A stressed woman works on a laptop while sitting with her legs up on her couch, while a red dot over her abdomen indicates an IBS flare.

The Impact Of Stress – A Reminder

Stress triggers IBS. We all know that, but I personally tend to forget sometimes that stress comes in different shapes and forms. In particular, there are two types of stress that I tend to experience. And they both trigger my IBS in a completely different way.

The obvious one: stress related to a specific event

The first type of stress appears when I have a specific event planned, and my anxious brain reminds me of all the different ways in which it could go wrong. What happens if I get a flare-up before and can’t go? What if I’m completely miserable during the entire event? What if people witness my flare-up?

Whenever I plan something in advance, and especially if it requires me to be in a certain place at a certain time, my anxiety takes over and I can’t help but freak out in advance.

Over time, I have gotten better at dealing with these situations. At least to a certain extent.

It helps to remind myself of every past event where I didn’t get a flare-up and think about all the times when everything went fine. And if I have a plan B in case I really don’t feel well, that’s even better.

This is the type of stress that I don’t forget and that I’m slowly learning to cope with.

The sneaky effects of long-term stress

On the contrary, I didn’t use to think that anything could trigger a bad flare-up if I was quietly working from home, eating safe foods and not thinking about any events I have to go to in the near future. Sounds like a perfect environment for IBS sufferers, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not true. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experiencing the worst IBS flare-ups I’ve had since I started working from home, and it took me far too long to figure out why.

Basically, I’ve not been able to eat without running to the bathroom 10 minutes later, was constantly feeling nauseous and had trouble sleeping because I just wasn’t feeling well.

At first, I started blaming it on the food. Don’t you always do this? Whenever I have a flare-up, my first guess is that I ate something wrong. But more often than not that’s only part of the reason. In this case, I was barely eating anything. The actual cause of the flare-ups was my workload.

I’ve been working 12-hour-days for over two weeks, and it started to impact my body. I was constantly feeling stressed. Not the type of stress that causes panic attacks, but the one that makes you grind your teeth at night. The first thing I thought about in the morning was my to-do list. Most nights, I would even wake up in the middle of the night because I remembered other things that had to be done.

The importance of a healthy work-life balance

It turns out that this type of long-term stress has even worse impacts on my IBS than the one associated with a specific event. It takes longer to build up, but when it does, the effects are much harder to get rid of.

I’ll need to cut down on projects and restore a healthier work-life balance in the weeks to come, hoping that my IBS will calm down if I have more time to relax.

This experience reminded me of how important it is not to prioritize work over health. It can be so tempting, and yet it’s not a good idea to cross that line. In the end, you’ll be less productive anyway if you have constant IBS symptoms.

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