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Developing Resilience

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Any life change will come with challenges and setbacks, and a coeliac diagnosis is a massive life change. Food is a part of our daily life, and changing routines and habits take a lot of physical and mental work. Research shows that many coeliacs develop anxiety around food and social situations, so it’s important that we learn how to build resiliency and learn to be kind to ourselves when adapting to a coeliac lifestyle.

It’s also important to follow a strict gluten free diet, as committing to living gluten free for life is an important way you can improve both your long term physical and emotional health.

Within the weeks that follow your coeliac diagnosis, it’s easy to feel like there is an overwhelming number of new challenges and changes to your lifestyle that you may not have considered at the time of diagnosis. Something I found extremely useful from Doctor Simon Knowles, from Mind Over Gut, is to write down these challenges and brainstorm ways to adapt to them. As a practical example, perhaps you are going out for dinner for the first time as a new coeliac, and you’ve found that there is little to no dishes for you to eat and the waitstaff have informed you that they can’t guarantee cross-contamination in their kitchen. You might feel embarrassed, upset, even hangry.

Unfortunately, these situations are almost unavoidable for a new coeliac as you aren’t provided with resources and practical tips about living as a coeliac by your doctor. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from these situations or ask for help. Writing down the challenge (not being able to eat out) and brainstorming solutions (calling ahead to the restaurant, looking for coeliac friendly places to eat, keeping a snack on you just in case) will better prepare you for overcoming these setbacks or completely avoiding them in the future.

Staying optimistic about having coeliac disease can be hard at first because what is there to be happy about removing some of your favourite foods from your diet, having to spend significantly more amount of money at the supermarket, and feeling of anxious when eating out. But whenever you are feeling upset about having coeliac disease, it’s a good time to check in on how far you’ve come already. These milestones will be personal to you, but for example, something I’m always reminding myself is that my physical health has drastically improved since diagnosis, and that’s something I’m incredibly grateful for.

How we view adversity and stress strongly affects our ability to adapt, and this is one of the most significant reasons that having a resilient mindset is so important. If you are looking for more resources and strategies around managing and thriving with a chronic illness, I would highly recommend looking at Dr Simons Knowles website mindovergut.com

Building Resilience

When a person is diagnosed, they may feel they are on a roller coaster of emotions - feeling several emotions like the stages of grief - denial disbelief and shock.  Sadness and depression are common emotions when they realise, they may not achieve some of their chosen goals or dreams. Others may feel guilt, wondering if they could have done something to prevent the illness or even anger that they made poor choices, knowingly.

Most people go through these types of emotions and go through a similar process of making sense of it all.  Be mindful about how you are feeling and do something about it like call a friend or family member if you are feeling angry or frustrated.  It’s a good idea to seek support from those who care about you, including health professionals or someone in the coeliac community. Getting support will help strengthen your resilience.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with the diagnosis of coeliac disease and needs extra help, don’t hesitate to contact a professional:

  • Your GP or family doctor
  • Free text or call ‘1737’ to talk/text with a counsellor (available 24/7)
  • Lifeline (0800 543 354) to speak with a counsellor (available 24/7)

Coeliac Article provided by NZ Ambassador Morgan McKenzie-Moore is a gluten free recipe developer and creator of How to Coeliac. She has a passion for food, comedy and living her best gluten free life.

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