There’s never been a more stressful time for us.
Dealing with IBD is challenging enough, but now we are dealing with more demands on us from our kids at home more than usual and the stress of living in a world with coronavirus. Has your IBD taken a hit during this crazy time?
You are not alone.
In this episode, we get real about the unavoidable stress we can’t get rid of. But that doesn’t mean have to accept all the negatives that come with stress like this. We discuss how the stress response affects our IBD and how, if we have the right tools, we can overcome this challenge. I also introduce you to my 3-Step Stress Management System that gives you the tools you need to keep your IBD flare at bay and your stress at a level you can live with.
We talk about:
And so much more!
After this episode, you’ll be more in control of the chaos around you with clinically proven stress management tools you can use right at home. Listen in to help release the pressure you’re feeling from having Crohn’s and colitis, along with the added demands of motherhood, and the fear of Covid that’s affecting us all.
Episode at a Glance:
The Mega Triple Stress Threat: Crohn’s and Colitis, IBD, and Motherhood
Win a copy of my cold and flu buster recipe (you’ve got the ingredients right in your kitchen)[00:04] Welcome to the episode dear listener. Before we get started today. I want to let you know that you can win a copy of my Kitchen Arsenal Preventive and Kitchen Arsenal Cure Recipe Guide to kick that cold or flu right to the curve before it even starts or before it gets nasty. I love this guide because it’s so important as we head into cold and flu season with the added pandemic at our hands, we just can’t boost our immune system enough right now. These rescue remedies are full of ingredients you already have in your kitchen, but they are usually reserved just for my clients. I’m sharing them with you today so if you want to get your hands on these must have sickness buster recipes, all you have to do is leave a written review on The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD on itunes, and take a screen shot of your review. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: podcast review, and I will send you your Kitchen Arsenal Preventive and Kitchen Arsenal Cure Recipe Guide as my way of saying thank you for listening and reviewing the show. My email again is hello@ k-a-r-y-n-h-a-l-e-y.com and I can’t wait to reward you for leaving a review. Alright, let’s get into the episode. [music]
INTRO You’re listening to The Cheeky Podcast for Moms with IBD, a safe space for moms with Crohn’s and colitis to connect, explore powerful tools for healing and transform our lives to thrive in motherhood and in life. I’m your host, Karyn Hayley, IBD Health Coach, Integrative Wellness enthusiast and mom of three outstanding kids. After having Crohn’s disease for 30 years and working as a health advocate exclusively with IBD clients for the last 10 years. I know it’s time to bring the types of candid conversations I have with my clients out into the open. It’s our time to go on an IBD healing journey into it, like only a mom can. Let’s do this.[music]
Has Stress Taken Over Your Life?
Let me ask you a question. Are you feeling stressed? On a scale of 1-10, where are you at?
Stress just comes with being human, right? Maybe a little more for us.
[02:37] We’ve got IBD and all the lovely symptoms that come with that- abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, rectal fissures, or fistulas, weight loss, fatigue… sometimes heartburn or acid reflux, ulcers in your mouth, possibly joint pain or skin rashes… the challenges with crohn’s and colitis abound.
Then, there’s motherhood and don’t get me started on the stress that creates. I’ve been a mom for almost 19 years, YIKES! Oh the stressful moments that have come up through my kids lifespan. Yes, there have been some crazy stressful, out there moments you can never plan for when my then 2 year old wandered off at one of those big, crowded craft fairs (thankfully he saw his dad in the distance and hopped out of the stroller to run to him, but I didn’t know that and it was a stressful few minutes screaming his name), or when one of my kids accidentally shot the other one with a bee bee gun or when my then 8 year old got a concussion because his brother dared him to take a steep jump on his bike (thank god he was wearing a helmet. I don’t even want to think of how bad that could have been). We all have crazy motherhood moments. But it’s not just about the crazy moments. Those day to day moments create stress too. If you’re in the baby and toddler phase, wow the stress of sleep deprivation. With school aged kids, keeping up with their activities is a nightmare, and with teenagers and hormones, all that need to separate and spread their wings, the mental stress and worry you have for them is so intense.
