When you have a digestive condition, managing stress can be a key part of your treatment plan. While we know that stress didn’t cause your digestive condition, taking steps to lower your stress can help you manage your digestive symptoms.
There are many fantastic tools that can be used to help keep stress in check. One technique is journaling. Let’s review the different ways you can put journalling into practice so you can get started on your stress-management plan today!
1. Stream of consciousness journaling
Letting go of rigid and planned writing can be a great way to lower stress. Instead of using your journal to simply recount the events of the day, try writing down anything and everything that comes to mind during your journaling time.
Are you worried about an upcoming appointment with your doctor? Write out those worries. Are you frustrated that your digestive symptoms have been flaring? Write about that. Or maybe you’ve had some recent wins with your health that you want to include. Although the journal doesn’t need to be specific to your health or digestive condition. Any topic is fair game!
Stream of consciousness journaling can help you blow off steam by getting your thoughts out of your head and into your journal.
2. Tell your health story
Many people with digestive conditions joke that they can write a novel about their health history. This is your chance to do just that.
Why should you spend time writing out your health story from start to finish?
It’s an opportunity for you to take months, or in many cases years, of health memories and organize them into your health story. This can give you a chance to appreciate how far you’ve come.
Another benefit to writing out your health story is that you may have been trying to remember every detail so you can retell it to each new doctor. Now you can let some of those bad memories go for now because you have the story safely tucked away in your journal.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
Take a few minutes right now and say one thing you are grateful for at the moment you are reading this. You can say it out loud or in your head. Now try doing this on a daily basis.
It can be easy to get caught up in all the negative aspects of having a digestive condition, but keeping a gratitude journal can help shift your focus to all the good in your life. You can be grateful for specific friends or family members, or even something seemingly as simple as having food in the fridge or fresh water to drink.
As you continue to practice gratitude, you will find that you start looking for things to be grateful for throughout your day. This can help lower your stress even more. Now that’s something to be grateful for!
4. Begin and end each day with journaling
Some people dread getting their day started because they are worried about all the things that could go wrong that day. Others have trouble going to bed because of the fear of what the next day will bring. If you fall into either of these categories, try starting or ending your day by writing in your journal.
There are many ways to add a journaling practice into your daily routine. The first step to beginning is to get a journal or decide to use your computer or phone app to write. You can try one of the above ways to journal, or just start writing and see where you end up. Either way, having focused journaling time each day can help lower stress and is a great part of any digestive condition management plan.
Katelyn Collins, RD is a registered dietitian specializing in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and digestive health. Katelyn’s personal experience with IBS first sparked her passion for nutrition and health. Since then, she has been a vocal advocate for the digestive health community and has dedicated her own nutrition practice to serving those with digestive conditions.