Our digestive systems are sensitive, and are easily affected by stress, anxiety and changes in routine. If you find yourself getting constipated when you're stressed, you're definitely not alone.

Let’s say for example that you’re stressing out about a one-off event, like a wedding or a job interview, and find that your bowels aren’t working quite like they usually do. This sort of constipation usually goes away in a few days.

Sometimes, things like being busy, not wanting to use a public toilet, or not wanting to go at work or on holiday can make you 'hold on until later'. But if you ignore the urge to go when you feel your body's signals, it can make them weaker. If you’re worried about public toilets, take antibacterial wipes with you.

Also keep in mind that worrying about constipation can make it worse. Remember—we’re all different, and not everyone has a bowel movement every day. Anything between three times a day and three times a week is considered normal.

MANAGING YOUR STRESS

Everyone experiences stress from time to time. But given that it affects your digestive system, it’s really important to know how to manage it. First, try to identify what’s causing it. Then see if there is anything you can do to eliminate or at least reduce the problem. Don’t keep things bottled up inside. Reach out to your social network of friends and family for help. Or consider talking to a counselor to see if there are any underlying issues contributing to your stress.

Fortunately, many people can relieve stress with simple relaxation techniques. These include:

  • Yoga, tai chi or meditation  
  • Walking outdoors in nature
  • Taking a fun fitness class like Zumba
  • Taking an indulgent relaxing bath
  • Deep breathing exercises

Even losing yourself in a good book or watching your favourite comedy can help. Whatever works for you. The point is to carve out “me time” for yourself in your busy day and stick to it. Also make sure you’re eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)

IBS is more serious than normal constipation. If you have symptoms of IBS such as stomach cramps, bloating and diarrhea you should speak to your doctor.

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Experiencing overwhelming anxiety on an ongoing basis can be a symptom of depression. Symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness and irritability over minor matters. If these symptoms persist over a few weeks, be sure to see your doctor. Depending on the cause, they may prescribe medication or suggest you try counselling or therapy to help you deal with the problems that are making you so anxious.