Apparently, motherhood and IBD isn’t enough, now we’ve got coronavirus to contend with. Many of our kids are schooling at home, spending hours and hours each day on a computer trying to learn, social distance and deal with how crazy it is that they can’t hug or hang out with their friend. How do you explain that to a 5-year-old? Maybe you’ve had to leave your job during all this to care for your kids. According to census.gov 1 in 5 parents left jobs to provide childcare for their kids and in women 25-44 years old, they are 3 times more likely to leave their jobs than men. And since we have IBD with a diminished immune function and increased inflammation, especially if we’re on biologics or steroids, we’re worried about contracting Covid. And what’s our prognosis if we do get it…
Just mentioning all the stress we are under right now makes my heart beat a little faster. It makes me feel for YOU dear one. How are you doing right now? Has your Crohn’s or colitis suffered because of it? Mine definitely has. You are under more stress than is reasonable. We both are. This is tough. There’s no denying it.
Feeling overwhelmed with stress makes me wonder- what effect does all this stress have on IBD. When it comes to all the things I can think of that negatively impact our Crohn’s and colitis, what we might eat, the quality of our sleep, and our stress levels, something I’ve learned from clients and in my own experience is that stress has a huge a bigger impact on our IBD than we might initially realize.
[06:59] Many stress gurus out there tell you that all you have to do is reduce levels. Stop feeling stress, ignore the stress, put on the right armor and stress won’t bring you down. Just have less stress.
I’m sorry, but I’ve got to call B.S. on that.
We’re moms. We have a chronic illness. Now we have to deal with coronavirus and quarantining. We can’t harry potter this whole thing away. Stress doesn’t work like that.
Studies show that adverse life events like a pandemic, chronic stress, depression (which I’d argue are all stress related), each one of these increases the likelihood of an IBD flare-up.
How can we navigate everything that’s going on in our life right now, with a positive attitude and without letting stress get so impactful that it brings our Crohn’s and colitis right into the toilet.
[08:04] Like every good mystery tv show, we love it when the detective has that a-ha moment that changes the course of everything. And within our stress mystery, our a-ha moment starts with a little thing called insight. Insight into what’s going on behind the scenes, within our body. Today, we’ll start our stress and IBD conversation by unraveling this stress mystery at its most basic level, the a-ha moment level. At this first moment we might not initially recognize, but if we do recognize it at this point and we do start to be conscious of what’s going on, we can use this inside our body knowledge, not to our detriment, but to our advantage.
What’s coming up on today’s episode?
Today on the podcast, We’ll uncover the hormone that controls all this stress and wreaks havoc on our gut health if we don’t stop the vicious cycle. We’ll talk about what objective and subjective stress is and what it has to do with our IBD stress response, we’ll get into the difference between acute stress and chronic stress, again focusing on how that impacts our Crohn’s and colitis and finally we’ll talk about the 3 step stress busing process you can use to do it like a mom and ensure your stress won’t bring your IBD down with it.
Let’s start with the stress mystery, the would-be a-ha moment if we’re aware of it. The insight piece into what’s going on inside our body when we first experience stress. This is the knowledge we all need to get started really understanding our stress and how it affects all the systems in our body, and our gut the most. If we don’t have that a-ha insight early on, stress will start to impact us in negative ways.
[10:16] To say that our bodies are complicated is the understatement of the year, especially when it comes to the stress response. I get kind of geek out excited at this whole process, and I could go on about it for far too long, but for the sake of time in our episode today, I’ll give you the highlights. If you’re like me and you want to know this stress response, nervous system reaction inside and out, you can check out my stress management toolbelt pdf guide. It’s a resource I created just for you, if you want to take today’s conversation deeper. Your stress management toolbelt will walk you through the whole body’s response to stress at the nervous system level, definitely cool information to have because when you have that a-ha moment of “I think I’m getting stressed” early, you can nip it in the bud before it starts to harm your gut. My stress management toolbelt will also guide you through acute stress vs chronic stress in more detail than we’re talking about today, and also give you 11 stress busting techniques that you can hold in your imaginary toolbelt and whip out at a moment’s notice—whenever you need them.
