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A “busy” lifestyle is different for everyone- for myself “busy” means doing everything I want to be doing: maintaining relationships, exercising, and completing my goals/tasks successfully. Managing a busy lifestyle is hard enough, and battling IBD/any chronic illness in addition can be extremely overwhelming. Lately my life has been very focused on my career which means I am working a lot, getting experience, and trying my best to learn from my co-workers. I have been a nurse working in day/24hr surgery straight out of nursing school for about 6 months, and my area covers a wide variety of specialties that I have had to learn about very quickly! It has not been easy, in fact I often feel that I am striving for more from myself regardless of how I am feeling and how much effort I am putting in: my stress often manifests by telling myself I need to do more/do better. Regardless, I love the work I am doing and becoming a nurse gave me a sense of belonging. Providing quality patient centered care is my true passion, and I am confident in my abilities!

Recently I have been doing better at coping with stress and maintaining a good work/life balance, but the daily anxieties of doing a good job and keeping up have been getting to me. I started to flare mildly with my Crohn’s Disease after being taken off meds temporarily for other health reasons, so I have to manage my symptoms daily which is stressful. It’s a vicious circle; for many with IBD stress increases symptoms, and when symptoms are present stress worsens trying to keep up with a desired lifestyle. It is SO important to find ways to deal with stress and be able to keep commitments while fighting an unpredictable disease. People who don’t have IBD often do not understand that we ARE able to hold down full time jobs and be successful with attendance/goals, but it takes a lot more effort to get out of bed at 4:45 am when you have been sick the day before or even during the night. Here are a couple of strategies I have used over the last six months to help myself balance my busy lifestyle with my commitments:

It is OKAY to cancel plans after a full day of work/school

  • You only have so much energy each day to give others, please take some time each day to practice self care with whatever that may be for you. If your friends don’t understand that you can’t go for dinner after a long day of work because you need to take care of your overall well-being, then they probably don’t deserve to be in your inner circle.

2)  Keeping a planner/log of activities and commitments

  • This has been a MAJOR savior for me. Along with IBD comes brain fog, and I found myself forgetting about plans I had made with friends consistently because I was biting off more than I could chew. Writing down my plans allowed me to physically SEE that I had too much on the go, and it acted as a reminder for my commitments.

3) Eating a healthy diet/cooking my own meals

  • Eating a healthy diet consistent with my needs (with treats in moderation of course-this girl LOVES carbs) helped me A LOT with my IBD symptoms. I dreaded the feeling of being comfy in bed and remembering that I didn’t have lunch made for the next day- I would forget, and end up not eating at all because I have an inconsistent appetite. Cooking larger amounts of proteins and healthy carbs on the weekends when I have the time makes eating a lot better consistency wise, and gives me healthier options throughout my work day.
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I feel like I could list a million different things that work/don’t work for me, but even if I did there’s no guarantee that they will have the same effect on you. Remember that your body will often tell you what it needs. Listen to those gut feelings.

I hope for my readers with IBD that you remain goal driven, excited, and CONFIDENT in your life/career path and that you understand it is okay to take your health first. A year ago I was not able to work, let alone do activities of daily living by myself as my disease had become so severe and my symptoms were constant. Pain is temporary, remission is possible, and the way you handle stress can have a very influential impact on your overall well-being.

I happily take questions and comments VIA email and social media, and love connecting with other individuals affected by IBD:


Instagram: @rheadufault

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Rhea Jenelle Dufault, is 21 years old and a surgical nurse in Calgary, AB! She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in November 2018 after 3 years of physical and emotional agony. Many doctors wouldn’t investigate as far as she needed them to, so finding the right specialist helped get a proper diagnosis. In her spare time she enjoys being active, travelling, cooking, reading, and so many more amazing things that life has to offer.


You’ve got a friend in me… I am the expert of me.

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