Nausea can feel like the bane of my existence. As many of you may know I have a history of anxiety. I talk about it quite a lot on this blog. Less of you may know that I also have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Both of these conditions can cause me to experience different levels of nausea. Usually it starts in the evening and can continue throughout the night. When it’s at its worse it can stop me sleeping and cause me to vomit frequently. I’ve tried numerous things over the past few years and thought I’d share my thoughts.
There is a lot of thinking about the different ways you can regulate your breathing to aid relaxation. Some people prefer the 3-4-5 breathing or 4-7-8 breathing. Personally I find all the different numbers confusing to remember and when I’m agitated my memory isn’t as good as it could be. My preferred method is 7-11 breathing. It’s simply breathe in for 7 counts, pause, and breathe out for 11 counts. The important thing to remember overall is to breathe slowly and make sure your out breath is longer than your in breath. This clears stale air from your lungs and aids relaxation. Additionally for me the act of counting distracts me from the feeling of nausea.
There’s a lot of information out there on essential oils to aid relaxation and promote wellbeing. I’ll leave it to the professionals as it’s a growing body of research. I have a mini essential oil diffuser which also lights up. I love using it before bed as I try and wind down and relax before sleep. My favourite scents are sandalwood and vanilla but peppermint helps the air feel clean and refreshing. Whilst the essential oils don’t stop the nausea, anything I can do to help relax myself or promote a good nights sleep is essential.
Whether reading a good book, doing a puzzle, watching TV or completing an Arrowword or Crossword puzzle, anything that can get me out of my head is a bonus. The trick here is to engage with an activity where you lose track of time. For example, I will often sit down to do a few pieces of a puzzle and look up to find an hour has passed.
This is one of my favourites for actually lessening the feeling of nausea rather than distracting from it. Peppermint is well known for it’s digestive properties. It relaxes the stomach muscles and helps food move through your digestive system. My preference is a peppermint tea bag as I find the warm liquid soothing and relaxing. I have tried peppermint capsules with mixed results as well. Initially I purchased capsules from a health food shop but didn’t see much improvement. I moved onto Colpermin from pharmacies which were better. They’re specifically designed for IBS so the special coating helps them get where they are needed.
Sometimes all I can do to help myself is to ‘turn it all off’ by going to bed. I think of it like powering down a computer or putting it on to charge. Sometimes I am unable to sleep but other times I manage to dip in and out. If I find I can’t sleep I give myself 20-30 mins to try and drop off. If I haven’t fallen asleep by then I try and get up and do something else in a different space. When I begin to feel drowsy again I’ll go back to bed.
When I don’t feel great my go-to yoga is anything to relieve stress or anxiety. I’m a big fan of the different videos provided by SarahBethYoga on YouTube. There are also some specific poses you can do to particularly to relieve nausea. These include sitting cross-legged on your mat and leaning forward to try and touch your forehead to the floor. I often need to stack my arms or cross them and rest my forehead there instead. This is known as easy pose with forward fold or easy seated forward bend. Another one I find helpful is legs up the wall which does what it says on the tin. Lie on your back with your bum as close to the wall as possible and stretch your legs vertically up the wall so you’re in a right angle pose.
Any form of touch can be incredibly relaxing and it’s a go-to for me when I’m stressed but particularly when in pain or feeling nauseated. I have a pet rabbit and often stroking him for a few minutes can be helpful. The health benefits for pets can be huge if that’s for you. My own preference is having my hair or back stroked by my partner or a family member. The human contact is really soothing to me and can distract me and help me sleep.
Temperature, both hot and cold can be really helpful. For me it’s a hot bath often with a bath oil or bubble bath. It’s one of my most used self-care techniques. Often feeling nauseated can make me feel so ill that a little bit of pampering can help. It doesn’t stop me feeling sick but it can take the edge off. Particularly if I’ve had a restless nights sleep or I’m awake earlier than my alarm, I’ll have a bath to set me up for the day before I head to work.
Sipping Cold Water
Another great way of soothing my stomach is sipping cold water. This is particular advice for once you have already been sick. However, sometimes the cold water provides a short-term ameliorating affect. Additionally, often the nausea can make me physically sick. If it’s been a while since I’ve last eaten having some liquid in my stomach can help.
The is the most important piece of advice or suggestion I could give. For my anxiety talking can help me rethink, re-frame and generally give me an outlet for my feelings. Feeling heard or understood can really help me cope. An alternative perspective on a problem may also help you consider another angle. As IBS can be stress related it can help in this area too. Sometimes just the acknowledgement from someone else that you aren’t feeling well, a bit of empathy or even a reminder to look after yourself cannot be underestimated in it’s importance
These are a few of my preferred techniques. I’d love to hear yours – please share in the comment section below.