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5 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Defeated by Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Real Talk

November 30, 2020

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by Alexa Federico


Jennifer Chesak

Fact Checked



by Alexa Federico


Jennifer Chesak

Fact Checked



Living well with the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis consists of a lot of trial and error.

Finding your perfect treatment and lifestyle combination is like putting together a puzzle. Finding a piece that fits is exciting, but sometimes it feels like you try piece after piece that does not fit.

A few of these “puzzle pieces” are:

  • finding a treatment plan that works long term
  • figuring out the best diet for you
  • connecting with a doctor who listens to you
  • cultivating a supportive group of friends
  • identifying exercise that energizes you and feels good

Sometimes, you might feel like you want to give up when all your energy is going into figuring out this puzzle. If you’re at that point, these practices may help.

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Express your emotions

If you find yourself saying you’re “fine” when you’re not and never addressing the mental or physical toll your condition has on you, you might be suppressing your emotions.

This is common for anyone living with a chronic illness, since we learn to live through the hard days while trying to go through life normally.

Instead of ignoring these emotional cues, try:

  • spending time alone and having a good, long cry
  • listening and dancing to music that fits your mood
  • writing everything down that you are feeling (the good, the bad, and the ugly)
  • seeking out a professional counselor to work through frustration and trauma you may be holding onto

Expressing emotions is different from dwelling or complaining and is a normal, healthy part of being human. Check in with yourself: Are you bottling emotions and feelings or allowing yourself time and space to let them out?

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Make lists

Whether you love making lists for every little thing in life or you’re a bit more spontaneous, lists are helpful when you feel like you’ve exhausted all options when it comes to your health.

Try making lists of:

  • all the good things you are doing for your body and mind already
  • new things you can incorporate into your life that you haven’t tried, but are interested in
  • people you can reach out to for support
  • books, podcasts, and websites to check out that might hold useful information for you
  • big and little things you are grateful for

Keep these on your fridge or tacked on a bulletin board. These reminders of tangible tips can be grounding when you feel lost and overwhelmed.

Create small moments of joy

It’s true that the little things can mean so much. If you can find these small moments (hint: they are everywhere) and enjoy them, the hard-hitting days that IBD brings will hurt a little less.

Here are some ways to create moments of joy:

  • Sit outside and closing your eyes. Just pay attention to what you hear. Is it leaves rustling or kids playing? Birds chirping or runners hitting the pavement? Just listen for the sake of listening and nothing else.
  • Practice self-love. Any time you feel like talking bad about your body, say something aloud that you love about yourself.
  • Write a letter to a future version of yourself. Tell yourself all about the amazing things you have to look forward to.
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Focus on what you can control

Even when it feels like you’ve exhausted all options, there are always some things in your power.

Focusing on what you can change to improve how you feel — while loosening your grip on what you can’t change — takes a lot of stress and pressure off of you.

Here are some ways to take back control:

Change your location

Whether it’s changing where you live, switching up your workspace, or going for a walk, a new physical location can help clear your mind and help you think in new ways.

Determine what is creating added stress that doesn’t have to be there

Sure, everyone needs to pay bills, but are there things you are committed to or people that you see that are not adding to your life?

Eat nourishing foods and drink plenty of water

Chicken soup might not fix everything, but there’s a reason we turn to it when we’re not feeling well.

In times of stress you might let your food choices fall to the wayside. Staying hydrated and well fed is a basic need that will support you mentally and physically.

Seek out others to talk to

Talking with other people who live with IBD can feel validating when you feel like you are going out of your mind.

Some ways to find connection include:

Sometimes it’s also great to just talk to a friend who doesn’t have IBD who is good at listening and being there for you.

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The bottom line

Living with an autoimmune disease like IBD is like running a marathon, not a sprint.

Bad days will come and go, and taking on these practices and tools can help you be a more resilient IBD warrior.

Article originally appeared on November 30, 2020 on Bezzy’s sister site, Healthline. Last medically reviewed on December 1, 2020.

Join the free IBD community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Alexa Federico

Alexa Federico is an author, nutritional therapy practitioner, and autoimmune paleo coach who lives in Boston. Her experience with Crohn’s disease inspired her to work with the IBD community. Alexa is an aspiring yogi who would live in a cozy coffee shop if she could! You can connect with her on her website or Instagram.

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