April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress can wreak havoc on your digestive system. This is because your brain and digestive system are closely related. In fact, your digestive system has more nerve cells than your spinal cord! Brings a whole new meaning to “Trust your gut feeling” doesn’t?
Your gut is actually connected to your brain through the Vagus nerve – which explains why a person who undergoes constant strains tends to experience digestive issues. This isn’t coincidental it’s truth. Some scientists actually refer to the digestive system as a “mini brain”.
Chronic stress can cause esophagus spasms, it can shut down your digestive system, increase acid production and thus cause heartburn or acid reflux. Chronic stress can also affect the hypothyroid and cause weight gain and blood sugar swings.
Here are some ways to reduce your stress and help out that digestive system of your in the process!
Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel happier and more relaxed. The physical activity works to relieve that tension in your body as well. All of this helps your digestive system relax.
Yoga, meditation, massage, hypnosis… all of these activities are helpful when you have trouble relaxing. Your brain needs to relax. Aside from sleep a little relaxation helps you focus and recharge. When your brain relaxes, guess what else relaxes? That’s right, your gut!
A good night’s rest can be a huge source of stress relief. When we don’t recharge our body and mind with sleep, we tend to be more hypersensitive the next day. This can be a huge source of stress.
We can also cause stress by being over critical of ourselves. When we are constantly criticizing and never praising, we make ourselves unhappy. This source of unhappiness creates a constant pressure to do more, be better, etc. Stop criticizing yourself. Celebrate your successes and accomplishments and accept yourself for who you are.
Reacting to Stress
The way you react to stressful situations can also be a source of prolonged or chronic stress and digestive issues. People who don’t overreact when problems arise tend to be less stressed overall because they deal with the problem and move on. Try changing your approach to problem solving. Instead of freaking out, stop, take a deep breath, slow down and tell yourself it’s ok.
Try any or all of these techniques this month. The biggest step to overcoming constant stressors is awareness – which is what Stress Awareness Month is all about!