If you’re living with ulcerative colitis (UC), it means you have to take extra care of yourself. At times, self-care can seem like a burden, but nurturing yourself is the only way to achieve optimal health — physically and emotionally.

Knowing how to take proper care of yourself is a journey, whether you’re living with a chronic condition or not. For me, the following three things have really helped me to navigate the rough terrain of living well with UC. Hopefully, you will find them helpful too.

When it comes to deciding what to eat, I like to think of it as a game. Certain foods affect everyone’s body differently. Figure out what works for you and then use your imagination to create meals!

If potatoes are safe for your stomach, look up potato dishes you can make. Whether its potato soup, baked potatoes, or potato casserole, experiment with different consistencies so you don’t get bored with your meals. Also, make sure the ingredients are safe and beneficial to your health.

UC places a physical toll on your body. Also, the medication you have to take to treat the condition can weaken your muscles. It’s up to you to rebuild your strength through physical activity.

Most days you may feel too tired from work, school, or whatever task is at hand. Yet incorporating a few workouts into your routine each week is critical to your well-being.

Joining a gym is always a great idea. But if you’re not keen on spending a monthly fee, don’t worry, there are other ways to get a good workout! For instance, I love going for long walks outside. If you’re more of a yoga person, you can follow an instructional yoga video online or go to a yoga studio.

Exercise can also be fun! Dance video games are a great way to get your heart rate up and forget you’re even working out.

Or, if you want the benefits of a gym without leaving home, you can invest in your own gym equipment. Start small with free weights and an exercise mat. Exercising at home can help you to feel more relaxed and at ease while you complete your workout.

When you have UC, it’s understandable to feel helpless or defeated at times. There’s no doubt that a sudden flare-up can derail your plans for the day, which can be discouraging. Yet negativity will only make your situation worse. Keeping a positive outlook will allow you to move forward in your journey and figure out works for you to manage your symptoms. Negativity will hold you back.

A little trick I’ve learned to keep a positive mind is to take joy in life’s simple pleasures. Find your happy place, whether it’s soaking in a hot bubble bath, getting a relaxing massage, or reading a good book, and set aside some time to enjoy it a few times during the week. Treat yourself — you deserve it!

You can’t control your UC, but you can control your outlook on living with the condition.

Everyone experiences rough days, whether they’re living with UC or not. You can let those bad days get the best of you, or you can learn from them and get stronger. Your health is a priority. No matter how scary the obstacle course may seem to you now, with the right focus and dedication, you’ll make it through.

Nyannah Jeffries was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was 20 years old. She is now 21. Although her diagnosis came as a shock, Nyannah never lost her hope or sense of self. Through research and speaking with doctors, she has found ways to cope with her illness and not have it take over her life. By sharing her story via social media, Nyannah is able to connect with others and encourage them to take the driver’s seat on their journey to healing. Her motto is, “Never let the disease control you. You control the disease!”