5 Ways to Deal with IBS at Work
Managing IBS on a day to day basis can be tough. But incorporating it into your working life can be even more difficult. Many of us spend most of our week in work, that's why it's so important to ensure you have the right provisions in place to make it as easy as possible to manage.
Back when I was first diagnosed with IBS, I had only ever worked in part-time roles to fund me through University. I had also only ever worked in roles where no one would really notice if I had to disappear off to use the bathroom. It was only when I entered the office environment that I felt my IBS would affect my working life more. I quickly had to adapt to my new surroundings, where I found it quite difficult to cope with my symptoms.
Tips for coping with IBS at work
There can be provisions put in place to make working life easier and much more manageable. Here are a few little tips that I have learned along the way...
Find a workplace buddy
I believe in the saying "A problem shared is a problem halved". Well, I would like to think my IBS symptoms could be halved, but you get the gist. I've found having a supportive friend at work who knows about your condition and who you can trust can make working life so much easier. You can always go to them first if you're experiencing a flare-up. Or if there's an incidence where you need to dash to the loo and are about to head into a meeting. I just find having a little bit of moral support eases my anxiety about having IBS in the workplace. Most people I have worked for have been kind and supportive towards me.
Make plenty time for yourself before work
My IBS-D is always worse in the morning, so it is essential that I give myself plenty time in the morning to allow my stomach to settle before leaving the house. Getting up earlier in the morning means I can take my time, without rushing and this also allows me to relax as much as possible without having to rush out the door, sending my stress levels through the roof before starting my working day. I also like to practice some mindfulness and focus on my breathing to help keep me calm before my commute to work.
Tell your employer
I've had a mixture of good and bad employers when it comes to being understanding towards my IBS. Regardless of this, I still think it's so important to advise them of your situation. Get a doctors note too, if necessary. That way, there will be no surprises if you are ever absent from work because of it. I've been lucky to have some employers that have put in flexible working arrangements for me. I understand that not all employers will be able to do this but telling them and finding out how supportive they will be can also help you understand where you stand with them and may help you understand if it's the right position for you.
Find a job that suits your circumstances
In some instances, IBS and your job may just not work. I found myself in a position where I was regularly presenting to colleagues for a few hours at a time. It meant I was constantly worrying about having to leave to go to the bathroom and it sent my stress levels through the roof. In turn, this affected my IBS even more. I came to the conclusion that this role wasn't right for me. Speak to your employer and see if there's a role better suited to you. Or perhaps it's time to look for something else. Although both of these are much easier said than done, no job is worth affecting your health.
Carry necessary IBS essentials with you
Whether your IBS essentials are medication or certain foods you know you can tolerate, ensure you have these with you throughout your working day. I find it reassuring knowing that I have these things to hand during my working day.
Speak up and explain your situation, you never know there might be someone at work in the same position as you.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?