Stress, we all feel it. Sometimes it can be a positive force, motivating you to perform well at a job interview for instance. But, more often, when we are expecting too much from ourselves, it can be a negative force. Experiencing stress over a prolonged period can cause many different symptoms, from having issues with sleep or a short temper, to more chronic symptoms such as panic attacks or depression. SIBO is undoubtedly a stressful enough condition to deal with, even without all the other daily stresses we come across, so it’s particularly important for us to manage our stress levels.
The gut is particularly vulnerable to the presence of chronic or acute stress, and needs us to be mindful of protecting it. The brain-gut connection is anecdotally recognised as a ‘gut-feeling’, ranging from butterflies in the stomach to full on anxiety-induced nausea, which is something you want manage when you have SIBO. Understanding the difference between tired and wired is a good place to start. When you want to relax you should be able to. If you are stressed, it’s very hard to feel anything other than wired. Listening to your body is key, if you feel tired then rest, and if you really can’t manage that then it’s good to at least find something that gives momentary respite from the stress.
Here at The Healthy Gut HQ we’ve been talking about stress recently. We’re all busy people, with busy, demanding lives. We were surprised by how differently we all dealt with stressful situations and periods in our lives. It’s interesting how what works for one doesn’t work for all. We wanted to share with you what we as individuals do to avoid and overcome stress, sometimes it just helps to know that you aren’t alone in experiencing stress and it might give you some ideas next time you feel it’s all getting too much.
For some of us getting active is one of the keys to dealing with stress. For Kate during stressful periods it’s time to head outdoors and get active.
Kate - ‘I was brought up in the countryside, and whenever I feel like things are getting on top of me I know it’s time to head outdoors. I really love to head out on a long hike with my boys. We’ll aim for a big hill and all enjoy that exultation that comes from reaching the top. I like to walk mindfully, paying attention to my posture and my breathing. Usually by the end of a walk I feel more connected to myself and my surroundings, and I’ve often worked through whatever dilemma is stressing me. If I don’t have time for a long walk, I will just take a stroll around the neighbourhood or get myself to an outside exercise class. There’s nothing like a press up in the mud to make you forget your troubles!’
Have some ‘me time’
We are constantly surrounded by people, whether real or virtual, connected all the time by today’s modern technology. Sometimes we need to turn off the noise and create time to just be ourselves, doing something just for us. For Yedah it’s about creating her own space to be calm in.
Yedah - ‘Lately I’ve been trying to have breakfast on my terrace. It’s a peaceful time that I get to spend by myself, and I can lose myself in my thoughts, calmly planning my day. I love to try and get some sunlight every day, as I find it makes a big difference to how I feel. If I can’t do this then I love to find a new TV series to watch, something I can completely lose myself in. It’s great to just turn my brain off and just be entertained. The common link is that these are things just for me, I’m not sharing this time, it’s all about me.’
Listen to music
Taking ourselves out of our ‘normal’ environment can often be a good antidote to stress, remember that old saying, ‘a change is as good as a rest’? For Niki it’s listening to music, in particular live bands.
Niki - ‘Before I had kids I’d head to the beach and be able to sit there for as many hours as it took for me to feel less stressed. These days however, post kids, I find my ‘happy place’ with music. Ever since I can remember music has made me feel like I’m taking a deep breath, and I feel that sense of calm come over me. Going to see a live band always leaves me feeling re-charged and on a high. Music is a great motivator too, I get lots more done with some tunes on!’
Calm the mind through meditation
Allowing ourselves a few minutes every day to calm our mind can be highly beneficial. For Rebecca, learning how to meditate has been really powerful.
Rebecca - ‘I am an all or nothing kind of person, a typical Type A character. My mind can be racing with ideas, which can be a hinderance when it happens at 3am. For a long time I had wanted to meditate, but didn’t know how to do it. I found some great meditation podcasts and apps and now incorporate them into my weekly routine. I might spend anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes meditating, depending on how much time I have available, and I always feel calm and peaceful because of it.’
There were also a couple of ideas that we did all agree on……
Ostensibly we all know that everything looks better after a good night’s sleep, however sometimes this can be hard to achieve. We all had different ways of creating that calm, still place we could relax enough to sleep in. We agreed that the space had to be tidy, that clean bedlinen made us feel more pampered and that electronic devices, phones and tablets must be left outside the bedroom. Maintaining healthy nighttime habits can go a long way to helping you to get more high-quality sleep, so identify what makes you feel relaxed in the bedroom. Getting into bed at a sensible hour is also important. Rebecca has an alarm set in her phone at 10pm, reminder her to go to bed.
Work smarter, not harder
We all agreed that working smarter is one of the most important things we could do to minimise stress. Realising that our productive time at work was not when we were running to get to a deadline, but when we had planned ahead. Work takes up more of our time than almost anything else in our lives and it’s important to remember that we work to live and not the other way around. You can be the most passionate person about your career, but if you don’t have time to enjoy the things you work so hard for then you can find that stress creeps in. Setting aside time to plan your day, week, month and year can help you to identify what’s important to work on now, or what can be put off until later.
A long bath
This was greeted with a resounding ‘yes’ by us all. It’s not just the girls, a few of the male other halves were rather keen on a bath! It’s true though that creating your own little haven of calm and relaxation in your bathroom is one of the quickest and easiest ways to relax. We all had different rituals, lighting candles, having Epsom salt baths, reading a good book, listening to an enthralling podcast... the list was pretty long, who knew there were so many things we all liked doing in the bathroom!
And a finally there is one big element of recovery and the pursuit of wellness that's too important not to add, it's less a tip, and more a mantra that we should all try harder to adopt in our daily life.
Accept the things we cannot change
When we are chronically ill it can be hard to move on, we beat ourselves up about how we got there, what we might have done wrong, what else we can be doing. We can waste a lot of time and energy dwelling on the past, when we need to focus on the present. It is important when you have a chronic illness like SIBO, not to beat yourself up, but instead accept the situation, embrace where you are today and move on. How you are today won’t be how you are in the future. Stressing about things you cannot control do you no good, and instead leave you in a flight or fight mode. Look to the future and set small goals, like planning the day you add a new food into your repertoire. Celebrate your small wins today, such as having a bowel movement or seeing the sun shine. A few simple changes to your daily routine might be just the ticket to dealing with any stress you are carrying.