Most of us recognize those sensations we feel in our gut when we are anxious or stressed. That nervousness or sensation of “butterflies” in our stomachs can actually be a good thing. It’s a normal response that helps us prepare to manage whatever is happening in our lives. On the other hand, that response can sometimes create problems for those who feel chronically tense.
Routinely living in a high-stress mode impacts our digestive health in negative ways, causing everything from spasms in our esophagus and acid reflux to nausea, constipation and diarrhea. Many people experience digestive health challenges, and while stress may not be the cause, it certainly can contribute to making these issues worse. To help decrease stress and alleviate its impact on your digestive health, try these five tips:
1. Practice Relaxation
Incorporate relaxation into your life. Meditate, practice mindfulness, pray, take a yoga class, use progressive muscle relaxation or get a massage. The goal is to incorporate some quiet time and space in your life to allow yourself time to breathe, be calm and just be present to the moment.
2. Eat Well
Pay attention to what and when you eat. Eat healthy food. Slow down. Take time to savor what you are eating. Being in the moment with your meal can benefit your digestive system.
3. Get Support
Talking to others during stressful time can be helpful. Share with coworkers, friends and family members about the source of your stress. If you feel more support is needed, you also can seek help through professional counselors or your church. Many companies offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) such as CONCERN Services.
4. Exercise Regularly
Exercise benefits not only your physical body but your mind as well. Studies show the positive impact of exercise on decreasing anxiety and depression.
5. Laugh Often
Humor is a fantastic way to manage stress and has a positive effect on our entire being. Spend time with uplifting people. Watch a funny movie or show. Look for opportunities to make light of life whenever you can.