I’ve got a FREE resource I think you are going to LOVE.
If you want to get your hands on this new, free resource, just go to karynhaley.com/stress or find the link in the show notes. That’s k-a-r-y-n-h-a-l-e-y.com/stress
OK, how about a quick highlight into our stress response at the nervous system level? Remember, if you can catch your stress here and have that a-ha moment, you’ll be world’s ahead of all the stressed out, fatigued mamas out there. You’ll know exactly what to do about it. And we’ll talk about how you can do just that, in a moment.
When you think about stress, you might think you would feel it in your head first with your thoughts, but nope, even at the nerve ending level in our body, it starts in our gut. And of course, if you listened to episode 6, use the gut brain connection to your IBD advantage, you know that this makes complete sense. Can you catch your stress here with the first twinges or gurgles in your belly, if you can you might be able to ward off a full blown stress meltdown or an anxiety attack. As you might expect, because of that awesome gut brain connection we have, our stressful feeling continues to rise as it moves up the vagus nerve into places in the brain like the amygdala and the hypothalamus. If the stress continues to build, our amazing body that it is, knows it’s time to alert the whole body through the sympathetic nervous system. And if we aren’t in a true fight or flight scenario, the good news is that our nervous system has this great shut off system called the parasympathetic nervous system.
It’s so cool how our body has all the warning systems built in. This is the reason I get so geeked out over this. Our body’s want to be in balance and they have truly ingenious systems to help that happen. We just have to listen when they talk. Usually, we just aren’t in tuned enough to notice the tingles and the twinges when our body is talking to us. If the parasympathetic nervous system, our fail safe to get the body back on track fails to turn off quickly, here’s where the trouble begins. That amazing body, who’s systems are always in constant communication with each other, signals energy bursts of hormones like adrenaline. Now if you’ve been multi-tasking during this stress response within the body explanation, here’s where I want you to come back to me because here’s where you have the power to affect change in your body.
A constant energy surge of adrenaline, when we never allow the body to calm down, creates the release of another hormone, cortisol. And whoa, let me tell you about the ravages of bursts of cortisol that never go down because we’re experiencing constant stress. Cortisol is like a wildfire in your body. Tiny little firefighters are in there trying their hardest to make a dent, but the fire keeps burning and burning. This is the place where your IBD is going to take a hit, every time.
Can you imagine a constant stress fire in your body, one that never goes out. Of course it makes our gut disorder worse. An internal wildfire and IBD don’t mix.
[16:25] With all the stress we are feeling right now, between IBD, motherhood, and Covid, can you imagine how the nervous system reactions and our hormones like cortisol and adrenal levels are wacking out our health. These systems and chemicals have direct links to our immune function and our inflammatory response.
We know Crohn’s and colitis are autoimmune diseases (the immune system literally attacking the body) and we know this illness involves inflammation throughout the body. It’s no wonder we are so impacted by stress.
Now, some people might give up here. Some might say, there’s nothing I can do about it. And to that I say hell to the no. Fear not, awesome mama, because this insight will set you free when it comes to stress. The good news is that the age-old wisdom that says knowledge is power, really is true. Insight about what’s going on with this stress inside your body, can really be the difference from, same old flare-up to thriving with IBD.
The impact stress will have on you depends on two things- how long does the stress last and what level of intensity is the stress at.
When it comes to how long we’ve had the stress, we’re talking about the difference between acute and chronic stress. With acute stress, the stress is short lived. It comes when you least expect it, out of the blue. One minute your fine and the next- wham! It’s the slamming on the breaks when a car pulls out in front of you, it’s the call in the middle of the night telling you a loved one is in the hospital. It could even be an unexpected argument with your spouse when things heat up quickly. With acute stress, we usually feel it physically, whether we recognize it or not. Butterflies in your stomach, heart pounding, sweat forming on your brow. You know the feeling.
Acute and chronic stress affect your IBD in different ways.
