Having stoma surgery is life-changing, and for many, including myself, life-saving. That being said, it can take an impact on your mental health and it’s important to recognise this. Your body goes through a big change and this can feel like a lot physically and mentally to get used to. In this blog post, I am going to explore how movement with my ostomy helps my mental health. Please note that this is with regards to my experiences living with an ileostomy and using a one-piece, drainable ostomy bag. Let’s get started.

Let’s set the scene and give you the background info. My stoma, ‘Stacey’, was formed in 2011, when I was 19 years old. I needed her due to severe Crohn’s disease (a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)) and due to a large, benign tumour on my colon, the size of a watermelon. Surgeons didn’t find this until they operated. If surgeons had left things even a few hours, I was told I wouldn’t be here, so she literally saved my life.

The importance of ostomy supportwear

When I do exercise, I ensure I have either a light or medium form of supportwear, depending on what I’m doing. Getting moving is something that I find really helps my mental health, even on the days where finding the motivation is really tough. Wearing the clothes I love.

Going to the gym

Amy poses in front of a mirror in the gym in her gym gear, showing that it is possible to work out with a stoma bag.

I’ve been back into the gym now for about three months and I’ve thankfully got my husband, who’s really into his fitness, to help me put together workout routines that don’t directly stress my abdomen. Getting a hernia is something I really worry about, so I always wear stoma supportwear (medium/level 2) and do indirect abdominal exercises. So, those exercises that need to use my abdominal muscles, for example, keeping my core stabilised whilst doing squats, but aren’t applying direct pressure to my abdomen. This is what works for me, but I know people who do work out and do abdominal exercises. So it much depends on your circumstances, your body and what you’re comfy with.

Even if I go for a walk on the treadmill at the gym, I find the change of scenery and doing the exercise itself always leaves me feeling better than before I started. When I’m finding it hard, I use how I’m going to feel after and how it’s going to help me as motivation. This really helps my mental health, especially when I get into a routine.

Yoga

I’ve been to both yoga classes and done yoga at home and this can be a more gentle form of exercise if you are looking for something different and aren’t sure where to start. Again, I wear supportwear for peace of mind. There are so many videos online that you can do, in the comfort of your own home. The meditation side of yoga and breathing can also help if my head is feeling full or stressed.

Walking our pup

Amy's stylish dog strutting on a trail, rocking a vibrant purple jacket and lead. Ready to conquer the great outdoors!

I included this in my last blog post, but it still stands, so it’s worth another mention. Going on many a dog walk is something that may seem so simple but is only possible thanks to my stoma. I wouldn’t have been able to anticipate when I needed the toilet before or the pain that would more often or not be there. Thanks to my stoma, my husband and I can go on so many walks and explore new places with my ostomy, without having to be constantly aware where the nearest toilet is. I find walking a more gentle alternative if I’m low on energy and getting out for fresh air really helps lift my mental state, even on the days where it takes me ages to convince myself to head out.

Home dance workouts

I love following a dance workout on YouTube to some of my favourite artists. When you can sing along and exercise, it feels much more lively and energised! It can be just the thing you need to help with a mental health funk sometimes. There are so many different videos for different abilities, so it’s really accessible. Again, if in doubt, I wear stoma support wear.

Respond’s useful advice and support

Respond have a blog full of posts from other ostomates on their website. Some recent blog posts that talk about exercise and life with a stoma are:

Respond’s ‘Care Range’  is also designed to promote simplicity in your ostomy routine. Having a simpler ostomy routine can definitely promote your mental health, as it can reduce the amount of products you need to consider or find yourself worrying about.

In summary, movement is beneficial both physically and mentally, especially when it comes to ostomy life. Having my ostomy has enabled me to be alive to move, so I’m grateful for everything that my stoma allows me to do and the ways in which it allows me to push myself.

For many, including myself, an ostomy isn’t the end, it is just the beginning!

Amy
@ibdwarriorprincess

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