Week 1: Understanding irritable bowel syndrome

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing activity and reclaiming your life

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

Calming the stress response

As mentioned, the stress response is meant to automatically reverse once the threat has passed. This means that a process of calming down and restoration naturally occurs when you start to feel safe again. Of course, it is easier for the brain to know when a life-threatening situation has passed. For example, seeing a lifeless tiger on the ground tells the brain that the tiger is no longer a threat. However, modern life stress is often more vague and persistent. For example, social pressures are always present, given the widespread use of social media.

As such, sometimes we need to actively calm our stress response by practicing certain techniques. For example, you can consciously start to reverse your stress response by slowing down your breathing, relaxing your muscles, or letting go of worries. This sends the message to your brain that “you are safe” and can set in motion a series of other physical changes that break the cycle of chronic stress. Over time, managing stress in this way can help restore balance to other body systems, including the immune and digestive systems.

Given the links between irritable bowel syndrome and stress, managing an overactive stress response can have benefits for relieving irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. By doing activities that promote a sense of calm, you can override the stress response. You can also retrain your stress response to be less sensitive to non-threatening stimuli, like meaningless deadlines or criticisms made by others. There are many ways to calm your stress response. Some strategies include deep breathing, mindfulness, and relaxation exercises. On a day to day basis, positive lifestyle changes can also reduce chronic stress and provide symptom relief.