With chronic stress, we’ve been dealing with it for a long time. It’s that chronic level of cortisol surge that makes us feel fatigued, depressed, chronically anxious, and physically sick. Chronic stress like homeschooling your kids when you never did that before, leaving your job because your family needs you at home, living in a world of fear thinking you’ll contract Covid at every corner. That’s chronic stress. It’s all about the cortisol. Research shows that high levels of stress in this sustained state is associated with immune suppression, low levels of constant inflammation, grief, sadness, and marital challenges.
Are any of these scenarios familiar to you? If they are, what role does stress play here? And what can we do about it? Do we have any control when it comes to stress? Is there anything we can do about it?
Well, remember, I’ll never be fan of the just don’t feel the stress mentality. That’s just nonsense. But if psychology has taught me anything it’s that while we can’t control what life throws at us, we can control our reaction to it.
[20:43] Have you ever heard of a objective vs subjective experience? Objective experiences are factual, there’s no denying the facts. Subjective experiences are those where matters are more gray. It involves thoughts and feelings and everyone has a different reaction. I’m a teacher at heart, so when I think of objective vs subjective, I always think of a test. There’s the objective kind with only one right answer, like a multiple choice test, or there’s the subjective test, like the essay portion. I’m always more partial to the essay type, because I like to live in the gray.
The subjective part of stress, our thoughts and feelings behind it, that’s what we can control. It’s not the stress itself that kicks our IBD in the butt. It’s our reaction to it.
Why is it that the exact same experience, like an argument with a friend, can be perceived by one friend as not a big deal, a blip, while the other friend might have a searing, burning memory of what happened.
When we learn to see stress as subjective, we have the power to set stress free.
Experiences are subjective. They’re all about our perception. Stress is subjective too. And how we experience the stress in our life will determine how it impacts our Crohn’s and colitis. I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to make me want to work harder at my reaction to the stress in my life. Because there’s actually a piece of it that I can control. Why do you think I work every day to lessen my type A tendencies? It’s a constant battle, but I work at it every day because I know it’s within my power. Maybe you can relate?
Knowing that we have the power to frame our stress to our own subjective experience is a powerful tool. It can take some of the pressure off our initial reaction.
Take our acute stress reaction for example—remember that’s the in the moment, unexpected type of stress. We might feel like we want to explode when a co-worker challenges us on a project we thought was great or when we get into an argument with our partner, or when our kids are trying our patience with sassy remarks. Knowing that stress is subjective, we know that we don’t have to settle for our first reaction. We can take a deep breath and change the course of our response, and thus, reduce our body’s stress response to what’s going on. It’s a win for us, and whoever is annoying us too. Because engaging in petty fights like that is never going to get you the desired result you’re looking for. Both parties just walk away angry and annoyed—and stressed!
And if you’re saying, well all of this sounds wonderful in a perfect world, right? If you’re thinking you could never manage your stress in this subjective way, I get it. I used to think of myself in that way too. The truth is that anyone can do this. We just have to start small, be ok with imperfect baby step action, and celebrate the small wins. I’m a work in progress with this type of stress response too. I’m definitely getting better, but I work at it everyday. And you can to.
I know you can do this mama. You can have a positive impact on your stress and use it to keep your IBD in check.
This 3-Step Stress Management System will give you the tools you need to get started on stress busting today.
[25:16] Let’s talk about the three-step process, you can use when it comes to putting on your stress management toolbelt. We’ll start with the steps and then I’ll give you a real life scenario you can relate to so we can try this out in real time.
#1- When it comes to stress, we recognize it, as early as possible. If we can recognize it at that physiological level, the level I talked about earlier where the feelings start in your gut, move up through your brain and then out into the entire nervous system and into a hormonal chemical reaction where cortisol gets released—if we can notice our stress here first, with the sweaty palms, tingles in the armpits, racing heart, queasy feeling in the gut, etc… we have a chance to put a halt to the stress response before it gets out of control.
Recognize it early.
#2- Whenever we recognize it, we make stress a subjective experience. We address our own thoughts and feelings behind the stress. Why are we reacting this way? What about this moment is particularly triggering? Can you take a step back and let what’s going on marinate for a beat before you react? When stress is at play, taking a beat is always wise. If I have to respond in this moment, how can I reframe what your feeling and let it guide your response? What if the other person’s negative emotions have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them? Does knowing this change your response?
