Managing Stress While Living with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis

Managing Stress While Living with Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis

Like many chronic illnesses, living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis can be extremely stressful. While stress does not cause the condition, it can certainly make symptoms worse. There are, however, many lifestyle changes that can help manage these symptoms and make life easier. 

A 2010 Canadian study found that after working with 552 patients with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis over the course of a year, the risk of symptoms flaring increased when the patients were feeling stressed. For this reason, it is exceedingly important for patients to manage their stress as best as possible. Many people living with Crohn’s Disease have found meditation, writing in a journal, playing music, doing yoga, going for walks, watching movies, reading, painting, and volunteering useful in managing their stress.

Every person knows that avoiding stress completely is nearly impossible. However, the techniques listed above can assist in managing stress. Three other recommendations commonly made by medical professionals include exercise, biofeedback, and relaxation breathing techniques. Exercise is not only known to provide relief from stress and depression but also aids in normalizing bowel function. Biofeedback is a stress-reduction technique that helps reduce muscle tension and slow one’s heart rate with the help of a feedback machine. Breathing exercises such as deep, slow inhalations and exhalations help to calm individuals down and put them in a more relaxed state.

One cause of stress when living with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis is the need to frequently deal with certain aspects of the condition. For this reason, it can be extremely beneficial to discuss the disease with people who are close to you, or who are part of your day-to-day life. Explaining your condition and symptoms to family and friends will allow them to offer support in times of need. As well, speaking with co-workers, supervisors, and educators can help to reduce stress, as they will be aware of your situation should you need flexibility with your schedule. 

Further, it is invaluable to understand your rights as a person with a disability. Accommodations can and must be made in school and work settings. Being aware of the legal obligations of institutions or employers will be of the utmost importance should any issues arise. 

While living with Crohn’s Disease can be overwhelming, knowing the stress-reducing techniques that work best for you, as well as being able to advocate for yourself, are important factors in leading a balanced, healthy life. 
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