How Slowing Down Has Helped My IBS
Many years ago I used to rush from one thing to the next. Constantly busy with a million tasks on my plate, juggling work, friends and family, and everything between. I was the one that got things done. It was like a badge of honor.
The problem though was that my mind was on high alert all the time. Always watching the clock to make sure I didn’t run out of time. Yet also watching the clock so I was ready to begin the next task. I never stopped thinking or doing. The impact of this wasn't just on my mind, it affected my body, too. And my IBS.
Yet I never truly appreciated the effect that this busyness had on my IBS, at least not while it was happening. There were indications of course, especially when I took holidays from work and had less on my plate. At those times, my health was more settled. And I was happier.
But slowing down is a hard thing to do, especially if your job or chosen career is particularly demanding. Or if you’ve got a lot of demands on your personal time, which can be as tough to manage as a fast-paced job.
Discovery through recovery
For me, I didn’t start slowing down until after I ended up in the hospital from an illness caused by being very run down. After 3 weeks off work to recover, plus having to go slower for another couple of months, I was forced to slow my pace.
That’s when I realized the true impact that all the rushing had on me. Because every time the rushing would start again, my IBS would get worse too. But since my body was still recovering from illness, I had to keep slowing down and only doing what mattered. So things would settle once again and I’d see how slowing down was helping me.
When I had finally recovered from that illness about 8 months later, I’d developed a pattern of slowing down. With little habits each day that encouraged me into mental and/or physical stillness. Meditative practice in the morning, exercise in the afternoon, sitting down for all main meals, reading in the evening. Small moments of slow each day that calmed my restless mind and touchy body.
Look for the pockets of slow
The easy explanation for this effect was that slowing down decreased my stress levels. And since stress is one of my biggest IBS triggers, less stress meant less IBS symptoms.
But slowing down also helped in other ways. Meditation dampens a hyper-responsive nervous system, which benefits a hypersensitive gut. Exercise helps the gut muscles to work more effectively and can reduce constipation. Sitting down and eating meals improves digestion and stops overeating caused by distractions. And reading at night allowed me to switch off from the rest of the day, giving me better quality sleep.
Slowing down doesn’t always work though and I do have times when my life is anything but slow. Yet it’s always possible to find a small pocket of slow throughout the day, if you take the time to look for it. So how about putting some time aside today to see if going slower can help your IBS, too. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Do you read nutrition labels on the food you buy?