Stress and anxiety making your Stomach worse? 10 Tips to help Relax and Heal
The easy answer is yes, Stress is a major cause of Gastritis. Doctors often talk about avoiding certain food and drinks with Gastritis but something that is often overlooked as a cause of digestive issues (and it’s a BIG one) is stress.
We have all had the butterflies in our stomach feeling when we are nervous or excited, so it stands to reason that when the stress levels in our body are rising we are going to feel that in our gut too.
The stomach is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells. The stomach actually communicates with the brain by releasing hormones, which lets us know such things as ‘are we hungry or full ?’
So keeping our bodies as stress-free as possible can make all the difference, especially when we suffer from digestive issues like Gastritis or IBS.
It took me a long time to realise that my flare-ups often came after stressful periods, I would often be having a tough time, maybe I had too much work to do, my daughter was struggling with issues at school or I was just dealing with the craziness of Christmas.
But those tell-tale signs would start to appear, feeling nauseous, that full feeling after eating just a small meal, and then before I knew it I was in a full-on flare-up.
Symptoms of stress
- Loss of appetite
- Irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Stomach cramps
How to stay calm and reduce Stress
Stress is part of life and you are never going to have a completely stress free life, but there are ways in which we help our bodies cope better when we face stressful situations.
This is so important to your mind as well as your body. When you exercise your body releases endorphins, these chemicals actually work to improve your mood.
Exercise also can help you sleep better, which in turn will help you cope better with daily stresses.
Choosing what exercise to do is up to you, anything you enjoy and can easily fit into your routine will benefit you immensely.
Walking is a fantastic form of exercise, that doesn’t involve any financial outlay, apart from maybe a decent pair of trainers. Try to walk for at least 20 minutes 3 times a week and walk fast enough that you are a little out of breath when talking.
I have a dog, a 2-year-old Border terrier called Monty and there are some days (especially when it’s pouring down with rain) that I really really don’t want to go out and walk him.
But when he sits by the door looking at me with those eyes I always cave in and pop my coat on and at least walk around the block. There has never been a time when I haven’t felt better after a walk, the fresh air and exercise definitely have a positive effect on my mood, and I feel more energised and ready to start the day.
Yoga is something I have just started doing recently, its incredibly relaxing and there are even specific poses that are beneficial for your digestive system, helping to regulate your bowels and decrease bloating.
Gentle exercise and workouts
I do belong to a gym and really enjoy going but if I am having a flare-up I will tend to avoid it for a while, or at least choose gentle exercises while I am there. Things like going on the exercise bike or doing some lighter weights seem to be fine with me.
Vigorous exercise can sometimes be too much for people suffering from digestive issues, running, in particular, isn’t always tolerated well as it can be a bit harsh on the stomach.
Stress and anxiety have a direct impact on our biological processes such as our digestive system. Meditation is great at relieving these issues and can help the mind focus on its regular functions rather than focusing on stress.
A good source of advice and guided meditation is with a company like headspace where you can follow their guides to understand how meditation works. There are lots of youtube videos and free apps available too.
Avoiding becoming overwhelmed
Sometimes it can be overwhelming when you have lots of tasks to complete. Try making a list of things you need to do, breaking them down into smaller chunks and then tick them off your list as you do each one, it will make you feel more in control of each situation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If you are struggling don’t be afraid to reach out and ask others for help, maybe it’s asking a friend to drop your kids home from school when you are tied up with work or asking a work colleague to help you with a project that you are overwhelmed with. As they say ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get!’
Learning to say NO!
Sometimes it’s hard to say no, especially if it’s family or a friend that you don’t want to let down. But you must consider yourself first, by saying yes are you going to end up with too much to do and become overwhelmed?. If so then politely say no, you’ll make it up to them when you have things more under control.
Listen to relaxing music
Music can have a very powerful effect on the body, and listening to the right type of music can prove very relaxing
Everyone’s tastes are different, but many people find things like classical or Native Indian music very relaxing.
Nature sounds are also a great stress reliever, my daughters favourite is rainfall sounds. Which I totally get, sitting in a warm cosy room listening to rain outside is a lovely feeling.
Swap caffeine for Camomile
You may already do this if you suffer from digestive issues like Gastritis and IBS, as many of us can’t tolerate coffee, tea etc. But although caffeine in small doses is ok, in higher doses it can make stress and anxiety worse. I remember when I used to drink coffee, a couple of cups would be fine but if I went over that, I would start to feel a little jittery and anxious.
I generally only drink camomile with fresh ginger these days and this not only has a positive effect on my stress levels but is also good for the stomach. Ginger is fantastic for nausea and it’s also an anti-inflammatory.
Read more here
It may seem unlikely to reduce stress levels but having a candle burning especially with a relaxing scent is a great way to wind down and chill. We always have a candle burning in the evening. The warm glow it gives off and the lovely smell does definitely soothe me.
Some of the well known relaxing scents are Lavender, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang, but my personal favourite is Sandalwood. Which is known for its calming effects.
Add a lovely hot bubble bath too and that’s even better.
Don’t over worry about your Gastritis or digestive issues.
Worrying about your stomach issues can be stressful in itself. Sometimes you end up thinking about it so much and worrying about what each symptom means that you end up making yourself feel worse.
I have often found that leading up to a holiday/vacation I will feel worse, worrying that I am going to spoil the holiday for my family by being ill or just not enjoying myself at all.
But strangely as soon as I am on holiday and I am sitting in the sun relaxing or trying a new activity I find I suddenly feel better and actually forget about my stomach issues. I still have to be mindful of my condition but it’s amazing what relaxing and thinking about something else can do for your stomach.