from your day.
  3. Gratitude Journaling. I’m grateful I decided that I would start a gratitude journal in 2020, because what a year we’ve had thus far! But seriously, the gratitude journal has helped kind of bring me back to reality by writing down at least one thing I am grateful for each and every day. Come to find out, there is something new each day that I am grateful for. It erases the stress from my mind for a few minutes while I am thinking positively rather than all the negative thoughts that have entered my mind throughout the day.
  4. Talking to my doctor. I’ve kept my doctors in the loop about my stress and anxiety. We have come up with a plan to help alleviate stress that is in my control and have supplemented with medication for the situations I don’t really have control over. It is always a good thing to keep your doctor informed so that you can keep your disease under control and not have any nasty flares, especially if you know you have stressful situations coming up….like moving across the country 🙂 . 

I hope these help any of you that feel like you are in a stressful place, especially with this pandemic raging around us, places starting to open again, and just the unclear guidance we are being given on a day to day basis. I encourage you all to stay safe, do what is best for you and your disease, wash your hands, and wear a mask if you go into public!

–Kelsey

Stress Pinterest Pin 4 ways to curb stress