10 Coping Skills For IBS And Anxiety
It’s estimated that more than half of those with IBS have a mental health disorder such as anxiety.1 Stress can play a role in initiating or worsening IBS symptoms, so having some strategies can help you cope better with anxiety. Here are 10 coping skills for IBS and anxiety:
1. Label your emotions
If you’re feeling particularly anxious or down, try to understand why you might be feeling the way you are. Try labelling your emotions, as it makes your emotions seem less overwhelming.
Try not to push feelings away, otherwise, they can bubble up and make you feel worse.
2. Be mindful
Mindfulness is being present in the moment and focusing on what you are doing rather than worrying about what future events might happen. This is especially important when eating; be conscious about chewing your food properly and eating slowly as digestion begins in the mouth.
After you eat, realise that some symptoms such as a noisy stomach or a little bloating can be normal and may not result in more extreme symptoms.
If your thoughts are causing you a lot of anguish and replaying over and over, stop and observe them, then let them float past like clouds in the sky.
3. Do something you love
Research has shown that when we’re feeling down, anxious or melancholic, doing an activity you enjoy and doing it mindfully can improve your mood. It can be anything from dancing, writing to spending time with a supportive friend.
4. Do something relaxing
Mind-body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation and relaxation breathing are all helpful techniques to help you manage stress. When practised regularly they can really help curb anxiety.
If these techniques don’t appeal to you, figure out what does. It could be painting or spending time in nature.
5. Move your body
Exercise such as yoga, walking and swimming are great ways to relieve stress, anxiety and depression. Moving the body can also help with digestion and facilitate more normal bowel function.
6. Write about it
Journaling has a range of benefits including being helpful for managing anxiety. Writing things down allows your brain to process your thoughts and recognise your triggers. It can help you to prioritise your concerns and fears, can help you clear your head, builds self-awareness and improves your quality of life. The trick with journaling is to try and do it daily in a space where you’ll be uninterrupted and give yourself time to reflect.
7. Try CBT
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been found to be helpful for people with IBS. CBT can help people utilise more helpful coping strategies. This type of therapy teaches that beliefs can affect our emotions and the beliefs we have about the world and ourselves may not be accurate. A 2019 study found that the participants who utilised adaptive coping styles learnt through CBT resulted in lower anxiety and depression and less severe IBS symptoms.2
8. Plan ahead
Aim to plan and even cook your meals in advance so you know what you will be eating every day. This will save you the stress of making a last-minute dash to get takeaway and the potential symptoms that can come with eating takeaway food.
Eating out? Check the restaurant menu online before eating there, it will ensure you have a worry-free meal.
9. Talk to someone
Having a friend or a family member you can trust and talk to can make a huge difference to your quality of life. If you don’t feel there is someone you can talk to, find online support groups. Or speak to a trained counsellor or psychologist.
10. Self-care strategies
Create a short-list of your favourite self-care strategies that help you cope with anxiety. It could be your favourite herbal tea, a yoga posture or breathing techniques. Have a list of strategies that you can turn to that help you feel grounded.
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