13 May, 2021
We are all forever telling each other to ‘take care’ but when was the last time you looked after yourself? Indeed, what does that even mean? Here are some things we came up with: eating and drinking healthily; getting enough sleep; making space for what you enjoy; seeking help when you are unwell; heeding the doctor’s advice. Indeed, the more we thought about it, the longer and more overwhelming the list became. Colostomy UK have been helping people with stomas to look after themselves for over 50 years now. Here is some of what the charity has learned along the way…
Assemble your team!
Canadian professor of psychology Jordan B. Peterson has two important things to say about looking after yourself: ‘Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping’ and ‘Make friends with people who want the best for you’. In other words, you can’t go it alone. Looking after yourself involves assembling a team of people you can trust. This is where Colostomy UK come in. With our 24-hour stoma helpline (0800 328 4257), you know there is always someone who has a stoma or has had a stoma just a phone call away, ready to listen to your needs and give you experience-based advice. If you need an emotional leg-up, we can even arrange to give you a call once in a while for an ostomate-to-ostomate chat. If you prefer, then you can visit our website and use Live Chat to message us instead. There’s our private Facebook Support Group too. Join this and your team will include a whole community of people who want the best for you! What’s good also, is the reciprocal nature of being a member. Looking after yourself, is also about looking after others as well.
Exercise is at the heart of looking after yourself. It’s no secret that being active is good for your physical and mental wellbeing. Having a stoma isn’t like having a sick note for the P.E. teacher. Provided you have agreement from your doctor or stoma care nurse there is no reason not to exercise. Even competitive sport is possible! The NHS states that adults should do some type of physical activity every day – any type of activity is good for you and the more you do (within reason) the better. The Department of Health’s report (2011) Start Active, Stay Active corroborates this and makes it clear that adults who engage in daily physical activity (whatever their age) are at a reduced risk of depression, distress and anxiety than those who lead sedentary lifestyles.
Of course, knowing exercise is beneficial is one thing, but doing it is something else. It is normal to be lacking in confidence about exercising following stoma surgery, especially with the ever-present risk of developing a parastomal hernia. However, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping your muscles strong can help to prevent parastomal hernias from developing in the first place. So how do you get started? Easy… just check out Colostomy UK’s Active Ostomates sessions, where you can access free professional guidance and support designed for people with stomas of all ages and levels of fitness. You can join in with everything from gentle chair yoga classes to more energetic Zumba sessions all delivered via Zoom in the comfort of your own home. In ‘normal’ times we also offer ostomate only swimming sessions, archery and rugby. If it’s the old grey cells that need exercising, then sign up for our Art or Meditation sessions instead.
Francis Bacon famously wrote ‘Knowledge is power’ and this phrase couldn’t be more relevant when it comes to looking after yourself. Knowing what to eat, how to get a restful night’s sleep, or how to deal with issues like sore skin and leaks all adds up to a better ‘you’. But where can you get trusted information relevant to ostomates? Visit the Colostomy UK website and you’ll soon find out. As well as being the place to discover more about our Active Ostomates sessions, it’s also a treasure trove of stoma-related resources, all of which have been reviewed by other ostomates and (where appropriate) healthcare professionals. Our library of 20 literature titles can be downloaded for free or, if you prefer, we can send you printed copies. Some of our booklets have won awards at the British Medical Association’s (BMA) annual Patient Information Awards. One title is even used for training purposes by the Royal College of Surgeons. Our website also gives you free and unlimited access to Tidings our quarterly magazine (which at the risk of bragging also won a BMA award in 2019…). With just over 90,000 copies printed each year, we must be doing something right!
So, don’t delay further, take the first step in better looking after yourself.