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4 Things I Do to Manage My Anxiety During an IBS Flare

My IBS and anxiety go hand in hand. They’re best friends if you will, egging each other on to perform. Especially if I’m out in public and haven’t noted where the nearest toilet might be. That’s when they like to strike, to catch me off guard.

Tips to manage anxiety during an IBS flare-up

Here are four ways I try to ease my anxiety symptoms during an IBS-D flare. And I should note that a lot of these tips I learned during my cognitive behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety.

1. Practice deep breathing

If I get an IBS flare and I’m not in the comfort of my own home, I will immediately begin to feel my chest tighten and my heart rate step up a gear. In a bid to take back control I practice deep breathing. There are many different techniques but for me, I choose box breathing. It’s where you breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, then breathe out for four before holding again for four. It regulates my heart rate, slows everything down and leaves me feeling calm. Having to mentally count to four with each step also gives me focus and trains my attention, away from how I’m feeling.

2. Talk to a loved one

Sometimes if I can feel the anxiety bubbling but am not sure how to handle it, or deep breathing isn’t quite cutting it, I text my mum or my best friend and ask them to help talk me out of it. They’ll remind me that what I’m experiencing won’t last, that it’ll be over soon. That it’s not the end of the world. That I’ve been here before and will get through it. Sharing the fact that I’m feeling this way with them makes the panic and the shame of having an attack ease up.

3. Get in 5 minutes of meditation

I’ll take 5, close my eyes, let my breath flow at a pace it likes and try to clear all thoughts from my mind. I like to check in with myself by running a scan of my body, starting from the top of my head, moving down to my toes. Noting any places that feel off or where there’s pain. I find meditation great for relaxation and easing stress.

4. Distract myself with post-flare plans

To combat the horrible feeling of a flare, I distract myself by mentally listing all the nice things I’ll indulge in post flare. I’ve got to have something to think about to get me through. For me this will always involve a long soak in a bubble bath, preferably while binge-watching a series or a rom com, to cheer me up.

What are your tips for dealing with the anxiety that IBS brings?

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.


  • Corgimom
    7 months ago

    I also have a prescription for Ativan, an anti-anxiety drug. It’s addictive, so I don’t take it often. I don’t care about feeling anxious, it’s just a feeling, but I care about how it puts me in the bathroom for the next 24 hours. I can always tell when I’m going to need it.

  • Corgimom
    7 months ago

    You feel the cramp. “Oh no, I need a toilet!” As soon as I feel the first cramp, I stop what I’m doing and head for the nearest toilet. And then I just stay there, until the diarrhea comes. And if I’m feeling anxious about anything, I immediately take Imodium pro-actively because I. KNOW. WHAT’S. COMING. I keep Imodium in my purse at all times.

  • tmholland moderator
    7 months ago


    It sounds like you have excellent self-awareness. I have found that this is very helpful with dealing something as difficult as IBS. I’m also glad you have educated yourself on the Ativan and love your attitude about anxiety. If we could all just wrap our heads around the fact that it is ‘just a feeling’. A crappy feeling, but just a feeling. Thank you for sharing. -Todd, Team

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