Last week, I didn’t send out a newsletter from my website for the first time in five years. But, I had a very good reason. My son came off his motorbike at 100 kmph/62 mph and almost killed himself. With the catastrophic neck injuries he sustained, he should have been dead at the scene. After seven hours of surgery connecting his head back to his spine with metal plates, screws and bone grafts, he is called a miracle in the hospital. He also broke or injured several other parts of his body including a collapsed lung.
So, I spent six days in a small 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) hospital room by his side not knowing if he would be paralyzed or die at any moment.
Not great for my IBS symptoms!
Mix stress, fear and terrible hospital food together in a bowl and you create a dramatic return to IBS symptoms like I haven’t felt in years.
Pain, cramping, bloating and severe constipation – just when I sure didn’t need it. As a patient carer, I wasn’t allowed to use the toilets in the ward but had to exit the ward every time and then ring the bell to get back in. Not terribly convenient when I was needing the toilet several times a day and when I was always desperate to get back to my son. He was lying on his back staring at the ceiling and completely helpless – he couldn’t even get a drink by himself. The consequent anxiety did nothing to relieve the symptoms. For two nights, I slept a total of about four hours as he needed constant attention so I was seriously sleep deprived by the third night when his girlfriend took over and I slept in the ward lounge on a narrow sofa. I did a lot of deep breathing and positive thinking during those six days to damp down my stress levels but some things are too big for any technique to succeed for long.
We are now back home and my symptoms are still playing up two days later, but gradually improving. This whole traumatic episode has well and truly reminded me of the need to get stress levels under control and to get enough sleep.
Below I have a video I made a while ago, but never made public, on the very best technique for stress control that I know. It saved me over and over during this last week from a complete meltdown.
A Life-saving Relaxation Tool
I want to talk to you about relaxation.
IBS is affected adversely by stress. Even if your diet is perfect, you can get symptoms just from stress because the brain sends signals down to the gut, and the gut gets upset. What can you do about this? We can’t always get rid of stress, and stress can be unexpected – it can happen at any time. It can be something like driving along and somebody cuts you off, and that stresses you out, sends adrenaline through the body. It could be your boss saying something unkind or even a member of your family.
Anyway, what we do about it is we do rhythmic breathing. Now that solution is so simple, but there’s a pile of science behind it. What happens when we’re stressed out? We have an ancient instinct that happens which is the fight-or-flight reaction that you’ve all heard about. A wild animal appears and we either run or we fight it if we’ve got an appropriate weapon. And what happens when you go into this fight-or-flight response is that the frontal lobe of your brain turns off. And why nature has this turn off is because that’s the organising, analytical, thinking rationally kind of part of your brain, and you do not want that working while you’re dealing with a fight-or-flight situation. You don’t want the person to stop and start analysing the situation because they are going to die before they do something. It needs to be an instinctive reaction. So that part of the brain closes down.
Today, we don’t have a wild animal attacking us – well, most of us don’t anyway. But any stress does the same thing. It closes down that frontal lobe, the heart beat increases, and the breathing increases. This is to get the body ready to respond. If you reverse that breathing, and breathe, not so much deeply, but also deeply, but rhythmically. Breathing rhythmically creates even waves. What happens is that the heart follows suit, and instead of beating erratically all over the place, it also becomes rhythmic, and the frontal lobe opens and the stress message doesn’t go from the brain to the gut. Because by bringing the heartbeat back to normal and the breathing back to normal, the body thinks there is no stress so you can get on with life. There’s no need to fight or run away.
When you have any stress that comes upon you suddenly or even long-term stress, you have to do the rhythmic breathing quickly as soon as the stress kicks in before the message gets from the brain to the gut. So, start that breathing, reverse the instant reaction of your body, and you will find that the frontal lobe opens, you can think more clearly, and you won’t get the gut symptoms, which is what we’re interested in, in particular.
So that’s the science behind it. You have to do this as a regular exercise, about ten minutes every day. Just sit down and do some regular breathing, and you’ll feel everything in your body slow down. The more often you do this, the quicker your response when you need it, when stress comes along. Because the big thing is to remember to do the breathing while you’re stressed, and the more often you do it over the weeks and months, the more likely you are to remember to let it kick in. I hope that has helped you. Thank you for watching, and goodbye.