It’s not easy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients to find time to be alone. Whether we are at the hospital, recovering after a surgery, or just going through a flare, chances are we are going to need the help of others to get through a hard time. This can leave us feeling like a burden on others and like we have no time for our own wants and needs.
In fact, though, it’s extremely important to have time for ourselves to recharge our batteries for the next fight, or to improve our health. There are many ways that IBD patients can do this. It might only involve 10 minutes of meditation, it might be a weekend away, but we need to make sure that we have time for ourselves.
I like to stay active. This is why I find time for myself around activities that I love. Sometimes this means just going to the gym. Other times it’s getting out for a walk or bike ride. Some of my best memories involve camping for a weekend and getting in a few hikes alone.
I know what you might be thinking right now, and the answer is yes — I am a little crazy. But after being dependent on other people for long periods of time in my life, going camping and hiking by myself was both liberating and empowering. Getting to spend a few days alone, set up my tent alone, cook my own food, hike my way in and out alone — it allowed me to feel like I could take on the next challenge Crohn’s disease threw at me. (It doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?)
You don’t have to pack up the car and drive to the woods in order to recover from a low point or maintain your health, but you do need to make time for yourself. First, sit down and make a list of all the activities you know you love — activities you want to do when you are feeling healthy. Then start to figure out a way to make it work the next time you have the time.
Like I said above, this might be a 10-20 minute walk around your neighborhood, local park, or even a mall. It might be just finding a good spot in your home to read a book or meditate. Or maybe it’s a weekend away by yourself to just be with your own thoughts. Figure out what might work well for you, and try it out.
In the end, the goal is to make time for yourself and make sure you are going to feel refreshed, physically and mentally, to maintain your health, fight your IBD, or face other challenges. What is important is that you have a newfound capability to deal with your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Here are some ways others in the IBD community are finding time for themselves and how it helps them:
Faye: “I have a dog and find walking him brings me joy. It allows me some quiet time to enjoy the beautiful things around me and even when I feel unwell, I often find if I can push myself to walk I feel better. Getting out makes me feel better. It is an achievement."
Rachel: “I usually lay in bed with my cat and watch an uplifting show on Netflix. IBD can bring along a heavy mental burden and I find comedy shows help lift my spirits and animal cuddles do the same. I find I suffer greatly when I don’t make time for myself. I put time aside especially for myself, whether it be daily or every other day.”
Next time you are feeling a little overwhelmed and you’re starting to wonder if you will be okay, take some time for yourself. Make sure that you have a moment to recharge your batteries, calm your body both mentally and physically, and then go about the rest of your day. You’ll be amazed — it might just make you feel better.
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Brian Greenberg is founder of the Intense Intestines Foundation. He primarily works as an advocate to help patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and ostomies. You can reach Brian on Twitter at @BrianIIF or email at Brian@IntenseIntestines.org. If you would like to connect with the IIF more please visit www.Facebook.com/IntenseIntestines, or www.Twitter.com/NtenseNtestines. And you can join Brian in the conversation about all things IBD on the IBDHealthCentral Facebook page.
Brian Greenberg was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at age 11. His freshman year of college, he began a roller coaster ride of flares, hospitals stays, major surgeries, and more, with brief breaks of good health. After having an ostomy surgery 6 years ago, making it permanent 3 years ago, he is happy with his quality of life and enjoys helping others with their health journeys. When his health cooperates, he enjoys triathlons, hiking, climbing, skiing, and more. Find Brian on Twitter @BrianIIF.