Managing Stress and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Exercise, relaxation and breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are common stress management techniques when dealing with inflammatory bowel disease.

Exercise, relaxation and breathing exercises, yoga and meditation are common stress management techniques.

By Sharon Jedel, PsyD

Here are 10 tips for managing stress and IBD from Sharon Jedel, a psychologist with the Section of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Rush University Medical Center.

1. Identify and manage major stressors in your daily life. While stress does not cause inflammatory bowel disease, research has demonstrated that it may trigger flare-up. It is therefore important to recognize what causes significant stress in your life and take action to decrease these stressors.

2. Reach out to family and friends for ongoing social support. Do not isolate!

3. Educate yourself about your disease. The more you know about your IBD, the more you can advocate for yourself. Stay informed about new developments in treatment, including medications.

4. Find a doctor you trust. Not every doctor is for every patient. If your doctor is not meeting your needs, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion.

5. Connect with other IBD patients. As supportive as family and friends may be, they may not be able to relate to exactly what you are going through and what you are concerned about. It may be helpful to speak with other IBD patients, either in-person or online.

6. Adhere to medication. Make sure to take your medication exactly as prescribed. Do not make changes to your medication without consulting your doctor first.

7. Plan ahead. If you are traveling, or spending the day away from home, you may want to bring along a bag of “essentials” in case you become symptomatic. Having extra clothing, toiletries and a packet of baby wipes may help you feel much more comfortable.

8. Maintain your pre-IBD lifestyle. Whenever possible, don’t let IBD keep you from doing what you enjoy.

9. Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise regularly, stick to a nutritious, well-balanced diet, get a good-night’s sleep, and limit intake of alcohol.

10. Seek psychological support. If feelings of sadness, anxiety/stress, or anger seem to interfere with your day-to-day activities, it may be helpful to seek psychological support. Options at Rush University Medical Center include participating in a bimonthly IBD support group at Rush University Medical Center or individual counseling by a gastrointestinal psychologist.

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