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Stress doesn't cause UC, but it can make the symptoms worse. Fatigue, painful stomach cramps, intense diarrhea, and anxiety about having an accident add to your stress, too.

It's a nasty cycle. The more symptoms interfere with your life, the more stressed out you get. The more stressed out you are, the worse you feel.

Break that cycle and find some relief with these easy relaxation techniques.

Just Breathe

Breathing is something we do without thinking. That’s why you probably don't give much thought to how you're doing it. But when you stop to focus on your breathing and do it with purpose, it can have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. Deep breathing not only relaxes your mind, it also sends more blood flowing through your body.

Take a slow, deep breath -- filling your lungs with air -- and then let the air out slowly and fully, feeling your muscles loosen up as you do. Practice taking several deep breaths whenever you feel stressed out.

Boost the benefits by combining breathing with another relaxation technique.

Yoga blends deep breathing with stretching and strengthening poses. Yoga helps with stress and chronic pain, and it can also help take your mind off your UC. One study even showed that yoga might bring down inflammation, a key piece of ulcerative colitis.

Meditation involves concentrating on a word or image to focus your mind and steer it away from stress. Research shows as little as 20 minutes of meditation a day can cut levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Walk It Off

When you work out, your body releases chemical messengers called endorphins, which make you feel good. Studies show that exercise can also help lower stress and relieve some UC symptoms.

Depending how severe your symptoms are, you may need to limit how much and how hard you exercise. Don't overdo it. Even a moderate 10-minute walk each day is still exercising -- and you'll feel better for it.

Take a Time Out

You may be spending so much time dealing with the demands of your life that you’ve forgotten to include some "me time" on that to-do list.

Take a few minutes to do something you really enjoy.

  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Read a book.
  • Spend some time in the garden.
  • Call an old friend.
  • See a movie.
  • Get a relaxing massage.
  • Run a warm bath, and soak for 30 minutes.

Still Feeling Stressed Out?

You won't score more points by doing everything yourself. Recognize when you need help, and don't be afraid to ask for it. Take advantage of help that's offered.

Call your doctor when symptoms are bothering you. You don't have to just live with it. You may be able to increase your dose, get new medication, or try other treatments.

Join a support group for people with ulcerative colitis. Talk about what's troubling you with others who really understand your situation. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America can help you find a support group in your area, or ask your doctor or hospital.

If you can't shake feelings of worry and being out of control, or if you think you are depressed or anxious, talk to your doctor. You may benefit from medicine and talk therapy with a person who is experienced taking care of people with chronic illnesses like yours.