Ways to Manage Ulcerative Colitis in School
Last updated: August 2023
Due to brain fog and anemia from ulcerative colitis, I never found a way to study effectively in college. After graduating, I took 3 years away from school and utilized this time to better understand my disease.
Now with an increasing workload in medical school, I am using the following formed habits in order to study effectively.
Have a consistent sleep schedule with UC
My lofty dream of waking up at 6 AM every day proved difficult to uphold on many occasions. However, by maintaining consistency, I started to fall asleep naturally and more importantly, wake up refreshed. I achieved a regular sleep schedule through the use of a sunrise alarm.
A sunrise alarm will simulate the gradual increase in the brightness of a sunrise by waking you up in a more natural manner. For example, if you set the alarm to 6 AM, the light will start brightening at 5:30 AM and maximize in light at your scheduled wake-up time of 6.
A consistent sleep schedule improved my studying because I knew that I only had a limited number of hours in the day to complete tasks. I stopped overexerting myself on certain nights and cut the lights which, in turn, led to more productive days with less brain fog.
Meal prepping to maintain energy
Perhaps a hot take: I just don't LOVE food. Consider it Pavlovian in a sense. When I'm in flares, almost all food hurts to the point where I just want to stop doing what causes pain. This kind of mindset sets a person up for failure when in school because you need lots of energy to study!
I learned after college to prevent such negative behavior by planning my meals one or even two weeks in advance. This puts you directly in the driver's seat for maintaining a healthy caloric intake and obtaining the necessary nutrients.
In my personal experience, meal prepping stops me from buying last-minute flare inducing meals like pizza or fast food. The time required to prepare meals may be significant. However, meal prepping front-loads the daily burden of cooking and provides you with more time to study on other days.
The benefits of exercising with UC
While anemic, I felt incredibly incapable in all facets of life. An easy jog seemed unreasonable. Ulcerative colitis was winning. The disease warped my reality by making me think my life was stuck in this rut forever.
After getting iron infusions, I began a running regimen which gave me control again. For this reason, I value exercise and consider it non-negotiable in my life.
Winning in one area of life can lead to positive momentum in other areas. Exercise puts me in a better mindset as I begin studying. Running also gives me an outlet.
After I spend hours cramming information into my brain, running provides an escape where I can focus simply on just putting one foot in front of the other. I've found that my test scores increased when I exercised because it allowed me to consolidate information better.
Finding ways to manage ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis, at times, can be all-consuming. When you deplete a vast amount of energy in fighting this disease, other areas in life, unfortunately, receive less attention.
Things like sleeping, eating healthy, and exercising tend to suffer. In particular, I've found that studying after my diagnosis required a full retooling of my habits.
While my routines above fall under the umbrella of studying tips, these ideas are really ways that I learned to gain independence from this disease. Prioritizing these three things in life made my ulcerative colitis easier to manage.
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