Because isolation doesn’t benefit anyone’s well-being.

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved being social. Spending time with friends is one of my favorite pastimes. As a child, my mom even told me I had “the fastest suitcase in town,” meaning I loved sleepovers with friends.

After I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, however, I learned that socializing with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or any chronic condition for that matter, comes with its challenges.

The unpredictable nature of IBD can make it difficult to stick to plans. On top of that, it brings less than desirable symptoms that can require accommodations when out in public.

However, research shows that staying connected to friends and community is crucial to everyone’s well-being, not just extroverts like me.

Instead of succumbing to the isolation that may come with IBD, consider these six tips.

Be the one to suggest the event, dinner, or hangout. Choosing the location or activity yourself gives you peace of mind in knowing that you can participate.

If you are attending a dinner at a restaurant, I encourage you to research the menu ahead of time. Doing this will give you plenty of time to find a meal that you can eat, or think through any modifications you will need to ask for.

I can’t tell you how much social anxiety I have avoided by walking into the restaurant knowing what I am going to eat.

Socializing is tiring, and sometimes health doesn’t cooperate as much as we would like. Give yourself lots of grace as you navigate the social scene with IBD.

I’ve gotten ready and had my hand on the doorknob when my symptoms hit me like a brick. I knew at that moment that I wasn’t going out that day, and I needed to rest.

Yes, it was disappointing to cancel at the last minute, but I knew I couldn’t control my body.

More often than not, your body will tell you how much socializing you are capable of.

Do you feel up to being social? Do you need to limit your time with friends to 1 to 2 hours? Do you need time afterward to rest?

Give your body what it needs and know that you are doing exactly what you need to for your health.

This might sound simple, but feeling physically comfortable can go a long way. As you get ready to spend time with friends or family, dress to feel as comfortable as possible.

By all means, wear those fabulous outfits you didn’t have a reason to wear in quarantine! But also remember to feel good in your body.

When you are comfortable, socializing feels that much more effortless.

The simple question of “how are you?” isn’t so simple to answer when you have a condition.

Instead of just winging it, I recommend preparing a one- to two-sentence answer ahead of time. This way, you won’t word vomit your medical history to strangers or leave your loved ones in the dark.

I personally have done both — awkward! — and can say from experience that it always helps to know what you are going to say ahead of time.

Socializing with IBD can be challenging. However, with just a little preparation, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience that is good for your body and soul.

Holly Fowler lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their fur child, Kona. She loves hiking, spending time at the beach, trying the latest gluten-free hot spot in town, and working out as much as her ulcerative colitis allows. When she isn’t seeking out gluten-free vegan desserts, you can find her working behind the scenes of her website and Instagram, or curled up on the couch bingeing the latest true crime documentary on Netflix.