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The woman on the right experiences stress eating and general anxiety as measured by a dial behind her that indicates a high level, while the same woman is shown standing serenely on the left, reflecting on the experience.

What Do You Do to Manage Your Stress?

For many people, their IBS symptoms are triggered or made worse by stress. Is this you?

Different types of stress

People can experience stress differently. For me, when I'm stressed, I generally feel overwhelmed and tired. It's like there are not enough hours in the day and I can't get everything done. But sometimes I also feel anxious or worried about something that is due to happen in the future, and I don't feel prepared for it. Sometimes I might even feel like I don't know how to do something, that I don't have the skills needed.

How stress affects us

Stress can also affect us differently. Often I'll feel tired yet wired, or anxious. Sometimes I'll get snappy and grumpy. Sometimes I'll feel like crying or just crawling under the covers until it all goes away. But, pretty much every time my stress levels are high I can feel it in my gut. I'll get bloated when I eat some of my "safe foods," and I'll stay bloated for the rest of the day! Constipation can kick in too and this is when I really know that I'm in trouble!

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Measuring your stress

I find it helpful to measure my stress on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no stress at all and 10 being maximum stressful feelings. This way I can judge how close I am to not being able to cope, or what type of things I need to do, and how quickly I need to do them to manage the stress. It can also be helpful to measure it again after trying different stress management tools to see what worked the best. Measuring stress can also mean you are able to take a step back and take a look at how you feel and where you are at. This can help gain some perspective on what is happening in your life and how it compares to previous situations.

Stress management tools

We are going to have different things that help calm us, or bring a fresh perspective. Or things that help us keep going. Do you know what works for you?

For me, I need to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep, I have to focus on eating nutritious food that doesn't make my symptoms worse, exercise, Epsom salt baths, time in the garden and meditation. These things are my go-to tools. I also find it helpful to keep a list of these things on my phone so that when my stress levels creep above 5 I can read the list and get started on some of the tools.

For you, it might be different things, for my husband it's golf. Lots and lots of golf! For him, this allows him to clear his mind of everything and just focus on the ball. Plus being outside in nature with green grass and friends is a big part of it too.

Your toolbox

So tell me, do you have some things that you always turn to that help manage your stress?

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.

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