Dealing With The Crappiness of IBS

No matter how well your IBS is usually managed, there will be days when it overwhelms you. Sometimes that overwhelm is to the point where the ability to function normally is tossed out the window, leaving you little choice but to stay near a bathroom or crawl into bed to wait until it’s over. But other times the effects are subtler, where you can still function to a point, but the physical and/or mental strain that it puts on you stops you from functioning fully. How you deal with this depends on what’s going on.

When the crappiness is mostly physical in nature

Obviously this depends on just how bad your IBS has hit you, but if it’s mild to moderate pain with only an occasional toilet dash, then continuing on is normally possible. Or, if you’re more prone to constipation and so aren’t running to the toilet (even if you wish you were), then it’s more a matter of how bad the discomfort is as to whether you can keep going.

For me, IBS alternates, so it depends which stage it’s in as to how I handle it. If it’s a diarrhea stage, my body is weaker and it’s best to stick with activities where I’m seated and not moving too much, such as computer work or reading, and where I don’t need to venture too far from a toilet. But if it’s a constipation stage, standing up is always easier because it creates less pressure on the abdomen. Since I have a standing desk, I can keep working most of the time, otherwise I find other activities that will be gentle, yet keeping me mostly upright are the best choice.

When the crappiness is mostly mental in nature

Sometimes though, the mental hit is worse than the physical hit. While IBS is a gastrointestinal condition, most people are affected mentally in some form, even if it’s simply feeling worn out and frustrated because of the ongoing symptoms.

There are days though where my IBS overwhelms me mentally, even though physically the symptoms are manageable. This happens after experiencing a bout of physical symptoms for several days where I’ve become mentally exhausted from trying to manage the symptoms and continue functioning. In those cases, pushing through is extremely hard to do since pushing through is ultimately a mental exercise.

It’s times like this where an escape helps me the most, refreshing my mind (and body) so that I can begin to focus properly again. My best strategy is to get outside in the sun if possible, even if just for a few minutes. But I also try to rejig my workday so I can do tasks that require less mental energy. Of course that’s not always possible, but often you can find small tasks that are less demanding.

When the crappiness hits you both ways

While it’s often possible to push through IBS symptoms when it’s either physical or mental, when it hits you both ways, functioning can seem next to impossible. If it’s something super urgent, I’ll find a way to get through by telling myself that it’s just this one thing and then I can stop when it’s complete. But for anything non-urgent, I find that stepping back is a better strategy. Sometimes this feels like a lazy option, but the fact is that productivity decreases when you aren’t thinking straight, which definitely happens when you’re out of sorts both physically and mentally. Because it’s easy to become blasé about IBS when you deal with it every day, I now stop and ask myself “if I felt this way because of any other illness, would I feel bad about stopping?” If the answer is no, then I see no reason to stop just because it’s IBS.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.