Living with IBS brings many challenges, after 31 years of working with and helping IBS sufferers, here are three things you can do, that can make a positive difference.
Many people living with IBS often find their thinking changes, and their hopes and expectations alter over time. From the early days of hope gradually changing to expecting the worst! It becomes more difficult to see possibilities for change - but they are there to be grasped.
When the negative mindset becomes normalized, it creates a sabotaging effect on any hopes of improvement in your IBS symptoms. Expecting the same thing day in and day out, the IBS symptoms slowly getting worse, you may have read about such things happening to other folks on bulletin boards and support groups.
But there are things you can change to help yourself, starting with understanding the expectation of recovery which is a major requirement for getting well again.
Negative expectation gets in the way of recovery. If IBS has been in your life for any length of time, it is pretty much the case that you won't have the emotional energy to get well again – by that I mean, you may not have the energy you need to take part in your recovery.
And if that wasn't enough, if you believe things aren’t going to get any better, they surely won't!
But the good news is, you can make changes that will help you to build positive expectations, you can rebuild your emotional energy to help in your recovery, and you can build your belief system to reinforce them.
I have been helping IBS sufferers since 1991, and still do to this day, read about my experience working with thousands of IBS sufferers over 31 years.
Many IBS sufferers will be able to identify with their disappointment with new medications, new therapy, new diets etc. The hope you attach to your new approach to recovery is promising, you've been here before, often the new medication and the new therapies and the diets start well, the expectation is high, but then after a few weeks or months the same, familiar niggling little doubts kick in, and things aren’t going as well as hoped, but you persevere the best you can, until it becomes another thing that has failed!
The reason failure is so commonly frustrating is often because of the three reasons mentioned earlier.
- Your Expectations
- Your Emotional Energy levels
- And your Belief System
Let’s take each one in turn:
You either have negative expectations, positive expectations or no expectations depending on the subject matter.
Let’s take the situation where a person has had IBS for some time, let's say 6 months, but the longer they have had IBS symptoms, the more likely the following applies, but more deeply.
During that short time IBS symptoms may get worse, not only do the physical symptoms get worse but the emotional ones too, and over time the symptoms not only continue to get worse, but they become more frequent, they become more troublesome, why is that?
The IBS is the same, so something has changed to make the symptoms worse and more frequent.
The thing that has changed is your expectation. The expectation of having the symptoms, become the accepted normal way of thinking. You start to expect the pain to arrive, you expect diarrhoea, you just expect to need the bathroom when you’re out and about, and you just expect whatever symptoms your type of IBS variant brings into your life.
And what happens, yes the expected pain arrives and gets worse, the expected diarrhoea, or constipation, the expected urgency, the expected sweats or other symptoms, the cramping and bloating along with other symptoms, all become expected and yes, sure enough, they arrive, which in time creates a circle of negativity. The expectation deepens the symptoms, and the symptoms reinforce your negative expectations. Every thought creates a physical response!
The ever-decreasing spiral has begun!
This is a good example of the mind-body connection, every thought you have creates a physical response. Your expectations trigger responses. So you might argue, that the mind and body are doing exactly the right things given the expectations you have – of course, you don’t want the symptoms, who would? But the subconscious is hearing a different message and responds accordingly.
So you have to change the expectation. But you can’t do that because it's unlikely you have the emotional energy to feel better now. That ever-decreasing spiral of negative expectation drains emotional energy too, so lower emotional energy, which in turn leads to lower physical energy makes getting through the day more challenging, so there is less chance you have the energy to change your ingrained expectations.
Have you experienced times when you have had an easy day physically, and you still find you are so tired you just want to get to bed and rest? If so, that is an indication that your emotional energies are running low, so let’s understand emotional energy levels.
Emotional Energy Levels
When you have something ongoing for any length of time, and IBS tends to have been ongoing in a person’s life for some considerable time before I meet them or they begin working with the IBS Audio Program 100, the symptoms and the emotional and physical energy used in managing IBS are draining. Life is difficult enough for most of us without having to deal with IBS, and yet you have to keep going. And you do.
But there is a price to pay!
All IBS symptoms, the physical and the emotional, drain your emotional resources. Life, in general, drains you, that’s why it’s important to get good sleep to help you recharge your inner energy.
I have met many people who find IBS wakes them up at night, when they aren’t doing anything except sleeping, or are they?
When we sleep our brain processes the day’s events and filters and stores memories and experiences, and what is a big part of your day – IBS!
So the nightly processing and internal filing and filtering that goes on when we are asleep might well trigger responses which trigger IBS, which in turn may wake you up!
More disturbed sleep means less energy being stored for the following day, making it another expected difficult day. The ever decreasing-spiral continues!
Imagine these inner energy resources being similar to a core energy, a battery pack, and lastly an emotional reserve.
Everyday life and the burden of IBS, drain your core emotional pot of energy. Your subconscious then recognizes that your energy levels are going down, and so transfers some backup energy to keep you going for the day, but sooner or later, as the symptoms get more severe and more frequent, and you can’t rest as easily as you once could, over a relatively short time, you might find that you are feeling drained again.
When this happens the subconscious recognizes your core pot of energy has gone, your emotional battery pack has also been used, so all you have left is your emotional reserve.
From my experience with IBS sufferers over many years, using this emotional reserve is recognized by feeling more irritable, with weepiness becoming more commonplace.
As a consequence of draining energy levels we become tired more quickly, we may not want to socialise, work or play or laugh as much, we might want to sleep more, but don’t get the benefit of the sleep we take, this leads to fatigue and exhaustion.
You may become more introverted, not having the time or patience for those you love and care about, this can lead to relationship problems.
Confidence levels and self-esteem begins to drop, memory and concentration levels are not as effective, sleep patterns become further disturbed, the reproductive system may be affected, and interest in the physical side of relationships may be low or none existent.
