If you have just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, it’s helpful to know that you’re not alone. There are many people who have learned to make lifestyle changes to manage stress and overcome challenges. They’re living well with UC and so can you! In addition, if you have been prescribed a medication to treat your UC, it is important to always take it as prescribed by your doctor.
Why is it important to keep stress in check?
With a condition such as UC, the symptoms your body experiences are a form of physical stress. It’s probably not news to you that this kind of stress can lead to emotional stress... which can create a vicious circle of additional physical symptoms, like stomach cramps.
Just as different people may feel stress in different situations, what relieves stress is not the same for everyone. Making lifestyle changes and finding healthy, fun ways to cope with stress helps most people. The following are tips that can help you manage.
There's no doubt that physical activity is one of the best ways to help manage stress. What's more, there are so many different ways to get physical!
If you’re not sure what kinds of activities work for you, start with gentle exercises that you can do on a regular basis, and plan them in your schedule so they are part of your routine. (Always check with your doctor before you start any exercise routine.) Finding a buddy to exercise with can keep you motivated. Almost any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy.
If you’re looking for something gentle yet effective for physical activity, tai chi and yoga are often helpful in managing stress. To find a class near you, contact local fitness centres, health clubs and senior centres.
Tai chi is sometimes referred to as “meditation in motion.” Gentle, flowing movements are at the core of this activity. Could tai chi be for you? Click here for a short video.
Yoga has grown to become one of the most popular forms of physical activity for health and stress reduction. To get a sense of whether yoga is something for you, click here to watch a video with a few basic poses.
Stress is known to be a factor in heart attacks, as is high blood pressure.
Headaches, depression and anxiety can be caused by stress.
Skin conditions and arthritis are also linked to high stress.
Stress can also help trigger asthma problems.
Muscle tension and soreness may also be a sign of stress
Grinding of teeth and jaw tension are signs of stress.
Weight changes can also signal stress.
Lower sex drive can also be attributed to stress.
And maybe you know this one, but digestive problems (such as UC flare ups!) can be triggered by stress.
Find relationships that make you happy. Surround yourself with happy people and have a good support system.
Breathe. Focus. Relaxation techniques can help you channel your focus on something calming, and increase your awareness of your body. There are several types you may consider – all with the same goal of helping you de-stress.
Be grateful for what you have. Each day think of at least one thing that enriches your life. Let gratitude be the last thought before you go to sleep and your first thought when you wake up.
See the world in a positive light. While it would be silly to pretend that bad things don’t happen, you don’t have to let the negatives colour your whole outlook on life.
Find your passion. You may want to start a new hobby or interest. People who strive to meet a goal or fulfil a mission – whether it’s growing a garden, learning to play the piano or finding one’s spirituality – are generally happier than those who don’t have aspirations.
Stress management isn’t an overnight cure, and stress won’t disappear from your life. But with practice, you can learn to manage your stress and increase your ability to cope with life’s challenges.
Taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor is important to help manage your UC symptoms. Even if you start to feel better and your symptoms are under control, you should still take your medication as prescribed.
Take it at the same time every day.
Take it along with other daily events, like brushing your teeth.
Use special pill boxes that help you keep track.
Ask people close to you to help remind you.
Put a sticker or reminder note on your medicine cabinet or refrigerator.
Use a medication app on your phone to help remind you. These types of apps can be set up to send you a reminder to take your medication throughout the day.
Don’t risk running out of your medication. Call your pharmacy for a refill a few days before you run out so that you will be able to continue to take your pills as prescribed.
Meet others like you who have faced similar challenges and learned to overcome them. They found that they had lots of support and understanding from friends, colleagues and loved ones. By sharing their inspiring stories, they have chosen to reach out to help others. Watching these videos may give YOU ideas and inspiration for talking about your UC.
In this video, James from Alberta talks about being diagnosed with UC and the challenges he faced as a result. Ultimately, he learned to understand his body as a delicate “ecosystem” that he could “forgive and move on” with, and how to manage his UC with consistent use of medication, maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding stress.
Orley from Toronto was diagnosed with UC when she was in her teens. In this video, she talks about the importance of seeking help early, maintaining friendships and overcoming the fear of speaking up about UC.
Rachel from Toronto was diagnosed with UC just after she gave birth to her second child. Find out how she learned to know her limits and ask for family support.
In this video, Sandra from Newfoundland talks about managing UC in the workplace. Key messages include understanding your benefits and rights, opening a dialogue with your boss and flexible work arrangements.
Jonathan from Quebec is a professional triathlete. Learn how he conquered his UC by reaching out to others.