February is a month dedicated to LOVE. Yet we seem to get wrapped up in the pressure to buy gifts for our loved ones. Of course it’s important to express our love on a regular basis, but having a dozen roses, a bouquet of balloons, and those cute heart shaped candies be a Valentine’s Day expectation, can feel overwhelming and exhausting.
When pressure and expectations are high, it’s normal to start comparing yourself to others. In fact, stress can be triggered when you’ve set expectations too high to be comfortably met. And stress plays a major role in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It doesn’t cause IBD, but more flare-ups may occur during times of physical or emotional stress.
This year, what if you abandoned the pressure and avoided the consumer-based “stuff” and celebrated your heart, and health instead?
How to Start Self Caring
It can be very difficult to start focusing on yourself and your needs. But when you build your strength through self-care, it’s easier to spread love to those around you.
A good place to begin is by treating yourself kindly and becoming aware of any negative, and unnecessary, self-talk. Practice replacing it with something positive about yourself instead.
Next, give one (or all!) of these self-care tips a go:
Bring on a Healthy Breakfast
You’ve heard it time and time again. Eating a balanced breakfast can start your day off right. It can help kick start healthy eating, supporting that you get the right nutrients, and give you energy to power through your day.
The Crohn’s and Colitis UK recommends that starchy carbs should make up just over a third of what you eat. Try non sugary breakfast cereals, rice, potatoes, or bread for breakfast. Then add a protein source such as lean meat, yogurt, or eggs. Add a small amount of fat such as avocado or oil. Then round out your breakfast with fruits or vegetables that you can digest well.
Have fun with your meal and decorate your fruit in a heart shape or add some mint to your dish. Here’s an example of an excellent heart-filled way to start your Valentine’s Day: Heart Shaped Roast Potatoes from PocketChangeGourmet.
Sneak in an Easy Workout
Move in a way that you love! Grab those running shoes and get some fresh air. Maybe you love staying in the comfort of your own home and working out to your favorite online fitness guru such as Yoga with Adriene. Or perhaps being in an exercise class gets you feeling connected and pumped on life.
Be honest with how you’re feeling. Maybe you’re tired but a light stretch or yoga would help. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, anything is better than nothing. You’ll thank yourself after.
Soak in Some Tub Time
Taking a hot shower or bath can instantly soothe aching muscles and help alleviate IBD pain. It can relax intestinal cramps and even help settle an upset stomach. Put on some of your favorite relaxing music, light a candle, and add some Epsom salt to help promote muscle relief.
Turn your bath time into spa time by making your own face mask. As a bonus, these ingredients are great to eat too!
Make Your Own Face Mask
-¼ cup (65g) plain yogurt
-2 tbsp honey
-1 medium ripe banana*
*Can be used for the dessert in this article found below!
-Mash up banana into a smooth paste
-Mix honey and yogurt together with banana
-Apply to face and let it sit for 10 to 20 minutes then rinse with cold water
Find Time to Relax
Take time on Valentines Day (and every day!) to do something that helps you feel relaxed. Try the hot shower or bath, listening to music, doing some light stretching or yoga, reading a book, journaling, or talking to a supportive chatbot health coach.
Wear your favorite pajamas or sweatpants. Grab a heating pack, a cozy blanket and get cozy with your favorite Valentine’s movie.
IBD Friendly Valentine’s Recipe
What’s Valentine’s Day without the chocolate? Here’s a delicious and IBD friendly recipe that’s great to make for yourself or to enjoy with others.
Keep in mind that these are only suggestions. Learning what foods work for you and which don’t can be a lifesaver when it comes to symptoms. Work with your physician and dietitian to discover the best diet route for you.
Chocolate, Banana, and Peanut Butter “Ice Cream”
-2 bananas (chopped and frozen)
-1 tbsp cocoa powder
-2 tbsp peanut butter (substitute options: almond butter, cashew nut butter, coconut butter)
-Peel and cut bananas and freeze for at least 1-2 hours
-Put bananas in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth
-Add cocoa powder and nut butter and blend in
-Serve immediately and enjoy!
Studies Support Self-Care
Research states that performing regular self-care is an essential part of handling your IBD symptoms. But most people suffering from IBD have limited knowledge about what kind of self-care to do. Not to mention it can be extremely difficult to find time to prioritize self-care in today’s fast pace and demanding world.
In order to improve IBD symptoms, it’s crucial to recognize and handle symptoms, plan for life’s ever changing events, seek new options, and accommodate the existing situation.
The ultimate goal is to maintain overall well-being. Staying one step ahead of symptoms and prioritizing self-care helps build a manageable life with IBD. As stated in the study:
“A decision to actively participate in care of a chronic illness is a prerequisite for self-care.”
Make This Valentine’s Day About You
It can be really difficult to start focusing on yourself. And it may feel selfish to do so sometimes. But the bottom line is that self-care will help you get better and therefore be more available to the ones you love.
Find time for the simple acts that make you happy this Valentine’s Day. Celebrate what makes you, you.
This article has been written by Lisa Booth, registered dietitian and nutritionist, and co-founder of Nori Health. Content is based on her professional knowledge, and our collection of 100+ scientific research study papers.