The experience of stress is an important factor in the health and well-being of people with IBD. Unsurprisingly, as stress levels rise quality of life decreases. While this might seem obvious, the relationship between stress and IBD is more complex than this. Firstly, stress overlaps and co-occurs with other symptoms of psychological distress, such as low mood (i.e., depression) and anxiety –stress is also a risk factor for developing anxiety and depressive disorders. Secondly, stress and IBD appear to have a bi-directional relationship. That is, stress is not only a potential outcomeof IBD, but may also exacerbate or trigger symptoms (i.e., a flare-up).This is further compounded by the fact that active IBD appears to increase the likelihood of feeling stress in other areas of their life (e.g., work, school, interpersonal relationships, finances).
Given the significance of stress in IBD, it helps to be able to identify when you are feeling particularly stressed, and to develop effective coping strategies:
- Reach out to family or friends for support
- Meditation or other relaxation exercises (e.g., breathing routines)
- Regular sport or exercise
- Engaging in valued hobbies (e.g., reading, music)
While stress is something everyone experiences to some degree, it is important to be mindful of your mental health. If left unchecked, stress can develop into a significant mental health issue. It is essential to communicate with family, friends or a mental health professional if you feel that you are having difficulty coping.