Taming Holiday Stress
Last updated: November 2022
The holidays are a wonderful time of joy, cheer and goodwill to all…and the extra shopping, the crowded parking lots, the increase in alcohol consumption and sugar, and the overpacked schedules can add an incredible amount of stress to a body already dealing with the pressure of IBS.
While there is some evidence that stress may play a role in the cause IBS, those of us who live with the condition know that stress frequently causes a flare of IBS symptoms. And, having to deal with the flares, as well as constant symptoms of IBS, can cause additional emotional distress. So there’s a bit of a continuous cycle going on there, and sometimes it can feel like a hamster wheel you just can’t seem to escape.
If your holiday schedule is causing additional stress, here are some simple tips to help keep your body from hitting overwhelm:
Keep your body hydrated.
Water is always important, and when we have extra stressors, particularly of the food and alcohol kind, we need more water to flush those toxins out of our systems. If plain water gets boring to you, add a slice of citrus fruit (lemon, lime, grapefruit or orange) or a few slices of cucumber. You can also mix it up with sparkling water.
Take time-outs to breathe.
Yes, of course if you’re reading this we will assume you are still breathing, but breathing deeply, particularly relaxing the belly and allowing for several cycles of full inhalation and exhalation, can be the fastest way to relax your body out of fight-or-flight.
Bring your awareness to your body.
One of the therapists I see for bodywork recently brought to my attention that I am holding my muscles tense in several areas of my body, including my pelvic floor and my shoulders. Most of the time, it’s completely unconscious behavior. Now, I check in with my body several times a day, scanning my body for where I’m holding tension and inviting those muscles to relax. It’s a simple trick that has my body feeling a whole lot better.
The brain can’t simultaneously hold the state of panic and gratitude, so shifting your focus to whatever you are grateful for, even if it’s simple things, can help take your body out of a stressful state.
Use the 3 B's.
When going through your to-do list, use the 3 B's to help you get through: Bag it, Barter it, or Better it. If you can Bag it and not do it today (or maybe ever), do it! Bartering could be trading favors with someone else or hiring someone to do it. And Bettering it can take on many forms. Think of your five senses -- sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste -- and how you might bring in something that delights you while you do your chore.
Ask yourself: What feels like kindness to my body right now?
Adding a little extra kindness for yourself this holiday season can help get you through an extra stressful time. Kindness to the self may come in surprising ways, such as having a cup of tea with a friend, singing along with the radio at the top of your lungs, or maybe skipping one of those events for a quiet evening at home. Ask the question and give yourself the care you need and deserve.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?