Top Tips for Emotionally Coping With Ulcerative Colitis

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If you have ulcerative colitis (UC), a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you likely spend a large chunk of your time thinking about and taking care of your physical health. But how much time are you putting into your emotional health?

The debilitating and sometimes unexpected physical symptoms of UC can have an emotional impact, too, and it shouldn't be ignored. Here are some tips to dealing with the emotional side effects of UC.


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Be prepared for UC flares

A UC flare is difficult to predict, and much of the unease that comes with the disease is not knowing when a flare will happen. A good way to alleviate this worry is to always be prepared for a UC flare. This means having the proper supplies and medications on hand, foods you can tolerate during a flare in the pantry, and your doctor’s number saved in your phone.


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Establish a support system

UC presents a set of lifestyle challenges that are difficult to cope with on your own. Find a trusted friend or partner to open up to about the stresses UC places on your life. Be as honest as you can about the needs you will have during flares and accept the help that’s offered to you when the stress becomes especially difficult to manage.


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Stay active and mindful with UC (if you can)

Establishing and sticking with an exercise regimen is vital to a healthy lifestyle. However, UC and other forms of IBD can present road blocks and challenges to physical activity, especially during a flare. Talk with your doctor about physical activities you can do to help keep your mood high and improve your overall health. And if you can’t do intense physical activity, practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction just might help reduce potentially stress-induced flares, too.


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Talk with your doctor honestly about your UC

If you have questions about your diagnosis, your condition, how to live with UC, your treatment, or anything else related to UC, raise them with your doctor. They will be your best source of information, especially if you are newly diagnosed. And the more information you have, the more control you’ll feel over your condition.


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Seek professional help when you need it

Living with any chronic illness can be difficult to manage mentally and emotionally. Family members and friends will try, but may not always understand the difficulties UC puts on your life. Talking to a mental health professional can be very helpful in these situations.


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Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet, including a low-FODMAP diet, might help you feel better overall. And certain foods might aggravate your UC symptoms, so educating yourself about what these are and avoiding them is an excellent plan.


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Track your symptoms for better peace of mind

Keeping a symptom (and food) diary can help you keep track of when you felt at your worst — and your best — with UC. Then, you can share this information with your doctor to examine patterns in your condition. It’s your diary, so you can track whatever you want to help best examine your quality of life with UC — for example, how you feel emotionally, how many days you’ve been fatigued that week, or how many times you’ve woke during the night feeling that familiar urgency to go.


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Talk to others with UC

Getting support from others going through the same thing you are can be cathartic, awe-inspiring, and life-saving. For example, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation runs 40 chapters and affiliates nationwide. Have an ostomy? The United Ostomy Associations of America has about 300 affiliated ostomy support groups around the U.S. Online groups include the Ulcerative Colitis Support Group (with some 24,000 members as of February 2019) and iHaveUC Support Group, both on Facebook.


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Don’t forgot who you are

You are not your UC. You are you, and you have interests, dreams, friends, family, and so much more that make up your life. Keep doing your hobbies, whenever you can. Keep loving, living, and being yourself, because UC does not define you. It’s just something (chronic and often painful, yes) that you have. And you can manage it.


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Know that UC doesn’t have to stop you from living the life you want

Your quality of life might be different with UC, but the condition doesn’t have to stop you from living your life. You can still go out to restaurants. You can still travel. Yes, it will take some learning (for example, knowing where the bathrooms are, going places off-season so they’re less crowded), but you can do it. Or you can stay in, read, do indoor hobbies, and visit with people in the comfort of your home. No one should define how to live your life with UC but you.