Ah, it’s that time again, friends. Time for New Year’s Resolutions. This year especially, we may not have the mental space to think about improving ourselves next year (and that’s okay!). We don’t even know if our lives will regain some semblance of “normal” next year. My vote is that we don’t add unnecessary pressure to our lives, but instead we take this new beginning as an opportunity to better care for ourselves. Learn to listen to your body and mind. If you’re looking to improve your IBS symptoms in 2021, consider these low pressure, high impact options.
Take Your Needs Seriously
If you know that something triggers you, you have the power to turn it down. Even if you feel it would be rude to decline something you’re offered, remind yourself that it isn’t. I can’t count the number of times I’ve eaten just a bit of something I shouldn’t have or cleared my plate knowing I would feel sick afterward. It has taken me so much practice to learn that I can say no. If you’re comfortable, share a bit about why you are declining a food or only serving yourself a child-sized portion at dinner.
Share Your Truth
Find someone who understands you. Maybe it’s a fellow IBS sufferer or an online forum. Maybe it’s a close friend who doesn’t have a similar experience, but who is willing to listen and learn. Just establishing the freedom to share when you have a flare up with someone you know won’t judge you can be extremely liberating. Even those who aren’t afflicted have likely experienced some level of gut dysfunction in their lives and would be delighted to be there for you when you need some support. The more we normalize our experiences the better things get for all of us. Start with just one person.
Learn to listen to your body’s signals. When you start feeling that tightness in your chest or when that rumbling starts in your tummy, take a moment to breathe. Allow yourself to say, “I’m not okay.” Write it down in a journal, tell a friend, say it aloud to your dog or whisper your thoughts to a plant. Whatever it takes to release the pressure you’re feeling will be tremendously helpful. In time, this will become second nature and you’ll find that freeing your mind of burdens is the first step to freeing your body too.
Be Kind to Yourself
Allow yourself to indulge in the foods and drinks and activities that bring you joy. Eat pancakes for dinner, have the occasional glass of wine, skip the run and dance in your kitchen for 20 minutes instead. Forgive yourself for overindulging when you inevitably do and learn from your experiences about moderation and your body’s needs. No one is perfect all the time.
For most of us, 2020 has been a rollercoaster. Whether you’re working from home and helping your child in the virtual classroom or picking up groceries for your elderly neighbor or sewing masks for everyone you know, there is no doubt in my mind that you spent time this year caring for someone else. And while that can be extremely fulfilling, it can also be draining when we continue to prioritize everyone else before ourselves. The truth is, the better we are to ourselves, the more we can offer to others.
Take time in 2021 to be kind to yourself and to take your needs seriously. Share your truth with those you love and ask for their support on your journey. Acknowledge your fears, worries, and anxieties, but don’t let them rule your mind or your gut. Recognize that you deserve to be a top priority in your life and make choices that reflect how much you care about yourself.
Happy New Year to all. May 2021 bring you happiness, health, and love.
I write about my experience with IBS at https://gut-vibes.com/