Stress is subjective. Reframe it and make it work for you.
#3- I know you’re going to think this is crazy, but we have to make friends with your stress. Yep, I said it. Make friends with your stress. Let it be your best girlfriend, who talks to you, gives you signals to help you be your best self, gives you warnings when something is off. Isn’t that just the best girlfriend in the world? Who has your back more than stress? When you make friends with stress, you see it in a whole new light. A light that can guide you to positively impact your Crohn’s and colitis instead of letting it bringing you down.
Make friends with your stress.
[28:57] So, there you have it. That’s your 3 step stress response. Recognize it early, reframe it if possible, and make friends with your stress. Let’s put these steps into practice for both acute in the moment stress and more long term stress so you can do it like a mom and rock your stress management toolbelt.
Let’s take this plan to the next level with a real life acute stress example.
Ok, let’s take an acute problem that all moms encounter, like the demands on a mom’s time. We all experience this daily. When we have kids, our time is never our own. Kids need help with schoolwork, kids need to go to dance or football practice, kids wanting a snack, or to be read a bedtime story, or if you have kids like mine, their favorite time to get your attention is when you’re in the bathroom. With 3 energetic boys, any given day in my house is enough to give me stress that raises my blood pressure and my heart rate. Since this used to be a daily pitfall for me where I would end up being at best annoyed mom and on my worst day, yelly mom, I knew I had to get a hold of this before it ruined my relationship with my kids.
I used this very 3 step stress busting plan I just outlined to get this acute stress under control.
Step 1- Whenever this happened, I started to recognize it at the cellular level. For me, if I caught it early, I could feel a tightness in my belly. If it was later on in the stress journey, I had an anxious feeling, almost like I was on hyper alert when the kids started to constantly vie for my time and attention.
Step 2- Now that I recognize it, it’s time for the reframe. How could I see this differently? What could I compromise on and what was set in stone? In a moment of reflection about this stressor, I realized that I was actually the culprit and most of the problem. I wasn’t setting enough boundaries with my kids so they thought I was always in mom mode. I work from home, I homeschool my kids, I take them to activities and break up the arguments, and make sure they’re fed. Too much! I needed to realize my limitations and set a schedule for when I’m in mom mode and when I’m in work mode. Once I set a schedule, I stuck to it. And it was hard- especially when my kids wanted to do fun stuff while I was in work mode. But little by little, (imperfect baby steps right?) they got used to it, I got used to it and I began to feel the stress of always being pulled in different directions melt away.
Step 3- I made friends with this stressor. I’d be lying if I said this process always works. It doesn’t, but because I’ve made friends with this stressor, because I know my own personal pitfalls with this, I can recognize and course correct quickly when I feel myself getting sucked back into old habits. Being flexible and open to trying new things has actually made this stressor a confidence booster for me because I realized I had control over it. My kids still haven’t learned not to bother me when I go to the bathroom, but I handled that too by locking on the bathroom door. Bathroom time is my time, no exceptions.
With this stressor, I mainly used the reframe technique, but there are 4 other acute stress busting techniques I mention in your stress management toolbelt- that free resource I mentioned at the top of the podcast. I love the other techniques too. You can check them out when you download my free resource guide at karynhaley.com/stress.
Now, this process I just described for dealing with the acute stress, when as moms our time is not our own, it may or may not work for you. Either your situation is different or you have younger kids. If this is the case, I know there’s still a solution for you. It just might take some brainstorming on your part. How can your partner help out, what about a babysitter, family member or friend? Who can help you lighten your load so you don’t constantly feel the stress on being pulled in a million directions?
How does this process work for chronic stress?
[35:45] Let’s look at the more devastating type of stress chronic, ongoing stress. The kind that will definitely impact your IBD in negative ways. For this kind of stress, I want to introduce you to my client, Abby. Abby has had just about as much stress as she can take. Since coronavirus, Abby has had to quit her part-time job to stay home with her kids, she started homeschooling them and she felt lost, her dad was diagnosed with covid-19 and he lives a plane ride away, she couldn’t see him or help with his care and Abby’s colitis started to suffer.
