Dr. Laurie Keefer is compensated by Pfizer for her work as an Editorial Board member on TalkingUC.com,a resource developed by Pfizer to connect, inspire, educate and empower the ulcerative colitis community.
As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts daily life, people around the world are facing a difficult time, including those living with ulcerative colitis (UC).
Dr. Laurie Keefer, a psychologist specializing in UC and other inflammatory bowel diseases, notes that some people living with UC may feel well-equipped to adapt to the changes due to the resiliency they have learned in dealing with this disease. However, Dr. Keefer has encountered just as many patients who struggle with having to re-live the emotional hardships they face during a flare-up of symptoms. Both groups bring to light the important role that emotional well-being plays in responding to this challenging time.
As part of our ongoing effort to share important information and resources with the community during this time, we interviewed Dr. Keefer about tips to support emotional well-being while living with UC during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Dr. Keefer’s insights reveal an important takeaway - you still can, and should, tap into your existing routines and support systems, even if you have to get creative in your approach.
Why is it important for people living with UC and other chronic inflammatory conditions to care for their emotional well-being during this time?
Emotional well-being is just as relevant during this time, if not more.The COVID-19 pandemic has stirred up fear and anxiety in many of us. These stressors can have an impacton people living with UC. Social distancing also can highlight the sense of isolation that people living with UC and other chronic inflammatory conditions may feel already.
What suggestions do you have for people struggling with their emotional well-being?
Remember the COVID-19 pandemic is not personal. This mindset can help you stay optimistic and remember you aren’t alone. I also encourage you to try these everyday strategies:
- Follow your normal morning routine. Getting ready for your day can make a big difference in how your day progresses.
- If you’re working from home, separate your work space from your living space if you can.
- Set up video calls to have face-to-face conversations with family and friends. Social support can help offset the impact of stress.
- Experience the world virtually. Many cultural institutions have gone online – museums, theaters, aquariums, zoos – and you can visit their websites to see the sights from home.
- Respect yourneed for personal space and time to replenish.Watch a funny video, listen to a favorite song or take a 15-minute power nap. It’s perhaps even more important now to have opportunities for transition and reflection. Remember that other people in your household may need personal space, too.
- If you feel best when taking action, reach out to others who may need support. You could call a family member or friend, or contact the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and offer to connect with someone who feels isolated.
How can people balance their emotional needs with other responsibilities?
You can’t help others before you help yourself. Even if you spend your day caring for children or other family members, I encourage you to find time for a restorative activity. It can be reading a book, playing music or exercising - whatever it is, make sure it is for you. It is critical during this pandemic and when living with a chronic inflammatory condition in general to take this time for self-care.
What resources are available to help people with their emotional well-being?
Many therapists are offering telemedicine and free sessions to increase availability of psychosocial support at this important time. Some organizations are providing free online stress management, exercise and meditation classes. There also are many mobile apps designed to provide emotional support. See what’s available in your network and community!
What advice do you have for the family and friends of people living with chronic inflammatory conditions like UC during this time?
If you have a loved one with a chronic inflammatory condition, remember that stress and anxiety may be a trigger for symptoms. Try to support their emotional well-being.
The health information contained in this article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace discussions with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider, considering the unique characteristics of the patient.