If you go out you may find you want to come home sooner than you might normally expect, if people come to see you, you might want them to leave sooner than usual, there may be times of intolerance, and weepiness along with other issues too.
Feelings of dread, restlessness and becoming impatient and all because the emotional reserve is low, while battery pack and core energies are just ticking over.
All of the above is simply about being human, they are natural outcomes of draining emotion.
But it is important to understand that you can change this, you can change the way you think and feel, and the way you behave, once you know how to.
All that matters is the present, the moment in which we are living, right now, not the past or the future, just this moment.
As you get stronger and find new ways of thinking you can then use some of your growing inner energy to make positive changes to the way you think and feel. And seeing things in a new way, even if the picture hasn’t changed, you can learn to see it through different eyes.
The first step:
The first step is to put a plug in that core pot of energy, to find a way to stop the energy levels dripping away, and by doing that you begin to store the energy once again and that in time flows back into the emotional battery pack, and then flowing back into the emotional reserve.
It also gives you the energy to use, in learning new ways to think and feel, to see things in perspective and most importantly to take part in your healing.
So the first two things which hold you back, the negative expectation and the draining of energy levels are important and need to change.
But to change them you have to understand your belief system, continued progress with the first two will be hampered if you don’t change your belief system.
Of course, this and the other two take a bit of time and effort, but it is time and effort well spent.
So you need to look at your belief system – here we are only talking about the IBS belief system.
So you have tried lots of things and many if not all, haven’t been beneficial in the longer term. That creates a belief system that you will never find anything to help you, you will continue to stagger from one potential solution to another without really believing you will find your answer, and when you do that you are simply going through the motions of helping yourself.
And the problem is you may well be sabotaging your progress in everything you try because you don’t believe anything will help you. That needs to change.
The therapists on this site are experienced working with IBS and they will be able to help you change, how you think, what you eat, how to relax.
When IBS has been in a person’s life for some time, it can be difficult to combat negative thinking. The constant worry and frustration, the pain and the preparation of the day, the ongoing concern of being caught short, having a bowel accident in public, being too far away from a bathroom, or the embarrassment of your loud stomach grumbles repeatedly during a meeting or social event, stresses and anxieties of life and its demands all take a toll, and the world seems to be closing in, even deciding what clothes to wear, because you know your stomach will distend during the day which is an issue in itself!
Explaining to your family and co-workers why you have been away from work, the embarrassment of it, and then there is the intolerance of none sufferers, with remarks such as - "you have been to the bathroom 5 times already", or "I have IBS and I get on with it", there may be tuts, rolling eyes, heavy sighs. All these make a dent in confidence too. People can be cruel without intending to be so!
All these things or even just a few of them take energy, they dent belief systems; drain energy, and create a negative expectation.
For many IBS sufferers, eating patterns may have changed, and foods may be blander, maybe less nutritious adding to the ongoing issues of IBS, fasting during the day and having a binge at night, is not a solution, but you might feel it gets you through the day with a bit more confidence. However, the temptation to do that should be avoided. There is a connection between mood and food which needs to be observed too, not to mention the impact on your digestive system!
All the above compound the emotional and physical aspects of IBS too.
But please do not give up!
I have seen amazing strength and determination in so many people over the years, once they begin to see and understand the problems of negative expectations, low energy levels and the power of belief, they begin to see how to change things.
And many of them do, getting stronger, controlling their thinking and feelings and ultimately the IBS symptoms reduce, become less severe, less frequent and that has to be good!
These three things are often left out of the IBS recovery dialogue, and I’m not sure why, maybe they are overlooked by health professionals or not deemed as important, but dear reader, my 30+ years of working with IBS sufferers tells me different.
I believe these three things need to be addressed because, without them, there is no energy to build a foundation for moving forward, or creating positive thinking and a positive belief system. And we know for sure, that the mind and body connection is real, so the sooner it is used positively the better.
Whatever potential solution you try next, take some time to think about your;
Expectations, Emotional Reserves, and your Belief System.
- Take some time to look at yours, how negative are you, the negativity can creep up on you, so don’t be surprised if you are more negative than you expected.
- Ask yourself how you can change them to positive.
- I would suggest that if you are trying something new; remember you have no history of failure because you haven’t done it before.
- Whatever you work with next, expect to enjoy it, expect to work with it, and if you do have a knock-back, remind yourself that everything you can do today is a result of getting it wrong in the past. From walking and talking, to Maths and English, you had to learn, and getting things wrong adds to the learning process.
- Never worry about getting something wrong, while you learning.
- Just recognizing that these emotional reserves exist is a positive, you may interpret them your own way, whatever fits your thinking process, but knowing they exist, will help you to guard and protect your energy.
- To help build them consider learning to say yes and no, where you want them to fit, not where others want them to fit.
- Consider establishing boundaries and keeping to them, and remember you have to live your life, no one else can do it for you, nor should they be allowed to.
- And be patient, once your energies are drained it takes a little time to build them up again.
- Believe in yourself, there is nothing to stop you from achieving the things you want to achieve if you believe you can.
- Believe in your talents and gifts and skills.
- Apply your positive expectation, believe you can make a real difference to your emotional reserves, and protect them.
- And then, with a little bit of patience, perseverance and effort, you can make positive changes in your life, and of course the IBS condition.
These positive changes that you bring into your life will be translated into positive physical responses, and positive thought patterns. The mind and body connection will begin working with you and for you, and help you with IBS symptoms reduction.
All the therapists on this site have worked hard and long to be where they are, and they are waiting to help you when you are ready.
Michael Mahoney is an award winning clinical hypnotherapist and author of the acclaimed IBS Audio Program 100. He has worked with IBS sufferers since 1991.