Whether you’re at high school, TAFE, college or uni, the endless cycle of classes, studying and exams is stressful enough. When you combine that with a chronic illness such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may find yourself being tested in more ways than one. Many people find that elevated stress levels can trigger IBD flare ups, and nobody wants to endure that whilst they’re cramming for a test. Maintaining a healthy baseline of physical and mental health is crucial to managing your IBD, so we’ve collected some helpful tips to help you stay on top of both your studies and your condition.

Be organised

Organisation is your friend. With a little order and forward planning you can achieve anything. Some people are big list writers and enjoy how the act of writing down every task on their plate provides a clear path to tackle the workload (they also get a huge kick out of crossing items off a list). Others benefit from a collaborative approach such as finding a study buddy and booking in regular sessions to work through assignments and exam prep.

Being organised extends to your diet too. Putting in a bit of prep work before the study deadlines start looming will pay off in spades by the time you’re buried under books and notes. Make sure you stock up on all the foods your brain needs to absorb and retain information. Having the right meals and snacks always on hand during assessment prep will not only save you time when you’re too busy to cook, but is a key strategy to avoid flare ups right before an exam. After all, you can’t finish your exam from the toilets!

Don’t be afraid to ask for allowances

Sure, you are the person that you depend on the most to manage your IBD, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go to others for help or advice when the going gets tough. If you’re direct about the support you need, you’ll likely find that your school can make allowances to accommodate for the swings in your health. Special consideration for exams and assignment extensions are all within the realms of possibility and you should never feel afraid to raise your health concerns with your school. Getting a deadline extension to help you recover from an acute flare up may be all it takes to ensure your marks reflect the effort you’re putting in. Just don’t leave it until the night before to raise the issue – you don’t want to be waiting for a decision on the morning of an important exam.

Lowering stress

For many, spikes in stress levels are a key factor in IBD symptom flare ups. Unfortunately, exams are hugely stressful and it can be all too easy to get swept up in a tornado of anxiety, so pick your favourite stress-busters and schedule them in regularly. Whether you prefer exercise, an episode of your favourite TV show or meditating, you need to make time for the

activities that allow you to recharge, refocus and build up that much-needed mental strength to tackle those assignments and tests head on.

Date: 22/09/2014 IRIS number AU-REM0328

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