It’s the start of a new academic year for many at uni/school/college and over on my Instagram, I always get a lot of questions about how I survived uni whilst managing my IBS. I thought I’d put together a post of my best survival tips, whether you’re at school, uni, college or are just looking for general advice. Read on!
- Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep, a good diet and not going overboard with alcohol.
Sleep, a good diet and managing your drinking are three things that aren’t really synonymous with university culture, particularly not for us Brits! However, I can’t stress how important a good night’s sleep, a balanced diet and not going overboard with alcohol is when it comes to managing IBS at uni. It all helps your body to recover, be well and work how it should. Go for that night out or pull that all-nighter occasionally, but make sure you’re compensating by getting enough sleep on other days and not surviving on a diet of McDonald’s for days on end. Seems obvious, but: eat enough fruit and veg, stick to clear spirits and tum-friendly mixers and don’t make all-nighters a regular occurrence.
- Work on managing your stress.
Stress and IBS go hand in hand, and research into the condition is proving this more and more. Stress and uni often go hand in hand too, however, so finding ways to manage your stress whilst at uni to avoid horrible flare-ups is important. My gut is like my second brain, it knows when I’m stressed, so finding ways to manage it is crucial. Self-care is key. Make sure you continue doing things you enjoy doing, find a balance between studying and enjoying life, don’t overwhelm yourself physically or mentally (boundaries!!) and take time to check in with yourself to make sure you’re feeling alright.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help and support.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage your IBS at university, or any related mental health issues by yourself, there is a lot of help out there, you are never alone! Sometimes talking to a friend or family can help, but you may reach a point where you want to speak up further. Your university/school/college is bound to have a disability services network and also a psychological services. Chat to an advisor, disclose your IBS or contact psych services who will be able to get you some psychological help. During my uni days, I had amendments made to my study programme (e.g. deadline extensions / doing exams in a separate location) to make it easier to do uni with IBS! The IBS Network are also a great charity to turn to, as the UK’s biggest charity dedicated to IBS research & care: https://www.theibsnetwork.org
- Other general day-to-day tips.
– Make enough dinner to take leftovers for lunch the next day, so you have a tummy-friendly worry-free lunch whilst on campus.
– Use frozen fruit, veg and herbs for meal prep to keep costs down but nutrition high.
– Keep snacks in your bag at all times so that you have something to dip into if there’s nothing else you can eat. Little and often is important with IBS guts.
– Invest in a nice water bottle and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.
– If you take meds for IBS, keep spares in your bag e.g. imodium/peppermint oil / peppermint tea bags!
– If you get public transport to uni, try and slot a gentle walk / exercise in somewhere e.g. get off the bus early / do a lunchtime yoga class. Keeps your bowels moving!
– Don’t be afraid to say no to people. In any context. You are the priority.
– If people in your life continuously don’t get how irritating and painful living with a chronic illness can be, they aren’t worth building a friendship/relationship with.
– Congratulate yourself for managing and celebrate your progress. V important.
For more on my experiences at uni with IBS, check out this blog I wrote for the IBS Network here: https://www.theibsnetwork.org/blog/how-to-deal-with-ibs-at-university/
For more on managing stress as a student, check out an older blog post here: https://lenashappytummy.com/2018/12/29/my-3-top-tips-for-managing-stress-as-a-student/
For more on tackling the beginning of uni, including freshers week, going out and more, click here: https://lenashappytummy.com/2018/09/04/ibs-starting-uni-including-how-to-tackle-freshers/