IBS Anxiety, Navigating Life Post Lockdown

After a long year of being in and out of lockdown, it’s no surprise if we’re left feeling a little anxious about the world reopening and our IBS symptoms beginning to creep in.

We’ve gone from having our security blanket whipped from under our feet, to learning a new, adapted way of living and finally acceptence that in time the world will once again become a safe place – and that we will gradually move in to a normal way of living. 

It’s another big step and we would be forgiven if our we – and our IBS symptoms – have become a little weary of yet another change.

Whilst people around us may revel in the excitement of the pubs, bars and restaraunts reopening, it’s okay to not be one of them. 

So how do we take a hold of this anxiety to prevent if from kicking off an almighty IBS episode?

Take a little time to reflect.

Looking back over the last year, I’m surprised at how much I’ve learnt about myself just by having these restrictions in place. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a winter lover – I’m infamously known by my friends as the person who, as soon as September hits, begins planning a new life in sunnier climates. I crave that sunshine, the light and the slower way of living. 

Yet here I am coming out of a bleak winter with my IBS under control, to the point I’ve successfully started adding garlic to my meals (!), feeling energised and to be quite frank, totally chuffed with myself and my kids for getting stuck in. I mean, the highlight of our winter weekends has been to pack a picnic and find a quiet spot on the Downs to run around, play and nibble. In the wind and the rain! 

Who’d have thought that could acutally be fun? But it was – and I have a new found respect for all season’s, including a harsh winter. And it’s done wonders for my mental health – I know I’m not the only one.

I can now wholeheartedly say that my undesire for winter is actually not the seasons fault – although I am most definitely built for summer – but it’s more having a lack of choice and a chance to just be that I have revelled in. 

So in a bid to remind me what’s important – and hopefully something you’ll find helpful too – I’ve made a list of the things I’ll be focusing on to help contain any annoying post lockdown IBS anxieties that may be triggered by the world gradually moving back to normal.

  • Create a List of Lockdown Loves

If we feel happy in our day to day living, there’s less room for anxiety to trigger an IBS episode.

Make a list of everything you have really enjoyed doing this winter – it could be that weekly Saturday walk no matter what the weather, a picnic in garden, or perhaps getting creative in the kitchen one night a week – then look at what you’re really missing and looking forward to getting back to. I know I have really enjoyed moving slowly, but that totally contradicts my love of HIT, so I’ll need to find that balance between the two once I’m allowed back in a spin studio!

  • Keep a Journal and practice a little Self Compassion

We’re all unique, that’s what makes us so amazing. Hold on to that and don’t let annoying IBS anxieties hold you back.

It’s all too easy to get swept up in watching what other people do, social media is the biggest culprit for making us feel bad about ourselves. Try journalling as a way to keep yourself grounded by reminding yourself daily who you are and what makes you amazing. 

If you’re anything like me, the stationery you use will be as important as the experience of journalling. 

If you’re new to journalling, I really like The Positive Wellness Journal for it’s inspiration and prompts, otherwise Notem and Malpaper are a beautiful notebook brand, the latter also has a wellness diary range. I have a nice selection of Muji pens that I like to use, but sometimes I quite like writing in a pencil so I can rub things out if I lose my flow. 

  • Consider refraining from drinking alcohol

There’s nothing worse than waking up with regret, and setting off a whole cycle of anxiety – and an IBS episode at that! Alcohol by nature lowers our inhibitions making us more likely to make decisions we are likely to regret. It also causes an inflammatory response in our gut making it another annoying trigger for anyone suffering from IBS – this combined with anxiety is not a good combo! 

It’s natural to want to be sociable and feel like a part of the gang, so my advice, have a strategy in place. 

I no longer go halves with friends on bottles of wine – I’ve fallen victim to my glass being topped up time and time again, combined with the constant rounds meaning that by the end of the night I’ve drunk a whole bottle, if not more. If a good quality non alc spirit, or Water Kefir is on offer, I’d rather plump for one of those, failing that, I stick with a simple G&T and glass of water. 

The rise of non alc spirits has meant lots of good, quality brands have come to market over the last couple of years combining local plants and old distilled methods to produce a high quality drink. A few of my favourites include Three Spirit, three plant based natural high spirits, Feragaia, a traditionally distilled Scottish almost whisky-like drink derived from natives plants and Pentire, a delicious gin alternative produced using foraged plants from the Cornish coast.

And for a simple hit of probiotics, Water Kefiris my go to gut friendly drink, my favourite brand is Agua de Madre for their flavours and the high number of good gut bacteria present. If you can tolerate Kombucha, it’s another fab gut friendly drink, I really like Fix 8.

  • Keep Moving

Research has proven that low to moderate movement improves IBS symptoms. Just the act of going for a walk can lift our mood and help prevent anxiety. It’s all in the the movement that floods our brain with important nutrients and dopamine, helping to calm our body and mind and leaving us feeling great.

The sun is shining, it’s the perfect time to come out of hibernation and get moving. 

And where we choose to walk is a total game changer too. So many of us have been rewarded with a sense of calm just by walking in large open spaces, whether it be in the country or by the coast – and realising the greater depth of the worlds beyond our own worries and thoughts. These spaces help to re position us, almost as insignificant dots in the larger world, helping to shake all those fears and anxieties we’re harbouring. Activities like foraging are on the rise simply because it’s a rewarding treasure hunt. 

I’m not a big fan of following HIT or yoga classes at home, personally I really struggle to motivate myself. BUT, a big game changer for me has been following a short end of day gut flow yoga routine, allowing me to reach deep inside and stretch my weakest area. 

  • Stay in Contact

Don’t be afraid to take about your anxiety and how it impacts your IBS symptoms. Just the act of talking out loud helps us to manage and process our worries.

Do whatever you feel comfortable with – that may be focusing on daytime walks with just one friend, it may be meeting out with one other family in your garden. Whatever it is, be honest with your friends and family about how you’re feeling. They will respect you for being open and honest and just be happy to hang out with you!

It is so important to remember we’re all different and we will all tread in to this at different speeds – the last thing we need in our lives in an IBS episode that could have easily been avoided.

For that reason, I’m treading back in to life slowly – I don’t know about you but I’m just craving hugs from my parents right now, so if I seem a little antisocial, you know what I’m saving myself for.

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