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6 Low Effort Stress Relief Tips For Flare-ups

Man on Water

Stress may not be the root cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, but it certainly is one of the main environmental triggers for flare-ups. And here we have what may be the most frustrating case of circular causality: stress triggers flare-ups, which in turn puts our systems under even more stress, and so the cycle continues. 

For those with IBD or IBS, it can be incredibly difficult to escape the stress-flare-stress loop. Exercise and meditation lower stress levels, but take time and energy to master. It’s all a little easier said than done when you’re in the throes of a flare, experiencing intense pain, discomfort, or urgency. 

Still, a frayed nervous system does negatively affect your immune function, systemically and at the gut mucosal level. So it’s worth seeking stress-relief tools you can easily integrate during flares

Here are some simple, low-effort techniques for staying calm when you’re already not feeling your best. Please keep in mind, these methods aren’t meant to replace standard medications, rather they offer much-needed support to your whole system while going through treatment. 

1. Line up the comedy 

Lady Laughing At Her Computer

Chilling out with a rom-com, stoner-comedy, or some classic stand-up can do wonders for the nervous system. Studies show that laughter releases endorphins, and has a wide range of stress-relieving benefits including: 

  • Enhanced oxygen intake 
  • Stimulation of heart, lungs, and muscles. 
  • Strengthened immune system 
  • Pain reduction 
  • Protection from damaging effects of stress 

Laughter activates and relieves the stress response by increasing then decreasing our heart rate, resulting in lower stress levels. It soothes tension, stimulates circulation, promotes muscle relaxation & boosts general mood–giving your body a much needed rest from all that anxiety.

If you just can’t get into the mood, try forcing a smile. Simply working the smile muscles has been shown to decrease stress and release feel-good hormones. And when you’re feeling especially anxious, put on a favorite movie or TV show. Rewatching nostalgic favorites from your past can be deeply therapeutic and give you a sense of order, safety, and comfort on a primal level.

2. Touch Grass

Lady Touches Grass

Humans have evolved to feel relaxed in natural environments. Research shows that just 10 minutes in nature can make us happier, calmer, and less stressed out. 

You don’t even have to walk. Just by sitting somewhere green, you can improve your mood, focus, blood pressure, and heart rate. So grab your earphones, pop on some relaxing music, and head to the nearest patch of grass for some nature therapy. 

If it’s sunny out, make sure to soak your skin for a few minutes. Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin, the mood regulation hormone that keeps anxiety and depression at bay. Even a few minutes a day in the sun can lift your mood, short term, and long term.  

Alternatively, you can potter in the garden or look after your inside plants. If you live by the coast, soak your feet in the water–or better yet, get in and have a float. This is intensely relaxing for the body, great for your skin, and will leave you feeling calm and refreshed. 

3. Green Tea 

Woman with Green Tea

Studies show that merely holding a hot cup of coffee or tea has a warming, calming effect that enhances our interactions with others. And one of the best teas for stress relief is low caffeine green tea, which has a plethora of health benefits when consumed daily. 

Green tea is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and essential amino acids that reduce blood pressure and muscle tension, resulting in less stress and anxiety. In one study, participants who drank a larger quality of low caffeine green tea experienced better sleep quality and less fatigue due to lower stress levels. 

If green tea isn’t your favorite, try chamomile for its calming, sedative effects, or nettle, peppermint, lemon balm, ginger, and tumeric. These blends all ease digestion, with turmeric being especially beneficial for inflammation. 

4. Music Therapy

A Pair of Headphones with Converse Shoes

Next time you’re feeling tense, take a leaf out of Penny Lane’s book and go visit your friends. And by friends, we of course mean music. 

Music has been scientifically proven to enhance mood, lower stress, and calm the mind. Especially classical music, which has been shown to relieve anxiety by reducing cortisol levels. Classical music also increases blood flow, decreases blood pressure and heart rate, and may even reduce pain. Additionally, melancholic instrumentals offer cathartic benefits as it validates our feelings through ‘emotive universality’–the sense of connection to others who have experienced similar emotions. 

If classical music isn’t your jam, try Turkish classical music or 80’s pop–two genres that have been proven to lower stress levels. Lo-fi music has also gained popularity in recent years for its calming effect. There are hundreds of soothing playlists on Spotify, and channels on youtube such as Lofi Girl, which hosts live streams of nostalgic loops. The gentle, wordless music has a “cocooning effect” on the mind, wrapping you in a contemplative, relaxing atmosphere. It’s just predictable enough to stimulate the brain, but not fast or distracting enough to cause anxiety. The result is a relaxed state with lower stress and enhanced focus. 

5. Movement & Flow

Lady Stretching

Don’t worry, it’s barely exercise. This tip is more about relaxing on your mat with some very gentle stretching. You can even do it in front of the TV. Stretching releases tension stored in our muscles, which store a lot of stress and emotion. Just ten minutes of stretching flushes the body with feel-good endorphins and alleviates stress immediately. 

You can either let your body guide you or try a practice like Ti Chi or Qigong, which use slow, flowing movements and deep breathing. 

Yoga also implements flow and breathwork and has wonderful mood-elevating benefits. Just a few sun salutes or twists can boost the immune system and regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels. Plus, with plenty of free online classes, you can do it in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. 

6. A Support Network

Two Friends Embracing In A Field

Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. IBD can be hard to talk about, and you may feel like those in your life don’t quite understand what you’re going through. Therapy or counseling provides extra support, but for a quick fix, check out the amazing IBD support groups on Reddit and Facebook. 

These corners of the internet are safe spaces where you can connect with others going through similar experiences and emotions. You can share stories, discuss treatments, have a laugh, or cry it out with people who just get it. 

For a bit of extra support, check out this list of resources and online communities at Healthline. 

Tessa Eskin


Tessa Eskin


This blog is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice. The content provided is for informational purposes only. Please consult with a physician or healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options. The claims made regarding specific products in this blog are not approved to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Tessa Eskin


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Tessa Eskin