Workplace Stress and IBS

Due to the nature of my job, I tend to put up a big ol’ block when it comes to ‘workplace stress.’ I work in social services and I would be lying if I said that I don’t encounter at least one type of stressful situation or another with my job every week. I work with people who have at least one serious illness, are often homeless and have very difficult lives. In order to cope with that, I have to put up some boundaries. I can’t be sitting on the couch at night worried about one client or the other, because eventually, it will start to affect my mental health. Everyone knows that our mental and physical health are inextricably tied, but because of the nature of IBS, I have to be extra careful about how much I let stress play a part in my life. I recently realized that my attempt to avoid thinking about my client’s troubles had me ignoring what might be called ‘normal’ workplace stress. You know, the kind when your boss gives you a deadline that you are not sure you can reach or your review wasn’t as good as you’d hoped. I think it’s really important to keep these things in mind as they can creep up on us and end up really stirring up the IBS problem.

Don't ignore stress at work

I think we all get used to dealing with a certain amount of emotional reaction to all the little things we have to worry about at work. If we didn’t develop some kind of skin, we would be so worried about performance and details that we wouldn’t get anything done. I guess what I’ve come to realize is that addressing this type of stress and dealing with it cannot be underestimated. I think I can honestly say that I can see a direct correlation between the intensity of my IBS issues and everyday stress. While I can never completely remove either IBS or stress from my life, I can definitely make a difference in how well the two play together. When we deal with things that are bothering us by saying something like, ‘I’m just stressed out,’ we are normalizing the emotion, but not really in a good way. Of course it’s normal to experience stress, but if our family and friends start asking us what is wrong or we start to feel a bit overwhelmed, it’s time to take action. I mean take action like right then and there, because it won’t be long before the tummy starts to have a mind of its own again and we are truly in for double trouble.

One person to the next deals with different types of stress in their jobs. While my job at the social services agency can be very stressful, I can say that working in finance can be equally stressful. I used to wait tables and tend bar in my twenties and that for sure had more than its share of stress. It’s really a matter of being able to see it when it arises and dealing with it in a healthy way. Because it’s not JUST stress.

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