In step 1 of our 3-step stress management plan:
#1- Recognize. Abby recognized her thoughts and feelings for what they were, chronic stress brought on by sucky life events that were largely out of control. Remember the a-ha moment of insight is key. Abby had been in overdrive so long, she didn’t even know she wasn’t in normal mode. I remember when she had this a-ha moment with me in a session, I literally heard her sigh. I could almost see a weight being dropped from her shoulders.
#2- The reframe. Was there a possibility of a reframe here? There’s so much going on. What could be done? After processing this with Abby, she realized that she was taking all of this on and not accepting help from people in her life who were offering it. Abby was understandably lost in grief, stress, and a need to seem perfect and in control for her kids and family. For Abby, the reframe was in admitting she needed help. Abby’s in-laws who are healthy kept offering to help with the kids, but she kept telling them she had it all under control. When Abby and I chatted, she made the decision that she would take her family up on their offer to help. Abby and I also discussed some dietary changes that might help strengthen her digestive system at this time and she decided to make an appointment with her gastroenterologist to see if he had anything ideas for her as well.
#3- Step 3, make friends with stress. Abby is still working through making friends with her stress. She’s been through a lot, like all of us IBD moms living in the time of Covid, but she’s adapted a few of the chronic stress busting techniques from my stress management toolbelt and she’s working on it every day. Abby loves to dance and sing so she’s taking time to do that every day, whether it’s in the shower, in her car or in her kitchen as she cooks dinner. Abby has started a 10-minute meditation practice daily with grounding meditations in the morning before getting out of bed and gratitude meditations before she goes to bed a night. These small imperfect steps are making Abby feel a bit lighter already.
I’m so proud of her and I know you can do this too. Remember this concept about stress management is never about getting rid of stress completely, or at all really. And it’s never about perfection. It’s about seeing stress as subjective and knowing we can have power over it. It doesn’t have to make our IBD worse. When we commit to making stress busing a practice that we work at, little by little, tweaking as we go, we are already making massive steps in the right direction.
[40:51] You can take this episode to the next level by downloading my free resource guide: Your stress management toolbelt by going to karynhaley.com/stress. And as always, if you get stuck, reach out. I’m always happy to help. Hello@karynhaley.com
May your gut healing journey be full of a-ha moments and may you always wear your imaginary stress management toolbelt because you never know when that acute or chronic stress might come into your life and try to derail you from the incredible place you know you deserve to be.
Wishing you a cheeky and healthy journey. Bye for now!
Ready to take your gut healing to the next level?
One last thing, if you’re still with me and if you are, you’re definitely my kind of gal, we have to get to know each other better. If you’re tired of living on the hamster wheel of IBD with all the ups and downs between flares and remission, if you’re struggling to get control of your abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other troubling IBD symptoms, go to my website, it’s karynhaley.com, and my mom had to be just a little bit different, spell my name with a Y. So it’s K-A-R-Y-N-H-A-L-E-Y dot com, and schedule your very own free 30-minute IBD root cause troubleshooting session with me where we discuss the challenges you’ve been having, we set goals to help you move forward, and we talk about how we can work together to help you gut your life back. It’s a power-packed 30 minutes. You don’t have to live in IBD status quo. There’s so much that can be done to transform your life so you can thrive in motherhood and thrive with IBD. I’ve seen my clients walk this path and it gives me so much joy to take that journey with them.
My entire coaching practice is run online, so you never have to leave your house and you never have to get out of your jammy or yoga pants for us to work together. You know, I’m wearing them too. If you’re ready to take your first amazing step towards healing, I’m ready to chat with you. Schedule your free 30-minute IBD root cause troubleshooting session today at karynhaley.com. Click on the Work With Me tab and I’ll see you soon.
It’s important to note that the information in this podcast and in this episode is for general information purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The statements made in the Cheeky Podcast for moms with IBD, either by me or my guests, is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before implementing any new treatment protocols, do yourself a favor and consult your physician first. Thank you so much for listening, for being here, for saving the space for us to spend some time together. Until we chat again, I’m wishing you a cheeky and healthy IBD journey.[music]