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Managing IBS and Stress: Debunking Myths and Finding Relief

Young woman looking anxious, worried and stressed
Stress and IBS: the reality

Let's dive into a topic that might resonate deeply with you—worry and its connection to IBS.

It's a common understanding that stress can contribute to the onset and exacerbation of IBS symptoms. However, it's crucial to unravel the mystery behind stress itself. Stress isn't merely a result of external events; it's intricately linked to how we perceive and think about those events.

In this blog, I'll debunk some myths surrounding worry, shedding light on why it becomes a persistent habit and how it intertwines with IBS. Understanding the origins of stress and our thought processes is key to regaining control over our bodies and minds.

I'll share insights from my 14 years of clinical experience, introducing practical techniques to assess and alleviate worry. We'll explore a scientifically proven method that has revolutionized the lives of many, including myself—a technique I've successfully taught for years.

Stay tuned as we unravel the biggest myths of worry together and embark on a journey to reclaim control over stress, ultimately regaining command of our lives.

"Well of course I worry, I have IBS and stress"

When I speak with clients, they often say, "Well, of course, I worry, I have a chronic condition. Isn't it normal to worry?" Although we can all worry sometimes, people with IBS and stress tend to worry more frequently than most. So, today, let's embark on a journey into the labyrinth of worry, a terrain intricately linked with IBS.

Worry is not merely a natural response; it's a cognitive process that profoundly influences our mental and physical well-being. In this exploration, we'll debunk eight common myths about worry, drawing not only from esteemed university research but also weaving in insights from my journey, expertise, and the experiences of others. I'll offer you a way to check if you worry too much, and also make suggestions how you could reduce your overthinking.

Myths About Worry, Stress and IBS

1. Anxiety Causes Worry:

Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is not the root cause of worry. Anxiety is a normal emotion; worry, however, is a learned response that in fact amplifies anxiety levels, especially in the context of chronic conditions.

2. Worry Is a Type of Thought:

Clarifying the nature of worry is crucial. Worry is not the thought; it is what you do with your thoughts. Worry has been defined as a “...chain of thoughts and images, negatively affect-laden and relatively uncontrollable” (Borkovec, et al., 1983, p. 10). Worry is not just a fleeting thought; it's a persistent pattern of thinking, a habit if you like, that can significantly impact mental health, particularly when dealing with chronic conditions.

3. Worrying Is Normal:

Emma, a client who battled IBS, shares her story: "I used to believe that constant worry about my symptoms was normal. It wasn't until I learned that worry could exacerbate my condition that I sought help." Once she got a handle on her worries, she saw that not everyone worries. Reducing her worry habit, she was able to reduce many of her physical symptoms too. That's because, as explained by the Mental Health Foundation, excessive worry can adversely affect mental health in chronic conditions.

4. Worry Is Helpful:

Debunking the notion that worry aids in problem-solving, this research found that the opposite is true. Worrying often clouds our judgment and exacerbates anxiety, hindering clear thinking and effective decision-making, which is particularly detrimental when managing chronic conditions.

5. Worry Prepares Me for Future Emotions:

Reflecting on his journey with chronic pain, Mike shares, "I used to believe worrying prepared me for the worst. In reality, it heightened my emotional distress, leading to more physical symptoms." This aligns with research emphasizing that worrying intensifies rather than alleviates future emotional impact, whilst also increasing anxiety and somatic symptoms in the meantime.

6. Worry Shows I Care:

This is one I used to struggle with, lots! Distinguishing between care and worry is crucial. True care involves proactive and positive actions, while constant worry can lead to a cycle of distress and physical symptoms. But we often get caught up in believing that if we say, "Mind how you go", we are showing that we care, when in fact we are merely transmitting our fear that something bad will happen to the other person.

7. I'm a Born Worrier:

Worry is not inherited. Worry is a learned behaviour, often acquired during our formative years. Think about how we learn other behaviours such as talking. We learn through observation and listening, then copying others around us. Worry is learned in the same way. Unlearning this habit is possible with the right guidance.

8. Worry Is All in the Head:

While worry may start in the head, the physical toll on the body is extensive, impacting various aspects of well-being in chronic conditions. As noted on WebMD, worry causes the release of stress hormones. These hormones cause physical reactions such as:

· Difficulty swallowing

· Dizziness

· Dry mouth

· Fast heartbeat

· Fatigue

· Headaches

· Inability to concentrate.

· Irritability

· Muscle aches

· Muscle tension

· Nausea

· Nervous energy

· Rapid breathing

· Shortness of breath

· Sweating

· Trembling and twitching

When the excessive fuel in the blood isn’t used for physical activities, the chronic anxiety and outpouring of stress hormones can have serious physical consequences, including:

· Suppression of the immune system

· Digestive disorders

· Muscle tension

· Short-term memory loss

· Premature coronary artery disease

· Heart attack

If excessive worry and high anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

For those navigating chronic conditions, understanding, and addressing worry becomes paramount. It's not merely a habit; it can exacerbate symptoms and contribute to the onset of other health issues, as some of my previous clients can attest to.

