Many people are feeling the effects of uncertainty and prolonged stay-at-home orders. One thing you may be noticing is that your digestive system is not functioning as it usually does. Stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, and unusual reactions to certain foods are common complaints when people are living under stressful times.
Researchers have discovered why this is so – and that’s good news. Armed with information, you can do something to restore a smooth operation within your body’s core.
Science has a better understanding now of the relationship between the stomach and the brain than it did 100 years ago. The gut is now acknowledged as the body’s ‘second brain’. It turns out there is an equal number of neurotransmitters lining the gut as are found in the brain! One hundred million to be exact! These transmitters provide a two-way avenue of communication between the brain and stomach, with the brain communicating as much to the gut as does the stomach to the brain.
What that means is that your stomach is responding directly to your thoughts and to the hormones released as a result of those thoughts.
Perhaps now, more than ever, it is paramount to get a handle on any negative repetitive thoughts that circulate in your head.
I decided the moment I sheltered-in-place not to let the stressful events around me threaten my comfort and my life. I took steps to keep tension at bay.
Here are some ways in which I manage my monkey mind:
* I start each day with a meditation. Before eating, checking emails or social media. First thing.
I recently completed the free 21-day meditation on Finding Hope in Uncertain Times that Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra offered, and was delighted to learn today that they have extended this spot-on series to May 15. I have sat in on many of their mediation series and think this is one of the best. I got so much out of it the first time that I started round two today. It’s a great way to set the tone for the day. They each share something very inspirational and hopeful for a few minutes and then you meditate. Total time is 20 minutes.
* Then I move. I have learned that if I don’t do this early in the day, it rarely happens. And movement is one of the best ways to relax a stressed-out nervous system and energize your spirit. The more you can get your heart rate up, the better; but even a slow stretching or yoga routine done to quiet music will help a lot. Or do both!
* Do nothing but eat. Eating while watching the news or scrolling through your newsfeed will heighten your sense of dread, release more cortisol into your system and shut down your digestive processes. Eat slowly, paying attention to how everything tastes and feels in your mouth. Avoid drinking liquids while you eat (dilutes your stomach’s hydrochloric acid). Oh, and never eat when you’re upset. As you heal your gut, you will find that your thoughts are lighter and more positive.
* Create some structure in your day. (I just revealed mine above: meditate, exercise, eat.) The brain likes structure. The experience of familiarity provides a sense of security and safety.
* Spend some time outdoors. Breathe in the air and feast your eyes on the greenery surrounding you.
* Limit the amount of time you allocate to watching newscasts and scrolling through social media. I am working towards just once a day. Things don’t change so much or so quickly that you have to be glued to these platforms all day. Never engage in these before eating either or before going to bed. Believe me, your digestive system will be very happy if you fill most of your day with happier, more positive stories of what is going on in the world. And there are plenty.
* Work on your digestive reflexes before you eat and/or before going to bed. On your feet, they are located in the arches; on your hands, the palms. Thumb-walk and spend a little time holding places that have more sensation than the rest; breathe slowly and rhythmically a few times.
* In addition to the above, think about what relaxes you and changes your mindset when you’re caught in a negative loop. Creating art? Getting lost in a novel? Laughing through a comedy movie? Tackling a tough Sudoku or crossword puzzle? How about starting a small garden? Here’s a foolproof way to grow your own food, if, like me, your thumb is barely a mint green!
Make your mental health your priority – please.
Feel free to share this if you have clients suffering from gut pain and disfunction right now.