Living with chronic constipation comes with a lot of uncertainty. It interferes with your usual routine and can keep you from enjoying your favorite activities.

Let’s face it: Constipation is stressful. Related factors, such as poor sleep, can make matters worse. Not only that, but stress can affect your gastrointestinal system.

That’s how chronic constipation can morph into a troublesome cycle of physical and mental symptoms. And it can spill over into several areas of your life.

It may surprise you to know that chronic constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in the world.

Frequent constipation is sometimes associated with irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, or IBS-C. IBS is very real — it’s not a psychological disorder. But some research has suggested that people with IBS have a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety.

If you’re living with chronic constipation, you know the mental toll it can take. Here are three ways to mentally cope with chronic constipation.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), some research has suggested that meditation may reduce the following symptoms:

  • IBS
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia

The NCCIH notes that studies are limited. But meditation is generally considered safe for most people. Meditation usually involves:

  • choosing a peaceful location
  • maintaining a comfortable position, whether it’s sitting, standing, or lying down
  • focusing your attention on an object, a mantra, or a breathing technique
  • letting go of distractions

A 2017 study found that meditation had a potential value for mental health, behavioral self-regulation, and integrative medical care.

Yoga incorporates meditation, breathing techniques, and physical postures to promote well-being.

Some research has indicated that people who practice yoga regularly have low levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. And a 2016 meta-analysis suggested that yoga may help reduce anxiety.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are many types of meditation and yoga. If one type doesn’t help, you can always try another. You can also do both meditation and yoga.

Paul Poulakos, DO, is a board certified psychiatrist in New York City. He tells Healthline that stress related to chronic constipation should be evaluated by a board certified psychiatrist.

“A psychiatrist is able to understand the physiology behind the constipation. They’re able to approach it from both a medical and psychological standpoint,” says Poulakos.

They can also help identify possible contributing factors. Medications are a common cause of constipation, he adds.

Poulakos explains that several types of therapy can help improve coping skills. These include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • acceptance and commitment therapy
  • rational emotive behavioral therapy
  • emotion regulation therapy

Research has suggested that CBT may reduce anxiety and depression. It may also ease symptoms of IBS.

Coping with the stress of chronic constipation requires a period of reflection, notes Poulakos. It’s important to figure out what’s causing the most distress.

“Once this is identified, a therapist can help one identify any potential cognitive distortions. Then they can come up with replacement thoughts that aid in easing anxiety and stress,” he says.

Stay engaged

Chronic constipation can be all-consuming, says Poulakos. That makes it challenging to think or talk about anything else. But it’s important to maintain connections and engage in pleasurable activities.

Research has shown that social activity can reduce stress and improve overall health and well-being. This may be particularly true for people with long-term conditions.

If you’re feeling isolated, here are a few ways to start reaching out:

  • Catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
  • Take a class on something that interests you.
  • Start going to a gym.
  • Join a club, such as a reading group.
  • Volunteer to help others.

You can also keep your mind pleasantly occupied with solo activities. Consider one of the following activities:

  • a new hobby, such as arts and crafts, music, or cooking
  • walking outdoors
  • gardening
  • playing with a pet
  • reading or journaling

When you’re doing something enjoyable, you’re less likely to focus less on your stressors.

According to Poulakos, “Remaining busy, connected, and engaged can serve as a healthy distraction from physical ailments we are experiencing.”

For some people, chronic constipation can be a lifelong problem. If you have IBS-C, treatment may continue indefinitely.

But there are lifestyle and treatment options that can help ease constipation and associated symptoms. Stress and anxiety can also be successfully managed.

If you haven’t already, it may be time to see a doctor for your gastrointestinal symptoms. If needed, you can also get a referral to a qualified therapist.

Physical and mental health are connected. So, while you’re probably focused on the physical symptoms of chronic constipation, your emotional health is important, too.

The unpredictable nature of constipation can negatively affect your social life. But spending time with friends and on hobbies may be just what you need.

Meditation and yoga can also be great stress relievers. These activities can help you feel better physically and mentally.

If chronic constipation is affecting your mental health, consider seeking therapy. A board certified psychiatrist can help untangle the physical and mental factors that make matters worse.

With the right support, you can learn better ways to mentally cope with chronic constipation.