Real Life Stories of IBS and Stress

Here are some heartfelt stories from individuals who have embarked on transformative journeys within the Evolve community. These stories resonate with the challenges many of us face, and I believe they could provide inspiration and hope to you on your unique path.

Sarah's Remarkable Shift:

Sarah, a valued member of our community, recently shared her experience, saying, "Evolve has been my guiding light. Tina's approach is holistic and compassionate, addressing not just the symptoms but the root causes, like my habit of worrying about everything, and anything. Having found Tina, it's like having a trusted companion on my journey to well-being."

Emma's Liberation from IBS Worries:

Emma, navigating the challenges of IBS, shared her story, "Joining Evolve was a game-changer. Tina's teachings on worry and its impact on IBS resonated deeply. I've not only gained tools to manage worry but also witnessed a significant improvement in my symptoms."

Mark's Empowerment Through Self-Care:

Mark, a professional juggling career and well-being, emphasized, "Evolve isn't just about managing conditions; it's about empowerment. Tina's emphasis on sustainable self-care has been transformative. I now approach life with a renewed sense of balance and resilience."

Mike's Journey Beyond Worry:

Mike, who struggled with chronic pain, expressed, "Tina's insights on worry struck a chord with me. The Penn State Worry Questionnaire she introduced became a powerful tool for self-reflection. It's incredible how understanding and addressing worry can pave the way to a more peaceful, less painful, life."

These testimonials reflect the diverse journeys within our community and the profound impact of Evolve's holistic approach. If you're curious to explore how these insights might align with your own path or if you have questions about worry, stress, and the connections with your physical health, I'm always happy to have a chat. Book here.

If you are one of the 4 million plus people in the UK, who has a long term condition and a mental health condition, understanding and addressing worry becomes paramount. It's not merely a habit; it can exacerbate symptoms and contribute to the onset of other health issues, as noted above.

My passion lies in supporting individuals on this journey of breaking free from the shackles of worry. If you resonate with these insights, consider reaching out for a call. We can explore how I can assist you in reducing worry, anxiety, and the physical symptoms that may accompany them.

Maybe you are starting to wonder whether you worry more or less than others? As someone committed to your holistic well-being, I invite you to explore this question with a tool that can shed light on your worry habits: the **Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ)**.

Explore Your Worry Habits with the PSWQ

Designed at Penn State University, the PSWQ is a standardized self-assessment tool designed to help you understand your patterns of worry. It's not just about identifying worry; it's about gaining insights into how it might be impacting your mental and physical well-being, especially in the context of chronic conditions like IBS. This scale has been shown to identify worry, over and above anxiety and depression.

How to Take the PSWQ

Simply click [here] to access the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. Take a few moments to reflect on each statement and click on the star that represents your answer. There are no right or wrong answers; it's about understanding yourself better.

What's Next?

Once you've completed the questionnaire, your score will be used to direct you to the most appropriate practical strategies to reshape your relationship with worry. I aim to empower you with tools that promote lasting well-being.

Take a step towards unlocking peace of mind. Your journey to well-being is uniquely yours, and understanding your worry patterns is a powerful key to enhancing your quality of life.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you'd like to discuss your results further. I'm here to support you every step of the way.

IBS and Stress: Transition from Understanding to Action

If you recognize that worry is adding to your IBS and stress, our "Weed Out Worry" self-paced course is tailored for you. This 4-module course empowers you with tools and insights for lasting well-being.

Explore the Modules

Evolutionary Psychology and Biological Neuroscience:

Understand more of the connections between IBS and stress from Evolutionary Psychology and Biological Neuroscience perspectives. Learn the difference between anxiety, worry and fear. Discover why we feel anxious and uncover a scientifically proven tool to take back control.

Dealing with Worry, Stress and IBS Differently:

Learn practical techniques to quieten your mind and relieve stress, leading to fewer symptoms of IBS. Uncover the secret key to being able to control your daily worries for a more productive future.

Consistently Control Your Worry, Stress and IBS:

Learn how to challenge those unhelpful beliefs that were formed in childhood, to release your worry habit more thoroughly, so you can reduce stress and IBS long-term.

Pro-Actions for a Peaceful Life:

Learn actions to consistently quieten anxiety and prevent returning to previous levels of stress and IBS, so you can take control of your life and build the future you deserve.

Each module includes videos, audio, PDF worksheets, information sheets, questionnaires, and weblinks for effective learning.

By embracing this holistic approach, our aim at Evolve is to equip you with the knowledge, tools, and inspiration to break free from the chains of worry, stress, and IBS symptoms, so you regain control of your life.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or want to discuss how I might help you. I'm here to support you every step of the way.


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