I am amazed at how well our mind and body are interconnected! We can all think of times when we have gotten butterflies in our stomachs when we were nervous or excited. Sweaty palms, shaking hands and elevated heart rate are also examples of our body’s reaction to emotional stress. For young people with IBD, the connection between emotions and physiological functioning is important to understand and address.
Chronic emotional stress takes a toll on our bodies. During times of high emotional distress, our bodies secrete higher levels of the hormone cortisol. It is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. During periods of increased stress, cortisol suppresses the immune system, causing the body to be more susceptible to illness and prolonged healing time. In order to heal in the fastest way possible, stress management should be included in a young person’s treatment plan. Addressing stress proactively, rather than denying or avoiding it can promote better health in young people healing from this disease.
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after periods of high stress. It is possible to learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques. Young people can also make lifestyle changes in order to keep their bodies from becoming overly stressed in the first place. The following have been found to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:
- Guided Imagery
- Listening to Music
- Breathing Exercises