Self-care series | Looking after your mental health

Struggling with mental health issues as a result of dealing with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis is not uncommon; stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD all included. Living with any long-term chronic illness is not easy, and the battles we face on a regular basis can begin to take their toll.
Symptoms are stressful on their own. Some IBD patients fear leaving the house in case they have an accident. Others grieve for the life they had before. Some may struggle to deal with their new body after undergoing surgery. Then there are side effects from medications that may change how we look or feel. The possibilities for the cause are endless, but do not give up hope. You CAN feel better!

Whilst there are some things that you can do for yourself like ensuring you get enough rest and sleep, giving your body the right nutrients and seeking support from others who understand, there is definitely no shame in seeking medical help!

First of all, try talking it out with your loved ones. If you don’t think they will understand, you can talk to others that have been, or are going through similar in online support groups.

If you don’t feel comfortable talking you could try writing things down, either on your laptop or go old-style with a pen and paper (this method works best for me personally). You may choose to do a “Dear Diary” entry, just to get things off your chest. Alternatively, and this is what I do, you can break things down a little more and write:
What is bothering you?
Which emotion you are feeling; upset, worried, angry or scared?
Is the upset, worry, anger, fear founded on anything?
How would you like to feel about it?
Is there anything you can actually do to change the situation?
Will feeling, or acting this way help you get to where you ultimately want to be, or help you feel the way you want to feel?

It is difficult to admit that you have a problem that you cannot fix all by yourself. Having IBD can make you feel like you have no control already, and struggling mentally on top of that can seem like an additional thing you have lost control of. Often, mental health issues can be hard to even acknowledge, as you can identify the exact reasons you’re feeling the way you do, but with a little help, encouragement or even cognitive behavioural therapy, you can begin to see the same situation differently.

Many people find that exercising mindfulness or meditation helps. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations and is used as a therapeutic technique. There are many free mindfulness and meditation apps available in your app store, so if you think this may help, do a quick search a download a few!

If none of the above work but you’re not quite ready to visit your GP yet, there are websites and apps which may be able to help. Below is a list of resources where you can access FREE online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), self-help etc.

If you still do not feel yourself, do visit a GP who can refer you to the right therapist or prescribe something to help! Sometimes, your mood cannot be fixed by any form of therapy because the issue is actually caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain (just like mine), and adding another medication to your daily handful may be the only solution.

Living life to the full: “Free online courses covering low mood, stress and resiliency. Work out why you feel as you do, how to tackle problems, build confidence, get going again, feel happier, stay calm, tackle upsetting thinking and more.” Courses include Living with a long-term health condition: “Creating a new relationship between your illness and yourself that separates who you are from what you’ve got.”

Mind: Provide information and support for you and those looking to support you. You can even call them and they will provide details of support in your area.
T: 0300 123 3393
Text: 86463

Moodjuice – self-care guides: “Finding solutions can involve looking at the bigger picture.” Covers all manner of things from relationship issues, chronic pain and money worries.